Texans end suspense over No. 1 pick

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Houston signed defensive end Williams on Friday night, snubbing USC running back Bush.

NEW YORK -- All NFL drafts have lots of intrigue near the top. This year, the Houston Texans pulled off a shocker.

The Texans signed North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams on Friday night, snubbing Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush for the No. 1 overall selection in one of the most surprising moves in NFL history.

The Southern California tailback was projected as the top pick after he dominated college football last season with his dazzling moves and super speed, but has been embroiled in some controversy this week concerning who paid the rent for a home his parents lived in, and whether an agent was involved.

Houston had started negotiations with Bush and Williams, and decided to go with the sensational defensive disrupter, who has been described as a cross between Julius Peppers and Lawrence Taylor. That takes all the suspense out of the start of today's draft.

But that doesn't mean all the good story lines are solved.

Will the New Orleans Saints, with expensive free agent Drew Brees solving their quarterbacking woes, take Bush? Or will they go for the best blocker in this -- and perhaps many -- drafts, Virginia tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson? Or even trade the pick to teams eager to grab prime quarterback prospects Matt Leinart and Vince Young?

"We're not going to have any comment until tomorrow," Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said Friday night.

Also, is Young, considered more of a long-range prospect than Leinart, really the guy the Tennessee Titans want at No. 3 over Leinart? Are the Titans split over the decision? Does the coaching staff that features offensive coordinator Norm Chow -- Leinart's mentor at USC -- prefer the Trojans QB, while owner Bud Adams, a native of Houston who moved the franchise to Nashville, wants to stick it to his former home by grabbing Young, also a Houston native?

What about Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, whose stock soared during workouts and at the NFL combine? Has he surpassed Leinart or Young -- or both -- in the minds of some general managers?

Will six Ohio State players get chosen in the opening round, which would tie the record? How many from USC will be first-rounders, and has the Trojans' red-zone specialist, running back LenDale White, really slipped so far he won't even go in the top 32 picks?

Earlier this week, Bush said he wanted the speculation to be over.

"I can't wait to get out on the football field," Bush said. "The seasons go by so quick and it seems like waiting for the draft and the process takes forever. I want to get back to playing football; all of us do. There's no spring ball because we're all going to the draft ... we're ready to get back to some football."

Williams will be the first defensive end to be taken No. 1 overall since Courtney Brown went to the Cleveland Browns in 2000.

"I have the size and the speed and the athleticism, and to find that in a defensive end is rare," he said confidently. "You just don't see it all the time. I think the last time was Julius Peppers and you know what kind of player he is.

"Everywhere I went, they said, 'We want you.'"

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