NFL Draft 2014: Goldilocks draft study continues with a look back at 2006, when Reggie Bush "fell" to 2nd

Michael Robinson: QB/RB/WR - Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

From the players that tumbled down the first round like Haloti Ngata to the ones that rose up like Vernon Davis, it's time to look again at which kind of draft prospect is best: The riser or the faller?

A couple of weeks ago I started a study that examined if it was better to select a player that had seen his "draft stock" rise from where he was expected to go before the draft, fall, or stay just where we had all expected. I did this for the 2005 draft that included the fall of Aaron Rodgers, but doing just one season obviously would not be good enough.

It seemed that in a small sample size, the players that could be seen as "value picks" like Rodgers and Derrick Johnson, turned out better than those that had seemed to inflate their draft stock based on things like the combine and pre-draft activities like Pro Days, like Troy Williamson and Matt Jones.

I felt and still feel like the best way to do this study hasn't appeared to me yet, but every opportunity to write one of these articles is an opportunity to get better. I've tried a different format this time, mostly for the readers sake, but also for my own. I try to be as unbiased and objective as possible and those that I classify as "Risers" and "Fallers" has nothing to do with my own personal feelings or with a goal of showing that "Fallers" are better than "Risers," as my first study had shown.

I have nothing to gain here, man. Don't use that tone with me.

This time I'm going to start with some charts first and then delve into the explanation second. Spoiler alert: I still think that "value picks" are better than those that show the most improvement at a time when they're trying to do whatever they can to get drafted higher and therefore make more money. Don't forget one very important aspect of January-March that doesn't exist in the two to five years of a player's NCAA career:

Agents.

These guys can be just as important as a 40-time in draft stock, but I have no real way of measuring that. Yet. Here is what I can see:

Fallers

Pick Name Team Pos CarAV
2 Reggie Bush NO RB 58
10 Matt Leinart AZ QB 12
12 Haloti Ngata BAL DT 88
14 Brodrick Bunkley PHI DT 40
24 Johnathan Joseph CIN DB 49
25 Santonio Holmes PIT WR 47

Average Career AV: 49

Risers

Pick Name Team Pos CarAV
1 Mario Williams HOU DE 56
3 Vince Young TEN QB 33
6 Vernon Davis SF TE 41
8 Donte Whitner BUF DB 41
9 Ernie Sims DET LB 30
11 Jay Cutler DEN QB 68
13 Kamerion Wimbley CLE DE 43
15 Tye Hill STL DB 10
16 Jason Allen MIA DB 17
18 Bobby Carpenter DAL LB 12
20 Tamba Hali KC DE 62
22 Manny Lawson SF DE 41
23 Davin Joseph TB G 40
26 John McCargo BUF DT 3
28 Marcedes Lewis JAX TE 29
30 Joseph Addai IND RB 50

Average Career AV: 36

Just Righters

Pick Name Team Pos CarAV
4 D'Brickashaw Ferguson NYJ OT 52
5 AJ Hawk GB LB 53
7 Michael Huff OAK DB 36
17 Chad Greenway MIN LB 54
19 Antonio Cromartie SD DB 52
21 Laurence Maroney NE RB 26
27 DeAngelo Williams CAR RB 52
29 Nick Mangold NYJ C 64
31 Kelly Jennings SEA DB 19
32 Mathias Kiwanuka NYG LB 33

Average Career AV: 44.1

The following represents a rough bar graph of each player, lumped into their respective category and with the average Career AV (Adjusted Value, from Pro-Football-Reference) highlighted by the corresponding color:

Rfj200_medium

The highest Career AV belonging to "Faller" Haloti Ngata and the lowest going to "Riser" John McCargo. You'll notice that the least amount of variance belongs to the players that went about where they were expected to go.

With Matt Leinart as the only real flop in the Faller category, that means that one out of six players in that category -- 16.67% -- has posted a sub-40 Career AV, with Bunkley come in exactly at 40.

Compare that to the Just Righters -- 40% -- and the Risers -- 43.75% -- and you'll see a significant difference. Players categorized as falling between 40 and 49 in Career AV (This includes names like Bunkley, Santonio Holmes, Vernon Davis, Donte Whitner, Davin Joseph) and you'll see that 50% of Fallers fall into this category, compared to 0% of Righters and 31.25% of Risers.

2006 Senior Bowl

Of the 32 first round draft picks in '06, 15 of them were in the Senior Bowl. One exception was Senior Bowl MVP Sinorice Moss, WR for the Miami Hurricanes, who was projected to go in the first round and even ran the eight-fastest 40-yard dash at the Combine, but slipped to 44th overall. He played four forgetful seasons with the New York Giants.

2006 Scouting Combine

Quarterbacks:

To be honest, I don't know why the combine would even matter for quarterbacks. At least not in any way that we can measure. If you want a good quarterback, for me it comes down to game tape and interviews to formulate a solid opinion on his character. I'd talk to coaches and teammates to assess what he's like to play for and with and how coachable he is.

Matt Leinart and Kellen Clemens tied for the fourth-highest Wonderlic among QBs. Charlie Whitehurst was sixth. Leinart scored a 35 while Vince Young scored a 15. And these numbers are still meaningless to me.

Reggie McNeal of Texas A&M ran a 4.40 and it still wasn't going to make him an NFL quarterback.

Running backs:

"Maurice Drew" ran a 4.39 to lead his position group, but still wasn't seen as a first round pick.

Joseph Addai wasn't expected to go in the first round, but his 4.42 forty may have been enough to convince the Colts to take him.

Wide receivers and tight ends:

Vernon Davis was the freak show that townsolks paid two pence to see dance for them at their pleasure. Davis measured 6'3, 254 pounds, he did 33 reps of 225 (tied for 12th) but ran a 4.38 40 (tied for 8th.) So he was "stronger" than Elvis Dumervil but "faster" than Maurice Jones-Drew while weighing forty more pounds than DeAngelo Williams.

Nonsensical.

Chad Jackson of Florida ran a 4.32, best among WRs, and was expected to be a first round lock. He slid to the second round and played just three seasons in the league.

Notables: Devin Hester ran a 4.41, Greg Jennings ran a 4.42, Miles Austin ran a 4.47, Marques Colston ran a 4.50, Brandon Marshall ran a 4.52.

Austin had the highest vertical leap, Jennings had the fastest 3-cone, Brad Smith had the longest broad jump.

Cornerbacks:

One of the bigger surprises and subsequent busts of the first round was cornerback Tye Hill. He had the fastest 3-cone drill at the 2006 combine and went 15th overall.

Johnathan Joseph improved his stock by running the fastest 40 at the combine -- 4.31 -- but on draft day went later than most had expected given the speed he had shown in front of scouts.

Hill and Michael Huff ran a 4.34, Jason Allen and Kelly Jennings ran a 4.39, Donte Whitner ran a 4.40, Antonio Cromartie ran a 4.47, and subsequently any cornerback that ran slower than 4.48 is likely long forgotten and not drafted as high as the speedier players. Names like Derrick Martin, Chris Hawkins, DeMario Minter, Dee McCann, or Charles Gordon.

Safeties get away with it a bit more. Bernard Pollard ran a 4.57 and Dawan Landry ran a 4.64; Pollard was a second round pick while Landry fell to the fifth.

Defensive End:

Kam Wimbley ran a 4.61, fastest of his position. Mario Williams and Mathias Kiwanuka ran a 4.70. Dumervil ran a 4.75 and was also listed as the shortest defensive end at the combine; He slipped to 126th overall in the draft.

Williams did 35 reps, which was second place (but a ridiculous 10 fewer than Mike Kudla of Ohio State.) Williams also had the second-highest vertical leap, second longest broad jump (Wimbley was first), while Kiwanuka had the better shuttle and Wimbley the better 3-cone.

Mark Anderson also had a good combine for defensive ends, but slipped to the fifth round and went on to a very good seven-year career.

Combine "winners and losers" from FootballsFuture:

This article describes Jay Cutler, Manny Lawson, Vernon Davis, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Tamba Hali as the winners and Vince Young, Michael Robinson and Chad Greenway as "losers."

But Young and Greenway ended up being drafted about where you could have expected before the combine. Robinson wanted to stay at QB, then people viewed him as a wide receiver, and we know what happened after that.

2006 Player Notes

1. Mario Williams, NC State, Texans

It was long thought that Bush was "the guy" to take first overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, with many people dubbing the 2005 season as "The Reggie Bush Sweepstakes" and some people even suggesting that Houston lost their last game of the season on purpose so that they could pick Bush. When USA Today ran their final mock drafts on April 27, six out of six experts had the Texans taking Reggie Bush out of USC.

On Friday, April 28, a day before the draft, the Texans signed Mario Williams to a six-year, $54 million contract.

Riser

2. Reggie Bush, USC, Saints

From FootballsFuture.com:

Reggie is the best player in the draft, period. He is a gamebreaker, and someone you cannot pass on. The Texans would be smart to choose Bush with the first pick, and that seems to be the most likely scenario. Players with his ability do not come around very often, and he has a chance to be one of the games greatest talents.

Nothing from that quote is particularly wrong about Bush as a draft prospect. He was deemed to be the next Marshall Faulk, and honestly, Bush has not been that big of a disappointment, considering. He had over 1,500 all-purpose yards as a rookie, he returned three punts for touchdowns in his third season, and that the Saints won the Super Bowl in his fourth.

He was sort of a liability in the red zone and that's why New Orleans had to be sure to pair him with a bigger back, which sort of defeats the purpose of drafting a player second overall to be "the guy" but overall his career could have been a lot worse.

Bush has averaged 1,026 yards rushing per season over the last three years, another 356 yards per season in the air, plus 22 total touchdowns.

But he went from a "lock" to go first overall to possibly being dropped on the Texans boards for off-field concerns.

Faller!

3. Vince Young, Texas, Titans

His combine supposedly didn't do him any favors and many fans wanted him to remain in Texas to be the guy to unseat David Carr, but this is higher than Young was expected to go. Many pegged Leinart to the Titans due to a connection to Norm Chow.

This is one of the biggest mistakes of mock drafters; Teams don't generally pin the hopes of their franchise on a loose connection between an offensive coordinator and a quarterback.

Riser

4. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia, Jets

Rather than take a chance on a QB like Leinart or Jay Cutler, Eric Mangini picked a tackle that has now been the starter for eight years with two Pro Bowl appearances. He'd get an elite center later in the first round as well.

The Jets went 10-6 in 2006 before ultimately falling apart, but Mangini left Rex Ryan some much better pieces to work with than what he would have had with Leinart.

Can you imagine Ryan trying to win a Super Bowl with some overrated USC quarterback?

Ferguson was the mock draft consensus here at number four.

Just Right

5. A.J. Hawk, Ohio State, Packers

A year after making the steal of the draft with Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay didn't need to reach for a player like Leinart here to groom behind Brett Favre. (Though how interesting would it have been to have had Cutler sit for two years and learn from a guy that he compares quite favorable to?)

Hawk has had a very good career, though he has never lived up to the hype he had when was drafted. This was where everyone expected him to go.

Just Right

6. Vernon Davis, Maryland, 49ers

He only played one full season at tight end with the Terps and was still a bit of an unknown going into the pre-draft events.

"He's the fastest tight end I've ever seen," NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt said. "I knew he was fast, but I thought he'd run a 4.55 or something like that. It's amazing, especially at that weight."

At 254 pounds, Davis ran an unreal 4.38. He also had seven more reps on the bench than D'Brickashaw Ferguson. At this point, Davis was projected to go as high as second overall, but he wasn't getting out of the top 10. Here's a guy (as Jon Gruden would say) that had unlimited potential and could possibly become the most dangerous weapon in the NFL.

"Underwhelming" is a fair way to describe his first three years in the league, but "unbelievable" is a better way to describe the last five. He's great and he was expected by many to go right here to San Francisco to pair with Alex Smith. However he only skyrocketed after taking over the 2006 combine.

Riser

7. Michael Huff, Texas, Raiders

Some liked him as a corner, some liked him as a safety, but Huff ran a 4.34 at the combine so that meant that the Raiders like him most of all!

His speed may have solidified him in the top 10, and there's certainly no way he would've gotten by the Raiders after that, but he wasn't much of a surprise here. Though the next safety taken was quite a shocker, unless you put it into context that the Buffalo Bills were on the clock.

Just Right

8. Donte Whitner, Ohio State, Bills

Of all the surprise early picks in all of the NFL drafts I have watched, for some reason hearing "Bills select Donte Whitner" stands out on its own. I guess it's because I personally had no idea who he was. Now, I wasn't any sort of "draft guru" -- still ain't -- but I knew who was a possibility for the first round or at least the top 10 for sure, and Whitner never came up one time.

FootballsFuture said he had "an outside shot at the top 50."

Over time he improved his mock draft stock, but still plenty didn't have him in the first round. Some even projected him to Seattle to take over for the injured-outside-of-a-bar Ken Hamlin.

Whitner's career in Buffalo wasn't terrible, he was actually better than Huff and there's no question that his overall career is above-decent, but there is a good reason that the Bills have remained so terrible for so long. There seems to be enough evidence to believe that even if they really fell in love with Whitner, they could have traded back to get him, or at the very least could have taken a player more worthy of a top 10 pick.

They were still committed to JP Losman for some reason, which eliminated Leinart and Cutler from consideration.

Riser

9. Ernie Sims, Florida State, Lions

To his "credit," Whitner isn't Sims. Though the Lions are totally the Bills.

I do find it interesting that despite the fact that the Joey Harrington era was officially dead and buried, with Jon Kitna as the QBOT-Present, that there wouldn't have been more of a push for Leinart or Cutler.

This is just a bit higher on average for Sims than most expected, with some even having him go in the 20s.

Riser

10. Matt Leinart, USC, Cardinals

After the draft, Todd McShay said that Leinart was a steal for Arizona at 10th overall, and that he had the luxury of sitting for a year behind Kurt Warner before ultimately taking over for a loaded offense with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

Poor Warner was just coming out of a situation in New York where he was supposed to just "keep the seat warm" for a top draft pick, and it didn't take long for him to make way for Leinart. The problem is that it's not enough to just have good weapons or have a veteran to sit behind; It also helps quarterbacks to be good when they're actually good.

But Leinart slipped from possibly being first overall in 2005, to being a lock to play for Chow in Tennessee, to falling past the Raiders and finally landing in Arizona. Rumor had it that Leinart was "devastated" by falling a few picks and then he began his obligatory holdout for more money. (That article linked two sentences ago from Men's Journal is a good read, if you enjoy an unfathomable comparison of Leinart to athletes like Troy Aikman and LeBron James)

Every red flag, like his lack of physicality or a strong arm, was dismissed by a 37-2 career record and the "He just wins" moniker. Had we known the truth, he would have gone much, much later, but as it were, this was still lower than most had expected.

Faller!

11. Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt, Broncos

Denver traded up from 15 to 11 so that they could take Cutler. They also selected Brandon Marshall and Elvis Dumervil in the fourth round.

From USA Today, days before the draft:

"Big" is the adjective that makes Jay Cutler the quarterback with the fastest-rising stock in the NFL Draft. Big as in 6-3, 226 pounds. A big arm that was unaffected by brutal weather at his pro day workout for NFL scouts on March 17.

A big, competitive heart that didn't waver in four seasons as a starter for a Vanderbilt team that often was physically outmatched in the Southeastern Conference. But for teams that aren't drafting high enough to land either of the most touted quarterbacks in this draft — Southern California's Matt Leinart and Texas' Vince Young— there's a subtler appeal about Cutler.

Though Cutler was the Offensive Player of the Year in the SEC, Vanderbilt isn't exactly a powerhouse school that NFL execs usually take notice of for the draft. Leinart's career winning percentage was .948, Cutler's was .239.

Mike Mayock and Chris Mortensen both had Cutler listed as the number one quarterback prospect in the draft. I think it's fair to say that no matter where they all ended up, Cutler is just a better player than Young and Leinart..

The Biggest Riser

12. Haloti Ngata, Oregon, Ravens

Almost nobody expected Ngata to slip this far and Baltimore swapped picks with Cleveland to make sure they could get him. We should by know that the Browns are bad at this draft thing. Most mock drafts had him going to the Bills at 8, but again, the Bills are bad at this draft thing.

The Ravens are pretty good at this draft thing.

At the cost of only a sixth round pick, the Ravens moved up one spot from 13 to 12 because they knew he was the best player available on the board. In a draft that turned out to be relatively loaded, Ngata is arguably the best, with two All-Pro and five Pro Bowl selections in his career.

Faller!

13. Kamerion Wimbley, Florida State, Browns

As mentioned above, Cleveland opted for Wimbley and a sixth round pick (that was used to take Babatunde Oshinowo) over Ngata. That's why you're Ngata going to ever win the Super Bowl. *author retires*

Wimbley was a 4-3 DE at Florida State but the NFL saw him as a 3-4 outside linebacker that's best asset would be rushing the passer. It's not as though the Browns didn't need a run-stuffing DT like Ngata either, but they were intent (perhaps not any different than their recent selection of Bark Mingo) on getting the "best" pass-rusher in the draft. It's this type of "draft for need" strategy that gets GMs like Phil Savage fired on a yearly basis.

Wimbley has had a decent career that included 11 sacks as a rookie and 51.5 in his career, but he's not Ngata, and that was plain to see even during the first day of the 2006 NFL draft. Many analysts had him pegged as a second round or late first round prospect for much of the draft process, but he had a very successful combine.

Riser

14. Brodrick Bunkley, Florida State, Eagles

The third Seminole taken in the top 14, Bunkley was originally thought to be drafted even higher than this. Some had him going as high as eighth to the Bills, while Walter Football correctly nailed his pick at 14 to the Eagles; that was the lowest I could find him going in any of the mock drafts.

Faller!

15. Tye Hill, Clemson, Rams

I will always look back fondly on the good ole' days, when the St. Louis Rams were the worst-drafting team of all-time. Perhaps even worse than the Raiders.

A look back on the 2006 draft by Football Outsiders described Hill's ascent as such:

Biggest bust: 2006 was really the first year Senior Bowl practices were televised on NFL Network, and one of the biggest stars of that week was Clemson cornerback Tye Hill, who had a spectacular interception on Monday. The Rams ultimately drafted him with the 15th overall pick, and found out he was not really good enough to play in the NFL.

Hill quickly fell out of favor in St. Louis and was out of the league after 2010.

Riser

16. Jason Allen, Tennessee, Dolphins

Allen was seen as a definitely first round probability, but not a lock. Much like Huff, some teams saw him as a corner and others as a safety, but few seemed to doubt that no matter where he played, Allen would become a good NFL starter.

Majority opinion is not always right.

Allen never became a full-time NFL starter and he was out of the league as of 2012.

Nick Saban is one hell of a college recruiter and coach, and the NCAA is exactly where he should stay.

Riser

17. Chad Greenway, Iowa, Vikings

In a compilation of drafts from USA Today, Greenway was perhaps the player with the most variance. Would he go as high as 11 to the Rams or as low as 28 to the Jaguars? He's the "not flashy" linebacker that perhaps -- for the benefit of this study alone -- compares most favorably with Derrick Johnson from anyone in the first round of the 2005 draft.

He "fell" because teams seemed to know who he was and what he did: A great linebacker that you figured would be a very good football player, but perhaps not seen as that player that gets you over the hump to that "championship" level.

One of the more underrated players in the NFL, he's consistently good every year.

In a re-draft would he go in the top 10? I'm not sure about that. But mostly only because this was a very good draft. He was so over all over the board that I can't classify him as a riser or a faller, it really just depended on what team you talked to.

Just Right

18. Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State, Cowboys

If you want to know how wrong it can go for a "safe" linebacker, look no further than the pick after Greenway.

Carpenter was another near-lock for the first round, though this was slightly higher than most expected. He was thought to go somewhere in the 20s, Carpenter was bad for the entirety of his seven-year NFL career. He made just 10 starts and perhaps is one of those examples of a guy that gets noticed a bit too much thanks to the guy he plays next to.

(Think: Julius Peppers and Ryan Sims, for example.)

Riser

19. Antonio Cromartie, Florida State, Chargers

Given everything I've learned about the NFL draft and prospects, it's quite amazing that Cromartie actually wasn't a bust for San Diego. He was a reserve as a freshman, made one start as a sophomore, tore his ACL as a junior, and was drafted in the first round based on athletic ability alone. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and his potential was enough for the Chargers to pull the trigger on him, something that even the Oakland Raiders seemed unwilling to do!

Though some people lauded A.J. Smith for the move, it was a better payoff than many first round picks. He had 10 interceptions in his second year with San Diego, and has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons with the Jets.

Had it not been for his ACL tear, a good junior campaign could have locked him into the top five, but as it were, he turned out to be a riser as the draft drew closer. So is he a riser or a faller??

Given the whole plate of knowledge we had on Cromartie, believe it or not, I think he's:

Just Right

20. Tamba Hali, Penn State, Chiefs

Carl Peterson was the GM for Kansas City for 20 years (John Schneider served under him for three of those season, 1997-99) and orchestrated some pretty underrated moves, despite the fact that the Chiefs didn't make the Super Bowl during his tenure. However, in 2005 we saw him grab Derrick Johnson as one of the best "fallers" of the draft, and here at 20 we see Peterson snag Hali, considerably ahead of where most expected him to go.

Peterson's reign with KC ended in 2008, but the success they had in 2013 under Andy Reid still contained a large portion of his footprint.

A lot of publications had Hali as a second round pick, with one draft projecting him to Seattle (if only!), but his stock only went higher and higher as the draft got closer.

Riser

21. Laurence Maroney, Minnesota, Patriots

After Bush, it was sort of a "Dealer's choice" of running back prospects, with some pegging Maroney as the second-best back, while others favored DeAngelo Williams or perhaps even LenDale White. There was also Maurice Jones-Drew and Joseph Addai, but the guy that Bill Belichick liked more than all the others was Maroney.

You can't say that Belichick doesn't have his faults, even when it comes to talent evaluation. (Okay, some would say it's one of his bigger faults.)

The Patriots made 10 picks in 2006 and the only one that turned into a regular was Stephen Gostkowski. New England took Chad Jackson in the second round and he caught 14 career passes. They also took tight end David Thomas in the third, fullback Garrett Mills in the fourth, tackle Ryan O'Callaghan in the fifth, Jeremy Mincey, Dan Stevenson, and Le Kevin Smith in the sixth, and Willie Andrews in the seventh.

In other words, this draft le stunk.

Maroney started 14 games for the Patriots in his career and was out of the NFL after 2010. He could have gone a little higher than this maybe but probably wouldn't have fallen past the Panthers. New England would have been right to select Williams but it wasn't meant to be. At least he wasn't LenDale White, I guess.

Just Right

22. Manny Lawson, NC State, 49ers

We've talked about it with Bobby Carpenter playing next to AJ Hawk, and danced around the ballooned (pardon the pun) draft stock of White sharing the USC backfield with Bush, but the NC State defensive line was perhaps unlike any other.

Three of the top 26 picks in this draft played on the same unit of the same team, which is rather unbelievadiculous. However, were scouts too quick to jump on Lawson and McCargo due to the advantages they had by playing next to Williams? I want to say that NFL scouts are smarter than that but the post-draft evidence isn't very good.

To be fair, Lawson was one of those combine "freaks" and he was productive in college. But when Hali moved to OLB with the Chiefs, he became everything that Lawson didn't become when the Niners moved him from DE to OLB in his rookie season. San Fran also traded up, sending a second and a third to Washington so that they could select Lawson.

Lawson tore his ACL in 2007 and has had a decent career, but definitely has not become the outside pass rusher that a player like Aldon Smith eventually became for the same team. (Though Lawson never played for Jim Harbaugh and Vic Fangio, when they maximized the potential of every player on the roster, it seemed.)

Riser

23. Davin Joseph, Oklahoma, Buccaneers

Not the biggest stretch of all-time. Most had Joseph going in the high-second round, and he ended up here instead. A two-time Pro Bowl guard.

Riser

24. Johnathan Joseph, South Carolina, Bengals

Before all the pre-draft stuff, Joseph had to prove himself to NFL teams because he lacked college experience and relied heavily on physical ability. When all the combine stuff was done, he had risen to possibly being a top 15 pick and many thought he would go in the top 20. Instead, he fell to 24 and has turned into a pretty good NFL corner.

From riser to faller to great value pick.

Faller!

25. Santonio Holmes, Ohio State, Steelers

It was a weak class of wide receivers and Holmes ended up as the first one off the board, going a little bit later than most had expected. The only saving grace to the class of 2006 was a fourth (Marshall) and a seventh (Marques Colston) round pick, plus Greg Jennings in the second.

Maybe if he had stayed with Pittsburgh he would've put up twice as many career yards as he did after pairing with Mark Sanchez in New York, but I still say he's been vastly overrated. It was just thought that he'd get taken in the teens, not the twenties.

Faller!

26. John McCargo, NC State, Bills

Here's the third amigo with Mario and Manny.

If Buffalo wanted to have a safety and a defensive tackle in this draft, not only could they have taken Ngata and Roman Harper, but they wouldn't have even needed to draft up from 43 to 26 (they sent their second and third round pick to Chicago so they could pick McCargo) to get those two guys.

Most thought of McCargo as a third round pick anyway, so the move was perhaps more shocking than taking Whitner some 20 spots before anyone had expected him to go.

McCargo made one start in his NFL career.

Riser (for one team at least)

27. DeAngelo Williams, Memphis, Panthers

"Williams or LenDale White" could once have been classified as a debate. White ended up going 45th, 15 spots ahead of Jones-Drew. (I had forgotten that White once scored 15 rushing touchdowns in a single season. He's the best!)

This is perhaps a couple of spots higher than some were figuring but not wildly off-base.

Just Right

28. Marcedes Lewis, UCLA, Jaguars

As just noted, the Jaguars selected Jones-Drew 60th overall out of UCLA. Their first two picks in this draft were both Bruins and have both played with Jacksonville for the last eight years. Not a bad 1-2 for the Jags but that run is pretty much over and they made one playoff appearance.

Lewis was not a lock for the first round, and Walter didn't even have him in the top two.

Riser

29. Nick Mangold, Ohio State, Jets

An elite center selected in the draft position you'd expect an elite center to be taken. New York had this extra pick thanks to trading away John Abraham.

Just Right

30. Joseph Addai, LSU, Colts

Few considered Addai to be a first round talent, with Walter giving this draft class an F (before switching it to an A a year later.)

Addai rushed for over 1,000 yards as a rookie and Indianapolis won the Super Bowl. They also snagged future Bears star Tim Jennings in the second round and Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea in the sixth.

Riser

31. Kelly Jennings, Miami, Seahawks

Two people at USA Today had Jennings going to the Seahawks, which is pretty impressive for a mock draft at 31st overall. Two others had him going higher than 31. Plenty others saw him as more of a second round pick, but that's picking nits.

Of course, "picking" was never Jennings strong suit. Nor was much of anything else.

Just Right

32. Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College, Giants

Several drafts had Kiwanuka going 32nd overall to the Steelers before they traded up for Holmes. He's a fine, unspectacular player.

Just Right

Players expected to possibly go in the first round that didn't:

Chad Jackson - The combine time shot him up to the boards for mock drafters but they misjudged just how much teams actually liked Jackson. He went 36th overall to the Patriots and had 14 career catches.

Winston Justice - CBS Sports had Justice as 12th on their big board. Character concerns had him slip to the Eagles at 39th overall. He's had an up-and-down career.

Jimmy Williams - More character concerns. Fell to 37th overall, played two seasons.

Ashton Youboty - Athletically gifted but played less than two seasons at Ohio State before entering the NFL draft as an underclassman. Another season could have helped his draft stock and also his career; Youboy went 70th overall to the Bills and played parts of six seasons.

Sinorice Moss - Notable for being Santana's little brother and having exceptional athletic ability, but is only 5'8 and didn't produce a lot at Miami. Went 44th overall to the Giants, played parts of four seasons.

LenDale White - Attitude issues, weight issues, played next to the best player in college football. White actually rushed for over 1,000 yards in his second season with the Titans and scored 15 touchdowns in his third. He fell off in his fourth season, was brought in by Pete Carroll to the Seahawks in 2010 but didn't last very long. Nobody else called.

"Not firsts" conclusion: Players that appear to fall out of the first round (technically speaking, does anyone actually "rise" or "fall" or are you always exactly what you are oh god is all of this work for nothing?! Please ignore this parenthetical.) ... Let me re-phrase:

The players thought or projected to be first rounders that go in a later round appear to do much worse than the ones that go later in the first round than they were expected to go, but remained first round picks. Not yet easy to tell if this is just a coincidence or has more meaning.

DeMeco Ryans went 33rd overall, could have certainly gone 32nd you would think, and has had a very good career.

Best values after the first round:

Jahri Evans (108)

Small school (Bloomsburg), teams unsure if T or G, Saints actually drafted him a few rounds higher than some projected him to go. New Orleans is pretty good at finding offensive lineman.

Maurice Jones-Drew (60)

Despite being a combine "winner," MJD was the sixth running back selected, going after players like Maroney, Addai, and White. Another "undersized" prospect.

Brandon Marshall (119)

Seen as having a bad attitude at Central Florida, spent one season at free safety, had limited experience as a receiver despite solid final season, had off-field incident with trespassing charge, seen as "slow" and needing to use his size to gain separation.

Marques Colston (252)

Hofstra.

Greg Jennings (52)

"Small, weak," Western Michigan.

Kyle Williams (134)

Undersized, "not a great athlete."

Elvis Dumervil (126)

Waaaaaayyy to small to succeed in the NFL, despite absolute dominance at Louisville.

Value conclusion: The "undersized" label seems to creep up again as a way to find hidden gems in the draft, but the "small school" red flag proves to be meaningless for a number of key players from 2006. Especially Evans, arguably the best player in this class.

Conclusion Conclusion:

I think that the conclusion was stated in the beginning, when looking at what the raw data tells us. That on average, players that went lower than expected had better careers (are having) than those that went higher than expected and slightly better than those that went where we thought they'd go. Of course, the sample size is still small, plus there's the fact that six players have a lower probability of having some duds than 16 players do. But they also have a smaller chance of having a great player, like Haloti Ngata.

The only true dud of the six was Leinart.

What I have found mostly to be true through two studies is that there are far more players that rise up in the first round than there are players that fall down. Not every player that rises in the first round necessarily rises into the first round, like say, John McCargo, but certainly some do and are successful. Jay Cutler for example, who after a couple of months of "testing" by the NFL, had some convinced he was the best quarterback of the class.

Which he is by a lot.

It would seem that those that fall out of the first round though have had far less success than those that fall within the first round by 1-20 spots.

The pre-draft process is long and arduous and contains many possible hurdles and conditions that can help or harm a players draft status, but I'm still not sure how much value it all has. Especially if it can hurt the status of a Hall of Fame talent, and help the status of Troy Williamson.

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