TRAIL GUIDE
Our experts score the debate: How Clinton beat Trump, round-by-round
NFL
Column

The 2015 NFL draft was a bit offensive

QBs Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, to nobody's surprise, were selected first and second by Bucs and Titans

It was a night when offensive players took center stage, but not the way some people expected.

San Diego didn't trade quarterback Philip Rivers to Tennessee. Dallas didn't wind up with Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson.

Those rumors turned out to be hot air, appropriate for an NFL draft in the Windy City, the first time since 1964 that the league's biggest off-season event was staged outside of New York City.

The offensive players in the spotlight Thursday were a host of fresh-faced prospects. Four of the first five — and 10 of the first 15 — selections were from that side of the ball, with quarterbacks going in the Nos. 1 and 2 spots for just the sixth time in the modern era.

Florida State's Jameis Winston went first to Tampa Bay, and Oregon's Marcus Mariota to Tennessee, back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners entrusted with turning around a pair of South Division strugglers.

There were some surprises. USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, considered by many evaluators the best all-around player in this class, endured a mini-slide and landed with the New York Jets at No. 6. He said he breathed a sigh of relief when he was picked.

"I had high expectations for myself, so I kind of didn't see myself falling too far," Williams said. "But I feel like it's a great fit, and things worked out. I'm glad to go to a defense that's already well-seasoned up front and I feel like I'm going to be able to learn a lot from those guys as a rookie."

Williams, who grew up in Florida, said his mother was hoping he might go third to Jacksonville so it would be easier to travel to his games but, "I can obviously fly her out now."

While Williams went a bit later than expected, Trojans receiver Nelson Agholor surprised some people when he went 20th to Philadelphia, earlier than some had anticipated.

Eagles Coach Chip Kelly thought Agholor might even go in the teens.

"We kind of were afraid and weathering the storm there a little bit from 15 to 20, was he going to be available, and when he was, we were excited about it," Kelly said.

The Pac-12 as a whole had a huge night, with nine of the 32 picks coming from that conference, including a school-record three from the University of Washington.

The NFL had gone two drafts without a running back being taken in the first round, but it made up for that Thursday with Georgia's Todd Gurley going to St. Louis at 10, and San Diego trading up to take Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon at 15.

"We talk about on offense that we want to get faster, more explosive, and he will bring all of that to us," Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said of Gordon. "He's a big-time playmaker. He's a threat every time he touches the ball."

Gordon, who led college football in rushing last season, was almost untouchable at times.

One notable player who tumbled was Missouri defensive end Shane Ray, who was cited for marijuana possession at the start of the week. Although some scouts had projected him as a top-10 pick, Ray slid all the way to 23rd, where he was taken by Denver.

Some other elite talents went untouched in this first round. No one took Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, widely regarded as a character risk, or Louisiana State offensive lineman La'el Collins, who traveled to Chicago but tried to bail out of the draft at the last minute.

A request Thursday by Collins to be withdrawn from the draft and placed in a supplemental draft later this year was denied by the league. Police in Louisiana want to talk to Collins in connection with the murder of his ex-girlfriend in Baton Rouge last week. Collins, widely viewed as a first-round talent, has not been named as a suspect, but the mere specter of that situation has scared off teams.

Among the players from Southern California schools who are likely to hear their names called Friday in either the second or third round are UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa.

The only defensive player to go in the top five was Florida edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr., chosen third by Jacksonville.

The Oakland Raiders then resumed the offensive trend, taking Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, followed by Washington selecting Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff.

"I just had my phone on the table," Scherff said of his short stay in the green room at the draft site, the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University. "I saw it vibrating and I was like, 'Oh boy, here we go!'"

Actually, all of Chicago was abuzz, as 2,800 people packed the venue — it was the hottest ticket in town — and an estimated 50,000 more watched outside in a festival-like setting. Last year's first round drew a record television audience of 12.4 million viewers, more than the 2014 MLB All-Star game (11.4 million) or NBA All-Star game (7.2 million), notable because there's no real action associated with the draft and it's built around players who have never taken a professional snap.

Those players arrived in style Thursday and walked the gold carpet, an homage to next year's 50th Super Bowl, and most had a cluster of family members in tow.

Fowler stood out in the crowd, wearing a white suit with red piping, and gold shoes. He hasn't signed his first contract, but he has already retained a sartorial consultant.

"This is a custom-made suit by my fashion stylist," he said. "I just wanted to wear white with a little bit of red, and I knew the whole time I was going to wear these gold shoes. So when that gold carpet came out, I was like, 'I'm getting lucky.' "

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
94°