By George Somerville

George continues his journey back into the annals of NFL Drafts gone by with a look at 2006, a class praised for it’s depth of talent. How does it stand up fifteen years later?

2006 NFL Draft


I am a college football guy. I don’t hide this. It is my passion. But around about this time of year I get rolled out to talk about the history of the game and in this context, the history of the NFL Draft. But the force is strong in this one and it doesn’t take long for me to get back to the college game.

And when we talk about football on Saturdays, there are few single games that evoke the passion and the pride of the college game like the BCS National Championship in 2006, when Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns defeated Pete Carroll’s Southern Cal Trojans 41-38. The sight of Vince Young’s domination of what was a star studded and generational USC team will live forever. So why am I rambling on about the college game when I am to be talking about the history of the draft? Well, show some patience draft fans…..for this is the story of the 2006 NFL Draft.

Young vs Bush

Credit: USC Athletics

Given the Class of 2006, there was a lot of pre-draft hype. A LOT. Doyen of Drafts Mel Kiper Jnr described this class as “extraordinary”, going on to say  “At every position you have star value, on both sides of the ball……So from an excitement standpoint, there’s no question this draft should be as good as it gets.”

And given that Rose Bowl game between the Longhorns and the Trojans, could it have been set up any better than a straight shootout between Texas Quarterback Vince Young or the Heisman Winner running back, USC’s Reggie Bush? 

Just think of this. In 2018 when Baker Mayfield was selected with the #1 overall pick, Twitter exploded. So I cannot imagine what the Twitter-verse would have thought about the Young vs Bush debate.

Buying A New Carr?

2006 NFL Draft
Credit: Getty Images

In 2006 the first pick of the Draft was bestowed on the Houston Texans, who were still in their relative infancy. 

At that time the Texans’ starting QB was David Carr, the elder brother of Derek. If you follow the Carr family at all you know that David, now a TV analyst, was highly regarded by scouts and the Fresno State QB was the #1 pick by the Texans in the 2002 Draft.

But you may also know that Carr rarely lived up to his reputation as the first pick, and struggled to hold down a starting role in a ten year NFL career. Carr left the Texans in 2006, so this was surely a fairytale moment for the Houston Texans who had the home state Prince of Quarterbacks available to them, or perhaps arguably the greatest college running back of all time. Vince Young or Reggie Bush? Spoiled for choice, right?

Super Mario

2006 NFL Draft
Credit: Ezra Shaw (Getty Images)

Well, no. As we now know Vince Young played his football in Nashville with Tennessee and Reggie Bush went to New Orleans to play with the Saints. Neither emulated their college form at the pro level, but neither were busts. Far from it.

So what did the Texans do? With the first pick of the 2006 Draft, Houston selected defensive end/outside linebacker Mario Williams, from North Carolina State. Now, while this was not the glamour pick that the fans in Houston wanted, it’s hard to argue with the production that Williams brought to the Texans’ defense. By the 2007 season Williams was motoring and recording nearly half of all of the Texans defense sacks total. Williams would go on to be a four time pro-bowler over a ten year NFL career.

More Heisman Talent

2006 NFL Draft
Credit: Christian Petersen (Getty Images)

Further down the draft, another member of the 2006 BCS Nations Championship game was still in the green room waiting to be selected. Matt Leinart, QB of USC – a Heisman Winner in his Junior year at College,  was picked by the Arizona Cardinals with the tenth overall pick. Leinart would go on to have an eight year career in the NFL after what was a slow start to his time in the desert.

After a protracted negotiation Leinart would become the last of the 2006 draft class to sign a professional contract. However, this did not prevent Leinart playing in the Cardinals preseason games, after which he was confirmed as Kurt Warner’s back up. After a poor start by Warner, Leinart was called into action early in his first season, but somewhat unfortunately broke his collarbone against the St Louis Rams. Leinart would go on to have other season ending injuries with the Cardinals, meaning – much like Young and Bush – Matt ‘Lefty’ Leinart did not quite live up to the heady heights of his Heisman wining college career.

Cutler The Commodore

2006 NFL Draft
Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld (Getty Images)

Interestingly another well-known quarterback was still in the green room at pick ten. Selected one pick later, the Denver Broncos would take Vanderbilt Quarterback Jay Cutler. Wait, what, I hear you say? Didn’t Cutler have a long career with the Chicago Bears? Well, yes he did, but Cutler was also at the Broncos for three years prior to a big trade to Soldier Field.

Cutler had caught the attention of NFL scouts who had led a very average Vanderbilt team to relative success in the SEC, vastly exceeding expectations along the way – including a season and career ending finale victory over neighbouring Tennessee. This was the first time that the Commodores had beaten the Vols since 1975. Cutler was considered QB3 in the draft and after a very impressive combine showing, some prominent analysts would lean towards Cutler being the best QB available.  Nevertheless, Cutler came off the board after Young and Leinart and went to play his football at Denver. Until the Broncos flirted with signing Matt Cassell from The Patriots that is, at which point Smokin’ Joe engineered a move to the Windy City.

Fourth Round Record Breaker

2006 NFL Draft
Credit: Barry Chin (Boston Globe)

In terms of ultimate value it comes as no surprise that the wily ol’ fox Bill Belichick won the day. Again. In the 4th round of the 2006 NFL Draft, The New England Patriots selected Stephen Gostkowski. 

Gostkowski – who had played both football and baseball at the University of Memphis – would go on to be the Patriots kicker for 14 seasons. The former Tiger would win three Super Bowls with the Pats and set many NFL records along the way, including the first player to score 1,000 points in his first eight seasons in the league, the record for highest average points per game scored over a career, and is the first player since the league merger to lead the league in scoring in more than two consecutive seasons. Gostkowski also holds the NFL record for consecutive extra points with 479 (523 including the postseason).

Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leading scorer, is the all-time leader in field goals in Patriots history, and currently the seventh-most accurate kicker in NFL history.

So, sometimes it’s not about the glitz and the glamour. Sometimes it’s just about the guy who can kick between the posts. Kickers are people too. Class dismissed!
Mock Draft

george somerville

College football writer