Williams goes No. 1 to Texas as Bush, Leinart drop
Trojans' Trek to the NFL
USC's Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart were enduring the media swirl in New York City, while one of the players who paved the way for them, Taitusi Latui, awaited his fate hanging loose in Mesa, Ariz. Steve Cyphers reports on how the NFL draft experience differed for USC's Heisman winners and their less heralded teammate. Bob Ley hosts. Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN
The Heisman Trophy winners might turn out to be saviors for their new franchises -- in different ways.
Bush, all but guaranteed the top spot for months, instead went No. 2 to New Orleans after Houston decided that North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams would be a better building block for the next decade.
Leinart, who almost surely would have been the No. 1 overall pick last year after winning the Heisman in 2004, dropped all the way to No. 10, where he was taken by Arizona.
"I went No. 10. There could be worse things in life, you know?" Leinart said, cracking a smile.
Leinart was the second quarterback taken after the Tennessee Titans decided that the heir to Steve McNair would be national champion Vince Young, taking the Texas quarterback with the third overall pick.
Still, the USC teammates become instant stars on teams that can use some.
Bush will do the one thing in New Orleans that no Saint in the team's 39-year history has been able to do: sell tickets. Yes, his explosiveness will also help win games, but even if the Saints continue to lose, fans will show up to watch him, something that could keep the team in the hurricane-devastated city for the foreseeable future.
"I'm coming in there strong, I'm coming in there to help win some games, and I'm coming in there to help the city get turned around," Bush said.
Bush also comes in amid questions concerning who paid the rent for a home his parents lived in, and whether an agent was involved, which could violate NCAA rules. He's adamantly insisted there was no wrongdoing.
Leinart said Titans coordinator Norm Chow -- his former offensive mentor at USC -- was fighting for him "but it wasn't his decision."
|Mario Williams||'06 Texans||NC State|
|Courtney Brown||'00 Browns||Penn State|
|Steve Emtman||'92 Colts||Washington|
|Bruce Smith||'85 Bills||Virginia Tech|
|Lee Roy Selmon||'76 Buccaneers||Oklahoma|
|Ed Jones||'74 Cowboys||Tennessee State|
|John Matuszak||'73 Oilers||Tampa|
|Walt Patulski||'72 Bills||Notre Dame|
It wasn't, and now Tennessee will find out if the elusiveness and arm strength that Young used to lead the national champion Longhorns can translate to the NFL.
"Last night at 2:30, I was on my knees praying ... he will rewrite the position," said Floyd Reese, the Titans' general manager.
"This guy, he led the nation in college as a junior in passing efficiency," he said. "This guy is special. Now we have to get him special in the NFL, and that's why it's going to take a little bit of time. And we realize that. It's a big jump."
For Leinart, landing in Arizona under coach Dennis Green puts him on what should be one of the NFL's most explosive offenses with the newly signed running back Edgerrin James and the outstanding receiver tandem of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. He will start his career in a new stadium behind the brittle Kurt Warner, who two seasons ago caddied for the Giants' Eli Manning before the No. 1 pick took over at midseason.
"I think it's a great pick," Leinart said. "I'm still in the top ten and I can learn behind a great quarterback. Plus I get to stay on the West Coast. I spoke to coach Green on the phone and he said it was like 'a gift from heaven.'
"I think it's a great situation for me. I'm just happy that I'm going to a team that wants me."
If Bush and Leinart slipped a little, some of their highly touted Trojan teammates really took a plunge.
LenDale White, who shared running back duties with Bush, wasn't picked until the middle of the second round, when he went to Tennessee with the 45th overall pick. He slipped from high in the first round because he didn't work out at the scouting combine, then showed up at USC's scouting overweight and with a hamstgring injury and did not work out again.
Offensive tackle Winston Justice, considered a first-rounder, also dropped to the second, where he went to Philadelphia. Guard Deuce Lutui will join Leinart in Arizona -- he went to the Cardinals at No. 41, about where projected.
The Texans opted to take Williams over Bush because they decided the 6-foot-6½ 292-pound pounder is the kind of defensive impact player who can take a team to a Super Bowl. He had agreed Friday night to a contract that includes $26.5 million in guaranteed money.
As Williams approached the podium against the gilded backdrop of Radio City Music Hall, fans began to boo and chant "overrated!" -- a reaction that Texans coach Gary Kubiak believes won't take long to prove wrong.
"This young man is special, what he brings to the game," Kubiak said. "He can change a game the way he rushes a passer and the problems he presents for an offensive football team."
History says Kubiak may be right: a quarter-century ago, New Orleans used the first overall pick on running back George Rogers and the Giants used the second on a young man named Lawrence Taylor.
Rogers, a power runner nowhere near as electric as Bush, was solid. New York, meanwhile, won two Super Bowls because of LT.
Beyond Bush and Leinart, the first round went more or less as predicted.
|There were 7 defensive backs taken in the first round, tying the record for the most in the first round of the common draft (1967-2006).|
|8||Buffalo||Donte Whitner||Ohio St.|
|15||St. Louis||Tye Hill||Clemson|
|19||San Diego||Antonio Cromartie||Florida St.|
|24||Cincinnati||Johnathan Joseph||So. Carolina|
After Young, the New York Jets took offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia at No. 4; Green Bay picked Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk fifth and San Francisco followed with Maryland tight end Vernon Davis, one of the new breed of pass catchers at that position who can open up the middle of the field.
Oakland, which might have taken a quarterback, went instead for Texas defensive back Michael Huff; Buffalo pulled a slight surprise by taking Ohio State safety Donte Witner, expected to go about 10-15 picks later, and Detroit chose Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims.
Then Leinart finally went at No. 10.
That prompted Denver to move up with the first trade of the round -- a swap with St. Louis that enabled them to take the third first-round quarterback, Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler. That didn't exactly indicate much confidence in Jake Plummer, although Cutler, who like Plummer is mobile, will have plenty of time to learn behind the incumbent.
"I'm a competitor. I want to play," Cutler said. "I'm just going to go in there and compete and try to learn as quickly as possible.
"This wasn't part of the plan that we thought was coming," Cutler continued. "But it's going to be great. I can't wait to get out there."
Then the draft proceeded through a group made up primarily of defensive players.
One interesting pick was Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter to Dallas with the 18th choice overall -- Carpenter was chosen by coach Bill Parcells, who was the Giants' coach in the early 1980s when his father Rob was New York's starting running back.
"He's brutally honest, that he will get the most out of you as a player," Bobby Carpenter said of Parcells. "It's something that excites me. Growing up, I was always a fan of teams he coached for. To have a chance to play for him, it's always like a dream come true."
Carpenter was one of three defensive players from Ohio State to be picked in the first 20. Florida State did them one better with four: Sims; end/linebacker Kamerion Wimbley to Cleveland; tackle Brodrick Bunkley to Philadelphia; and cornerback Antonio Cromartie to San Diego.
North Carolina State had three defensive linemen chosen. In addition to Williams, defensive end Manny Lawson was chosen by San Francisco, and defensive tackle John McCargo by Buffalo.
The first round had 19 defensive players chosen and 13 on offense.
The first three rounds ended after nearly 10 hours with four more quarterbacks taken: Kellen Clemens of Oregon by the Jets and Tarvaris Jackson of Alabama State by the Vikings in the second round and Charlie Whitehurst of Clemson by San Diego and Brodie Croyle of Alabama by Kansas City in the third.
At day's end, the ACC led all conferences with 25 players drafted through the first three rounds. The Big Ten was second with 15, followed by the SEC (14), Pac-10 (13) and Big 12 (11).
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.