A Boomer-or-bust round
The NFL’s first prime-time draft was a huge night for the Big 12 and an enormous one for Big No. 15.
The first is a conference -- the Big 12 contributed nine first-round picks -- and the other is Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, a stunning pick by the Denver Broncos.
While Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen and Texas’ Colt McCoy stared at their cellphones, the Broncos traded back into the first round -- giving up picks in the second, third and fourth -- to get a not-ready-for-prime-time player. What’s more, they already have quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Kyle Orton.
That’s not to say Tebow is a mistake. No one questions his desire or work ethic. It’s his throwing motion that’s under construction, and some evaluators wonder whether the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner will be able to make the tough transition from a spread offense to the pros.
The draft began in a far more predictable way. In a move forecast for weeks, St. Louis made Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford the top pick, making him the first Sooner to go No. 1 since Billy Sims in 1980.
If you toss out Troy Aikman -- who began at Oklahoma but finished at UCLA -- an Oklahoma quarterback has not taken a snap in the pros since “Indian” Jack Jacobs in 1947.
Oklahoma is the first school in the history of the draft with three players selected in the top four picks. Sooners defensive tackle Gerald McCoy went third to Tampa Bay, and offensive tackle Trent Williams went fourth to Washington.
Counting Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (second to Detroit) and Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung (sixth to Seattle), five of the first six picks came from the Big 12.
“That’s pretty cool because I know that the Big 12 caught a lot of slack lately,” said Bradford, who stands to make upward of $50 million in guaranteed money as the top pick of the Rams. “People for some reason didn’t think we played much football in the Big 12 and they sure didn’t think we played much defense. And now we have two defensive tackles go in the top three.”
What was missing from the first round were any players from USC and UCLA. Trojans Taylor Mays, Charles Brown and Everson Griffen, along with Bruins standout Brian Price, will have to wait until today when the second and third rounds are held. USC and UCLA also were shut out of the first round in 2007, but before that the 1987 draft was the last time neither a Trojan nor Bruin was selected in Round 1.
The two positions most represented in the first round were defensive tackle and cornerback (five each) and there were seven trades.
The only player in the top six from outside the Big 12 conference was Tennessee safety Eric Berry, who went fifth to Kansas City. He said he’s itching to play in a division filled with bitter rivalries.
“Just the tradition that Kansas City has with all those other teams, it’s like I’m not leaving college,” he said. “Because [the Chiefs] have so much tradition.”
In many ways, this draft was a break from tradition. The night started with a red-carpet welcome for the players outside Radio City Music Hall, and wound up pulling the rug out from under countless mock drafts.
The first twist came at No. 8, when the unpredictable Oakland Raiders took Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, who most people had predicted would go in the teens. That drew raucous boos from the Giants fans in the balcony section of the theater because they were hoping McClain would be around when their team picked in the middle of the round.
Then, Buffalo took Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, another surprise considering the Bills have so many needs -- a glaring one at left tackle -- yet were pretty solid at running back with Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. It’s a fairly safe bet they plan to trade Lynch.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Spiller said of being selected by the Bills. “When I laid down last night, I kind of reflected on some teams that I had visited and the Bills kept coming to my mind. I knew that it was probably what my destination was going to be.”
Then came the biggest shocker yet. Jacksonville used the 10th spot to grab California defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, a player who didn’t crack many first-round mocks but was highly regarded in many scouting departments.
It was not a banner night for Clausen, who tumbled out of the first round. He was saddled with questions about his ability to lead, despite his impressive numbers from last season. Bradford and Tebow were the only quarterbacks chosen.
The first receiver taken was not Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant, whom some had rated best at the position, but Georgia Tech’s Demaryius Thomas, who went 22nd to Denver. Bryant didn’t have to wait much longer, though. He was taken 24th by Dallas.
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Top of their class
The first 10 players chosen in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday:
*--* Team Player, Position 1. St. Louis Sam Bradford, QB 2. Detroit Ndamukong Suh, DT 3. Tampa Bay Gerald McCoy, DT 4. Washington Trent Williams, OT 5. Kansas City Eric Berry, SS 6. Seattle Russell Okung, OT 7. Cleveland Joe Haden, CB 8. Oakland Rolando McClain, LB 9. Buffalo C.J. Spiller, RB 10. Jacksonville Tyson Alualu, DE *--*