Note: My first-round projections are based directly on the current position of each team in the draft and do not take into account potential trades.
It looks like the Houston Texans will take USC running back Reggie Bush with the No. 1 overall pick. The hottest spot in the draft to make a trade will be with the New Orleans Saints and the second pick. The only team the Saints could make a trade with -- and still get defensive end Mario Williams -- is the New York Jets. New York could trade up from the fourth overall pick and take USC QB Matt Leinart. Tennessee, which has the third pick, would then take Texas QB Vince Young. From what I have been told, the Titans have a very high opinion of Young.
The next place you could see a trade is with the sixth overall pick, owned by the San Francisco 49ers. The sixth spot is where you will begin to hear Maryland tight end Vernon Davis' name come up. Teams like the Cardinals, Rams and Broncos could all have an interest in the tight end; then again, the 49ers could keep the pick and draft Davis.
Here's another scenario. Young is still on the board when the Raiders pick at No. 7. They already have two quarterbacks (Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter), so they could make a deal with a team that has an interest in Young.
Another interesting spot to watch is with the Jets' second pick in the first round. They could go with Ohio State center Nick Mangold with the 29th pick, but don't be surprised if they take outside linebacker Bobby Carpenter, also from Ohio State. Carpenter is in the same mold of Mike Vrabel, another Ohio State alum. Vrabel's defensive coordinator with the Patriots last season was Eric Mangini, now the coach of the Jets. If the Jets don't take Carpenter, don't be surprised if the Steelers take him. Remember, before he signed with the Patriots, Vrabel originally was drafted by the Steelers.
As for the latest first-round projections, there are two noticeable changes. The first is that I have 10 defensive backs going in the first round. Florida State's Antonio Cromartie, who missed the entire 2005 season with a knee injury, had a tremendous individual workout (40-yard dash in the 4.3 range and a 44-inch vertical leap). In fact, he showed such great hands catching the ball that teams might be curious to see what type of wide receiver he could be. He's a cornerback in the NFL, but has the athleticism and hands to play on offense.
Cromartie isn't the only versatile defensive back in the first round. Michael Huff of Texas will initially be a cornerback in the NFL, but played safety in college; Ohio State's Donte Whitner played safety at Ohio State, but could be corner at the next level or a great cover safety; and Jason Allen was both a safety and corner at Tennessee. The true cover cornerbacks in the first round are Johnathan Joseph, Tye Hill, Ashton Youboty, Kelly Jennings and Richard Marshall.
The other noticeable change is how far the running backs (Laurence Maroney, LenDale White and DeAngelo Williams) have fallen, but it has nothing to do with their productivity. Arizona (10th pick) and Minnesota (17th pick) were looking at running backs in the first round before addressing those needs through free agency (the Cardinals signed Edgerrin James and the Vikings grabbed Chester Taylor).
One player from the Big Ten who has fallen is Penn State defensive end Tamba Hali. He didn't have great individual workouts; still, you cannot question his body of work on the field. Hali could still go late in the first round, but if he doesn't, a team will be getting a steal in the second round.
My Big Board will be updated the second week of April, while the next first-round projections will come out on April 17. The final projection will be April 28, the day before the draft.