Big winners and big losers from the 2006 NFL draft:
Big winner: Matt Leinart -- He's heading to Arizona, which has an offense loaded with Pro Bowl-caliber players at running back and both receiver spots. He'll learn behind Kurt Warner, one of the league's real good guys, and the Cardinals soon will have a state-of-the-art stadium.
Big loser: Leinart -- OK, who are we kidding? It's the Cardinals. (And losing that $10 million really smarts.)
Big winner: Dennis Green -- Two years ago, in his first draft as coach of the Cardinals, he passed on a chance to take Ben Roethlisberger with the third pick. Instead, Arizona drafted Larry Fitzgerald. Green had to be ecstatic to have Leinart fall to No. 10.
Big loser: Norm Chow -- Not only does the Tennessee offensive coordinator fail to land Leinart, but he might have to do some fence-mending with Vince Young. It had to rub the Texas quarterback the wrong way if and when he heard Leinart tell reporters that Chow, his former offensive coordinator at USC, "was doing everything he could to get me."
Big winner: Sean Payton -- New Orleans coach begins his career with a huge splash in landing Reggie Bush.
Big loser: Charley Casserly -- It had to crush the Houston general manager that his team passed on Bush, maybe the pick of a lifetime, because Texan owner Bob McNair took charge of contract negotiations. McNair has done a lot of great things for Houston; losing Bush was not one of them.
Big winner: Taitusi Lutui -- Yes, the former Trojan guard was sentenced to ... er, selected by Arizona, but he gets to stay at home, and he gets to play with Leinart.
Big winner: Jay Cutler -- He wasn't chosen in the top 10, but Denver traded up to No. 11 to grab him. That's quite a compliment from Mike Shanahan, a guy who knows his quarterbacks.
Big loser: Jake Plummer -- Let's see, he has the best season of his career, makes the Pro Bowl and helps lead the Broncos to the AFC title game. Then, a few months later, he kicks back on the couch to watch the NFL draft ... and essentially gets handed his pink slip when Denver picks Cutler.
Big winner: Marcedes Lewis -- With USC players raining down the draft board all around him, UCLA's Lewis lands just about where he thought he would, going 28th to Jacksonville. He should step right in and take over for Kyle Brady. It's a bonus that the Jaguars picked former Bruin running back Maurice Drew -- he'll now go by Jones-Drew to honor his late grandfather -- later in the day.
Big winner: North Carolina State -- Three Wolfpack defensive linemen were chosen among the first 26 picks, including No. 1 selection Mario Williams.
Big loser: Matt Millen -- Detroit's top man was unable to spend yet another first-round pick on a receiver.
Big winner: Joseph Addai -- Indianapolis grabbed the Louisiana State back with the 30th pick. He should feel good about that, and not just because he'll be part of Peyton Manning's offense. Addai should feel good because he was tapped by GM Bill Polian, who has an eye for running back talent, having drafted Thurman Thomas and Edgerrin James, among others.
Big loser: Vernon Davis -- The Maryland tight end was the sixth overall selection -- by San Francisco -- which is good for his wallet, but now he has Alex Smith -- 11 interceptions, 11 fumbles, one touchdown -- throwing to him.
Big winner: D'Brickashaw Ferguson -- The Virginia tackle was taken fourth overall by his hometown New York Jets. And, in a stunning departure from tradition, Jet fans at the draft didn't boo the pick.
In November, before the USC-UCLA game, I asked three NFL scouts to break down the pro prospects from each school and try to predict in which round those players might be drafted. Although the scouts didn't get everything right, they were remarkably accurate in several cases.
They didn't predict Leinart's slide, for instance, but they were dead on with these predictions:
One scout saw USC's LenDale White being picked in the second round, "a between-the-tackles guy with average open-field speed." (White went in the second round to Tennessee.)
The same scout said the improved blocking of UCLA tight end Lewis "moved him from that second-round area to late first." He also said USC defensive linemen Frostee Rucker and LuJuan Ramsey would go in the third and sixth rounds. Nailed it, in both cases.
Another scout said Winston Justice would go between the 30th and 50th pick, even though many people were already predicting the Trojan tackle to go in the top half of the first round. (Justice went 39th to Philadelphia.)
All three of the scouts said both USC guards, Lutui and Fred Matua, would be first-day selections. Lutui was chosen in the second round by Arizona, but Matua lasted until the seventh before Detroit took him. Matua was widely projected to go much earlier but plunged after failing at least one physical, according to a team source, because of two bad knees and a bum ankle.