Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the remaining days leading up to the NFL's 2006 selection meeting, aka the draft, it will be handy for observers to remain mindful of a couple of myths.
Myth number one has been perpetuated by general managers throughout the league, who insist that they always take the best available player on their board, regardless of position.
If you believe that one, you may have played fullback in the leather-helmet era. On the first day at least, with few exceptions, teams select players that have a chance to step into starting jobs immediately. Would the Steelers or Patriots look past their needs in the secondary if someone like Jay Cutler or Vince Young was available? Would it make sense for the Seahawks or Chargers to take a running back in the first round if that's what the draft board demands?
No way. If The Edge left U2 tomorrow, the group wouldn't forgo a lead guitarist to hire a second drummer.
So why do GMs insist that needs have little to do with whom they select? Call it gamesmanship. If the Titans, who will have the third pick on April 29th, really think that the Saints, drafting second, will select Matt Leinart, then maybe they'll trade up and give New Orleans even greater value for the pick.
Which leads us to our second draft-related myth: that the media actually has a wealth of inside information about draft day matters. Everything you read from now until April 29th, including what appears in this space, has to be taken with a heaping tablespoon of salt. GMs and other personnel within organizations make a practice of surreptitiously "leaking" draft strategy to reporters, much of it false, to try and bait other teams into attempting to move up or down the draft board.
Around this time of year, the press gets played more than Pierce Brosnan movies on TNT, so make sure to be wary of what you read and hear.
With that major caveat in mind, below is The Sports Network's educated guess at what the first round could look like, barring late-breaking trades or free agent movement (Please note that no mock draft in the history of mock drafts has been 100 percent accurate, so please don't e-mail me on draft Saturday to inform me that I am not, in fact, Nostradamus. Disagreements that include reason and logic will be read, considered, and probably even answered):
1. Houston - Reggie Bush, RB, USC (5-11, 201) - No way will the Texans pass on the chance to pick a player who could have a Michael Jordan-like impact on the league.
2. New Orleans - D'Brickashaw Ferguson, T, Virginia (6-6, 305) - It's still a coin flip that the Saints will trade this pick, but if they opt to keep it, they'll go with a guy that can help protect their investment in Drew Brees.
3. Tennessee - Matt Leinart, QB, USC (6-5, 223) - Provided someone doesn't work a trade with the Saints and steal Leinart, ex-Trojans Jeff Fisher and Norm Chow won't hesitate in taking their guy.
4. N.Y. Jets - Mario Williams, DE, N.C. State (6-7, 295) - With John Abraham gone, they have as much need for a serious pass-rusher as a quarterback or o- lineman at this stage,
5. Green Bay - Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland (6-3, 254) - Desperately require another target for Favre, Rogers, or whoever plays QB in '06 to throw to.
6. San Francisco - Michael Huff, DB, Texas (6-0, 204) - The versatile Huff will help prop up the league's worst secondary of a year ago.
7. Oakland - A.J. Hawk, LB, Ohio State (6-1, 248) - If the Raiders are smart, they'll take the best defensive player available when it's their turn to select.
8. Buffalo - Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon (6-4, 338) - Bills need beef in the interior line in the worst way, and Ngata has plenty of that.
9. Detroit - Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida State (5-11, 231) - He's a bit undersized, but the Lions need a high-energy guy and sure tackler to add some intensity to their defense.
10. Arizona - Vince Young, QB, Texas (6-5, 229) - Jay Cutler is more polished at this stage, but Young projects as the bigger star in the long term.
11. St. Louis - Johnathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina (5-11, 193) - The best d- back available other than Huff, and a good fit for a Rams secondary that has struggled to make plays.
12. Cleveland - Kamerion Wimbley, OLB, Florida State (6-4, 248) - Browns pass rush was terrible last season, and Wimbley fits the Browns' 3-4 scheme to a tee.
13. Baltimore - Winston Justice, T, USC (6-6, 319) - He's a bit of a reach at No. 13, but the Ravens need o-line help badly enough to take the gamble.
14. Philadelphia - Chad Jackson, WR, Florida (6-0, 213) - Santonio Holmes is more explosive, but Jackson is bigger and has fewer character issues with which Andy Reid would have to deal.
15. Denver (from Atlanta) - Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State (5-11, 179) - Broncos have long lacked a serious downfield threat, and Holmes would offer the offense that dimension.
16. Miami - Brodrick Bunkley, NT, Florida State (6-3, 306) - The space-eating Bunkley would be a steal for the Fins at No. 16, and is perfectly suited to the 3-4 defense that Nick Saban prefers.
17. Minnesota - Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt (6-3, 226) - The Vikings would need a lot of luck to have a chance at one of the "Big 3" QBs with pick number 17, but based on the needs of the preceding selectors, the chance remains.
18. Dallas - Marcus McNeill, T, Auburn (6-8, 336) - Cowboys picked a bad year to be in desperate need of a tackle, and will need McNeill to develop more quickly than expected.
19. San Diego - Jason Allen, DB, Tennessee (6-1, 209) - Allen's ability to play either corner or free safety would give the Chargers some options in their deficient secondary.
20. Kansas City - Tye Hill, CB, Clemson (5-10, 185) - After cutting Eric Warfield and Dexter McCleon loose, Herman Edwards wants a cornerback who can step into the lineup immediately.
21. New England - Chad Greenway, OLB, Iowa (6-2, 242) - With Willie McGinest gone, the Patriots are looking for a high-motor guy like Greenway to step into their 3-4 scheme.
22. San Francisco (from Denver via Washington) - Mathias Kiwanuka, DE, Boston College (6-6, 266) - Julian Peterson and Andre Carter both defected via free agency, and Kiwanuka is about the right size to fit in as an outside linebacker in the 3-4.
23. Tampa Bay - Jimmy Williams, DB, Virginia Tech (6-2, 216) - Opinions are mixed on Williams' abilities, but his versatility will be appealing to teams like the Bucs.
24. Cincinnati - Donte Whitner, SS, Ohio State (5-10, 204) - He's not huge, but would add another playmaker to a Bengals secondary that is short on depth.
25. N.Y. Giants - John McCargo, DT, North Carolina State (6-1, 302) - After losing Kendrick Clancy to free agency, the G-Men need a big body within the interior line.
26. Chicago - Marcedes Lewis, TE, UCLA (6-6, 261) - Bears are likely to take the top remaining pass-catcher on the board, and will probably go with the matchup-problem Lewis rather than a small receiver like Miami's Sinorice Moss.
27. Carolina - DeMeco Ryans, OLB, Alabama (6-1, 236) - Panthers require linebacking help after parting ways with Will Witherspoon and Brandon Short.
28. Jacksonville - DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis (5-9, 214) - Jags could have their pick of running backs, and though small, Williams appears to be the best bet in that regard.
29. N.Y. Jets (from Denver) - Davin Joseph, G, Oklahoma (6-3, 311) - Don't be surprised if the Jets take linemen with the Nos. 29 and 35 picks, especially if they miss out on D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
30. Indianapolis - Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota (6-0, 217) - Colts could be tempted to take the bigger LenDale White, but Maroney has better hands and better fits the Indy scheme.
31. Seattle - Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State (6-2, 208) - Seahawks had their problems in the secondary last year, and Cromartie could step in and compete for a starting job right away.
32. Pittsburgh - Sinorice Moss, WR, Miami (FL) (5-8, 185) - After losing Antwaan Randle El's big-play ability in the free agent market, the defending champs could pounce on Santana's little brother.