First Round Yields Myriad Surprises for Many Fans
NEW YORK- Short on glam, slim on glitter, the NFL draft was still nothing less than a rock solid B-plus.
As in Big, as in Brawn, as in Bulk, as in Beefy.
We’re talking a scale-busting 600 pounds at the outset Thursday night with offensive tackles Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M.
The first seven picks were all linemen: four on offense, three on defense.
Unlike the last few years when bumper crops of quarterbacks reigned, this was pure muscle, and lots of it.
Actually, not a single QB was selected until Florida State’s EJ Manuel went to Buffalo at No. 16 – the lowest since 2000, when Chad Pennington went 18th to the Jets.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, thought to be the first quarterback selected, wasn’t picked. But his teammate, Tavon Austin, went to the St. Louis Rams, who traded up eight spots with Buffalo and pick him eighth overall.
Austin was among the fastest players at the combine with an official 40-yard dash time of 4.34 seconds, and with gaudy statistics to match that made him the first skill position player taken. His 2,910 all-purpose yards as a senior were fourth-most in NCAA history and he totaled 17 touchdowns last season, including one each on punt and kickoff returns.
Despite a lack of size, the 5-foot-8, 172-pound Austin didn’t miss a game in high school or college. His survival plan for the NFL was simple: “Get down when I need to get down. Step out of bounds when I need to.”
At the Rams’ pre-draft news conference, Fisher said he had no problem taking a shorter player at wide receiver because the 6-4 Bradford would be able to find him.
“Me and the coaches just clicked,” Austin said. “I had a good feeling just off the vibe they were giving. It was all smiles and everything when I was there.”
Pittsburgh, which always seems to find standout linebackers, took the highest-rated one in Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. His fellow All-American, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, was not selected in the first round.
When Jones slogged through the 40-yard dash in a pedestrian 4.9 seconds during Georgia’s Pro Day, a red flag went up to NFL scouts.
Just not the scouts that work for the Steelers.
Where some saw a problem, the Steelers saw an opportunity. General manager Kevin Colbert didn’t need his stopwatch to know the All-American linebacker can play.
And when Jones remained on the board when the Steelers took their turn in the first round, Colbert didn’t hesitate to grab the player he believes is the next great linebacker at a franchise that churns them out with regularity.
“When he ran that 4.9, we were happy,” Colbert said. “We knew we had a chance.”
With their first pick under new owner Jimmy Haslam, the Browns put a little more “Bark” into their defense on Thursday, selecting speedy LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo with the No. 6 overall pick. Mingo played defensive end in college but will switch to outside linebacker in Cleveland’s new scheme and hopefully chase down some quarterbacks.
“We’ve talked about bringing in aggressive players in an aggressive scheme and he fits that very well,” Browns CEO Joe Banner said of Mingo. “This was the outcome we were hoping for. We’re very excited.”
Fisher became the first Mid-American Conference player selected at the top when Kansas City’s new regime led by coach Andy Reid chose the 6-foot-7, 306-pound offensive tackle.
“This is so surreal,” Fisher said. “I’m ready to get to work right now. I’m ready to start playing some football. I can’t process what’s going on right now.”
Fisher was followed by All-American Joeckel going to Jacksonville, defensive end Dion Jordan of Oregon to Miami, which traded up with Oakland, and Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson to Philadelphia. Not a skill position player yet in sight – a stark change from the last four drafts, when quarterbacks went first.
The procession of linemen continued with BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah, born in Ghana, going to Detroit; LSU defensive end Mingo to Cleveland; and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper to Arizona.
That made for a ton of beef after the first seven picks.
And they wore it well, with their designer suits that barely were ruffled when they each engulfed Roger Goodell in the now traditional bear hugs.