Kamis, 25 April 2013

Draft Labeled Unpredictable Justifies That Tag From Pick No. 1

What this draft lacked in star power it more than made up for in uncertainty. The 2013 draft class was picked apart for months as one of the least impressive in years. That was largely because no quarterbacks were considered franchise cornerstones and indeed none were picked until Buffalo took E. J. Manuel at No. 16.

But that lack of conviction about the prospects also produced an unusual amount of suspense.

Even the first pick was cloaked in mystery. As it turned out the Kansas City Chiefs selected offensive tackle Eric Fisher from Central Michigan who 24 hours before had seemed likely to be the second tackle chosen. Luke Joeckel of Texas AM had been the presumed first pick for the last three weeks.

Manuel was the only quarterback taken in the first round the fewest to go in a first round since Michael Vick was the lone quarterback selected in the first round in 2001.

Maybe 2001 will provide a good omen for this class including West Virginia s Geno Smith who was believed to be the top rated quarterback but was not picked in the first round. He was left to solemnly fiddle with his phone in the green room. In 2001 Drew Brees was taken with the first pick in the second round.

Also not taken Thursday was Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te o whose poor performance in the Bowl Championship Series title game may have hurt his stock more than his involvement in a hoax centered around a fake girlfriend.

The suspense at this year s draft played out on the players faces. The players were anonymous by top pick standards but their faces all looked familiar in one way they were constricted as the ambiguity of the last few months stretched to the final moments before their names were called.

Perhaps the most honest assessment of what it felt like to be on the inside of one of the most lightly regarded but wildly unpredictable draft classes came from safety Kenny Vaccaro of Texas who eventually went No. 15 to the Saints. So nervous he said as he walked in the door.

The only people who should not have been nervous were offensive linemen. It was considered a strong group and for the first time in N.F.L. history two offensive tackles went with the first two picks of the draft. Three went in the top four picks for the first time since 1968.

The Jacksonville Jaguars picking second took Joeckel who will protect the blindside of who knows who. It was indicative of the lack of excitement about this quarterback class that the Jaguars a rebuilding team with the mediocre Blaine Gabbert as the incumbent did not deem one worthy of their highest pick.

Because few teams were locked into their picks trades were expected and they began almost immediately. The Oakland Raiders who badly need more picks traded out of the third overall spot with the Miami Dolphins moving into it to select defensive end Dion Jordan of Oregon.

Another factor that made the first round hard to forecast was the abundance of teams with new coaches or general managers. Philadelphia s Chip Kelly was considered the biggest wild card of that group because of how important his ultra high speed offense is to the Eagles. But Kelly went the conventional route with the fourth pick taking Lane Johnson another offensive tackle who can provide desperately needed protection for Michael Vick.

That s a lot of love for the big boys up front which we usually don t get Fisher said.

With the fifth pick the Lions took the raw pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah of Brigham Young who was born and raised in Ghana and began playing football just three years ago. Next the Cleveland Browns took another rusher defensive end/outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo.

After the Arizona Cardinals took another offensive lineman guard Jonathan Cooper the Buffalo Bills traded their pick to the St. Louis Rams who wanted to move ahead of the Jets to select receiver Tavon Austin of West Virginia. Austin is only 5 feet 8 inches but he is blindingly fast can also return kicks and should help the Rams more than make up for the free agency loss of Danny Amendola.

The Jets so desperate for so much help took the oft operated on cornerback Dee Milliner of Alabama who has the unfortunate task of immediately trying to replace Darrelle Revis the All Pro who was traded last Sunday to Tampa Bay. The selection of Milliner could not be considered a surprise he was the best cornerback in the draft but in taking him the Jets again ignored their offense the root of most of their struggles.

Milliner began the start of a roll by the Alabama Crimson Tide who then sent guard Chance Warmack to Tennessee and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker to San Diego. That made it 6 offensive linemen in the first 11 picks but no quarterbacks.

After the Oakland Raiders took cornerback D. J. Hayden who nearly died on the practice field last year before he was rushed into emergency surgery to repair a tear of a vein the Jets were up again.

Jets fans are a notoriously emotive bunch at the draft often vocally expressing their dismay. They applauded the Milliner pick but when Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Jets took defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson with the 13th overall pick the crowd groaned and then began to boo.

As much as the pick might have disappointed their fans it kept up a theme Richardson was one of 12 offensive or defensive linemen taken in the first 20 picks which also included Justin Pugh an offensive lineman who can play multiple positions and was taken by the Giants.

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