Further review: Draft afterthoughts


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Jan 22, 2006
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Further review: Draft afterthoughts

By Dan Pompei - SportingNews

Question: Why would the Saints draft Reggie Bush when they already had Deuce McAllister? Answer: To play them together.

Sean Payton and his coaching staff have been discussing this very subject in postdraft meetings and plan to use Bush and McAllister together in what they call a Pony personnel grouping. How often, Payton isn't ready to say. Generally speaking, no team ever has made a living off this approach. But this is an unusual circumstance and the thinking on offense is expanding, so the situation is right for the Saints' offense to flourish with two halfbacks.

To get the most out of Bush and McAllister, Payton is looking at how Southern California used Bush with LenDale White, which could give Payton ideas about defining roles for both players. He compares Bush to Marshall Faulk, so he also might dust off old Rams tapes and find creative ways to get Bush the ball. Plus, Payton can take a look at how the Vikings over the years have found ways to open up seams in the running game without a lead blocker.

Payton is very clear that he sees Bush as a running back, but Bush really is more than that. He's a weapon who will force defensive alignment changes and open up areas of the field. And he's a chess piece who will make defenses show their hands.

Thinking of this opportunity in a broader scope, playing Bush and McAllister together isn't much different from playing Tony Gonzalez and Priest Holmes together. Defenses are forced to categorize each player upon their initial look, but offenses can change those categorizations before the snap and leave defenses with improper personnel, a mismatch or a numbers disadvantage.

The key is putting Bush and McAllister in motion. "When you're able to flex Reggie into different positions, someone has to adjust -- linebacker or safety, they have to bounce out there," Payton says. "If there is an adjustment made and the box is conducive to running it, then handing it to Deuce is a very good thing. And if you want to flex Deuce out and hand it to Reggie, you can do that."

Their styles are different enough that Saints coaches will be able to develop specialty plays for each, but the true value of Bush and McAllister together will be in their interchangeability and versatility.

>Where the Texans erred

Mario Williams might turn into Lee Roy Selmon, Reggie White and Andy Robustelli rolled into one, but I still will think the Texans were faulty in their logic to make him the No. 1 pick in the draft.

A team picking first in the draft needs to prioritize these rules, in this order:

1. There must be almost no possibility of this player's being a bust.

2. He must have potential for greatness.

3. He must have the ability to lead and lift the franchise's image.

4. He must fit well in the scheme and lineup and be able to make a dramatic impact in a relatively short period of time.

The Texans, in my estimation, prioritized only the second and fourth rules and ignored the third and -- most important -- the first. There is a significant bust factor with Williams, whose performance was erratic at N.C. State. Bush was a safer pick. So were A.J. Hawk, Matt Leinart, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Vernon Davis and Michael Huff.

If Williams is a leader in Houston, it will be a first for him. People around the N.C. State program will tell you Williams had to be pushed to work hard in the weight room, at practice and, most disturbingly, in games.

Williams probably has more potential for greatness than any player in the draft, but that alone should not have made him the No. 1 pick.

>Workout warriors

Williams was one of a number of draftees who worked out better than they played and subsequently was chosen higher than his tape merited. Some others: Rams cornerback Tye Hill, Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie, 49ers linebacker Manny Lawson and Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph. It will be interesting to follow their careers.

>Bronco bashing

I was a little rough on the Broncos in my draft grades; I gave them a "D." I actually really liked most of what they did, including acquiring wideout Javon Walker and drafting tight end Tony Scheffler, defensive end Elvis Dumervil and center Greg Eslinger. And I have a deep respect for general manager Ted Sundquist and coach Mike Shanahan.

But I struggled with their big move, trading a third-round pick to move up four spots so they could take quarterback Jay Cutler. I see the Broncos as a team on the verge of a championship.

They could have used two players to help put them over the top this year, such as, say, running back Laurence Maroney and tight end David Thomas. Or they could have taken Maroney in the first round and quarterback Charlie Whitehurst in the third and had a Now and Later.

Instead, they might have put some ghosts in Jake Plummer's head.

>Safeties first

One draft trend that should be noted is NFL teams have begun appreciating safeties more. Nine safeties were chosen on Day 1 -- almost as many as the 11 corners taken. And three safeties were off the board before the second corner was selected.

What gives? Says one general manager who picked a safety on the first day: "Teams want more speed at safety so they don't have to be subbing all the time."
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