Billed as the most unpredictable draft in recent memory, Thursday night’s first round lived up to the hype. For the first time in NFL history, offensive tackles went 1-2. For the first time since 1963, no running backs went in the first round. And for the first time since 2001, only one quarterback was selected. To the headlines:
FREE FALL OF THE NIGHT
West Virginia QB Geno Smith got all dressed up and had nowhere to go. Stuck in the green room at Radio City Music Hall all night long, cameras were in Smith’s face as he played with his phone. The Jets passed on him at both No. 9 and 13, the Raiders went with CB D.J. Hayden at 12 and the Bills pulled a stunner with E.J. Manuel at 16 (more on that below). That left Smith in the Warren Sapp/Brady Quinn chair, sporting a long face and big chip on his shoulder. Smith may not have to wait too long on Friday night, as the quarterback-needy Jaguars hold the first pick of the second round. The Jags had been linked to Smith at No. 2 overall early in the evaluation process.
“Hang in there Geno, ‘good things come to those who wait,’ – Paul Tagliabue.” That’s a tweet Aaron Rodgers sent out during the draft, offering support to Geno Smith. Rodgers, tabbed by some as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, went 24th to the Packers.
MEET YOUR NO. 1 OVERALL PICK
Never heard of new Chiefs LT Eric Fisher? You’re not alone. Fisher was a lightly regarded prospect coming out of high school in Michigan, only receiving serious interest from Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan. He was merely a third-team All-MAC pick in 2011 before coming on big in 2012 and nipping the small/less athletic Luke Joeckel at the finish line to be the No. 1 overall pick. Fisher is the first player from the MAC to ever go No. 1 and is the highest pick from the MAC since Byron Leftwich in 2003. He’ll be slotted in at left tackle after the Chiefs complete the impending Branden Albert trade with the Dolphins.
THE MANTI MOMENT
The Vikings looked like an ideal landing spot for Manti Te’o. They started the night desperate for help at middle linebacker, held two first-round picks and have been a pipeline for Notre Dame players of late. John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, John Sullivan, Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith are all Golden Domers currently residing in Minnesota. So it was an awful sign for Te’o when the Vikings – who ended up making three picks in the first round – passed on him. It had little to do with the fake girlfriend saga and everything to do with Te’o’s skill set. He lacks the athleticism to play in coverage and couldn’t get off blocks against Alabama’s NFL-caliber offensive line in the BCS title game. Te’o, holed up with his family in Hawaii, could be a Day 2 target for the Bears at No. 50 overall.
REACH OF THE NIGHT
The Cowboys traded out of the No. 18 hole, only receiving picks Nos. 31 and 74 from the 49ers. And at No. 31, they bungled the selection. Instead of shoring up their needs at safety, guard or backup running back, they reached for Wisconsin C Travis Frederick. Our draft guru Josh Norris didn’t even think unathletic Frederick was worth a third-round pick and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock had a third-round grade on him.
BIGGEST MISS BY MOCK DRAFTERS
At one point last week, the majority of mock drafts had Florida DT Sharrif Floyd going third overall to the Raiders. Some had him sliding to the back end of the top-10, but no further. But when the chips were down, Floyd slipped, slid and fell some more. When the carnage finally ended, the Vikings took him as a value pick at No. 23. Credit the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for securing this quote from a scout: “Those idiots on TV made Floyd. He’s not that good. He’s not better than Ziggy Hood.” NFL Films’ Greg Cosell had tabbed Floyd as “without question” the draft’s No. 1 player on film even though he produced just 4.5 sacks over 26 starts at Florida.
BEST DRESSED AWARD
This one goes to Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson, and it wasn’t even close. He was rocking a zig-zag bow tie, a white tuxedo jacket and Louis Vuitton belt/suspenders. As our Pat Daugherty noted, he looked like a waiter from the Titanic. Here's a link to his duds.
SURPRISE OF THE NIGHT
Everyone knew that the Bills were in the market for a quarterback. Everyone also thought that quarterback was Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, who played for new Bills coach Doug Marrone. Nope. Showing a rare ability to keep a secret, the Bills shocked the collective NFL universe when they used the No. 16 pick on Florida State QB E.J. Manuel. He’s a project that will learn behind Kevin Kolb before eventually taking the reins.
BIGGEST TRADE OF THE NIGHT
The Rams identified a need to get playmakers for Sam Bradford. So they swooped in for the premier skill guy in the entire draft, giving Nos. 16, 46, 78 and 222 to the Bills and then snagging West Virginia WR Tavon Austin at No. 8. It’s a deal the Rams were able to do thanks to the picks acquired in last year’s Robert Griffin III trade. Drawing comparisons to the likes of Percy Harvin and Randall Cobb, Austin is going to be a four-down difference maker for the Rams.
Florida State’s E.J. Manuel was the only quarterback to go. That leaves Ryan Nassib, Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson all there for the taking. The Jaguars, Eagles, Cardinals, Browns and Jets all need a quarterback and hold five of the first seven picks in the second round.
BIGGEST WINNERS OF THE NIGHT
No one came away with more raw talent than the Vikings. Sharrif Floyd's natural skills are eye-popping even if his production at Florida wasn't. Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes, who has drawn favorable comparisons to Aqib Talib, has the ability to step in as a Week 1 starter immediately. And although they gave up four picks to get him, Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson is a special athlete with the ball in his hands. He'll quickly help a team that went to the playoffs last year despite closing out the season with Jerome Simpson as their No. 1 wideout.
INSTANT FANTASY IMPACT
Only three wide receivers, one tight end and one quarterback were drafted Thursday night. No running backs were selected. While Tavon Austin is the most electrifying rookie that will hit the field this fall, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins landed in the best situation when the Texans took him 27th overall. The Roddy White clone fits perfectly as a “Z” receiver and has no competition for the job. He’ll see single coverage all day long thanks to Andre Johnson’s presence on the other side of the formation.