LOS ANGELES: Life begins again. From the Jerry Jones Taj Mahal in Dallas, Texas, the 2018 NFL Draft had its first round on Thursday. Times change, and this was the first Draft in 30 years without ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman. Mel Kiper Jr. left the underground bunker he lives in 362 days a year to join the football world. In a stunning development, he showed up sans pompadour.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said the magic words. “The Cleveland Browns are on the clock.”
Some will dismiss the Draft as 32 billionaires making phone calls and a bunch of analysts analyzing those phone calls. This is all leatherheads have in the offseason.
A tribute to Houston Texans’ first fan, First Lady Barbara Bush
Before the Draft began there was a beautiful tribute to First Lady Barbara Bush. “America’s grandmother” was more than the wife and mother to two different presidents. She was a Houston Texans fan.
Usually, the chaos does not start until the third pick, but the surprises began immediately this year. There was no consensus first pick. Sam Darnald, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield were considered the top four quarterbacks, with Lamar Jackson being the wildcard later on.
Cleveland Browns go Big and Bold
Darnald was considered the safe choice, but the Browns went big and bold with Mayfield. After going 1-31 the past two years including 0-16 last year, the Browns now have swagger. The last quarterback with swagger the Browns took was Johnny Manziel, but this could be redemption.
The San Diego Chargers failed with Ryan Leaf but nailed it with Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.
The New York Giants play it very safe with Darnold
They did not need a quarterback unless their plan was to run Eli Manning out of town. Ben McAdoo tried that, and he was fired one day after doing so.
Running back Saquon Barkley reflected the patient and loyal Giants organization choosing to help Manning rather than throw him away.
The New York Jets picked third, and took Darnold off the board. Neither New York team had their fans boo the choice, a rarity.
The Browns also had the fourth pick, and they went with a home state guy in cornerback Denzel Ward.
Denver drafts Austin for the pick
The NFL knows how to tug at the heartstrings, and the Denver Broncos with the fifth pick began the 2018 tugging. 17-year-old Austin, a wheelchair-bound patient of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, announced the pick.
Coach John Elway opted not to go for the quarterback, realizing that the window on his defense was still open. Defensive end Bradley Chubb gets to learn from Von Miller.
The Draft: Fives picks, no drama.
The Indianapolis Colts were the sixth pick. They were also the first team who absolutely did not need a quarterback. Rather than trade down, owner Jim Irsay did what he should have done two years earlier. They took an offensive lineman to keep Andrew Luck from getting pulverized any further.
Quentin Nelson was who the fans wanted, and they got their man.
The biggest surprise of the 2018 NFL Draft was that there were no real surprises.
Even the first trade was fairly formulaic. The Bills gave up both of their second-round picks and the 12th overall pick in the Draft to move up five spots. The Buccaneers did not need a quarterback, and the Bills took Josh Allen off the board.
Of the big four, only Josh Rosen remained. Once again, the Jewish kid was picked last. Jewish owners had no comment.
Chicago Bears strengthens the line
Roquan Smith was the linebacker several teams coveted, and the Chicago Bears got him with the eighth pick. This meant that barring a trade, Rosen would fall out of the top 10.
The San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders were both solid at the quarterback position with Jimmy Garoppollo and Derek Carr, respectively. Garoppollo got some protection with the best tackle in the Draft, Mike McGlinchey.
Silver and Black
For the third straight year, Reggie McKenzie, general manager for the Raiders, needed to draft defense, defense, and more defense. Last year’s top defensive picks missed most of the entire season with injuries.
McKenzie did the next best thing by trading down.
The Arizona Cardinals moved up five spots. They also gave the Raiders their third and fifth round picks to select Josh Rosen. Once again, a young Jewish boy finally found a home in the desert. With Rosen off the board, the only person who breathed a bigger sigh of relief than he did was Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Miami drafted safety Minkah Fitzpatrick instead.
Tampa Bay takes Tevita Tuliakiono Tuipuloto Mosese Va’hae Faletau Vea
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 12th pick selected Tevita Tuliakiono Tuipuloto Mosese Va’hae Faletau Vea. That is not seven people, and the Buccaneers did not pull off the Herschel Walker trade.
Vita Vea, as he is known, was a highly sought defensive tackle.
The Washington Redskins then added to their defensive line with Da’Ron Payne. The New Orleans Saints got aggressive, moving up from the 27th pick to the 14th pick. The Saints decided not to take the heir to Drew Brees. Lamar Jackson had to keep waiting. Defensive end Marcus Davenport will shore up a Saints team under Sean Payton that for most of his tenure has had more offense and less defense.
The Packers received the Saints first round pick in the 2019 Draft.
Al Davis smiles from above
Those begging the Raiders to go defense did not get their wish. However, a gigantic wedge of beef to protect Derek Carr is perfectly fine. Offensive tackle Kolton Miller is 309 pounds and nearly 6 ft 9. General Manager McKenzie also gave Carr another toy to play with.
McKenzie traded Oakland’s third-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for wide receiver Martinis Bryant. Between Bryant, Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper, the Raiders will have the vertical game the late Al Davis craved.
Trades continued for the second half of the first round.
Buffalo kept making moves, trading up with Baltimore and then back down with Cincinnati. The 22nd pick involved a four-way trade that Saw Kansas City through Buffalo through Baltimore eventually lead to the Tennessee Titans taking outside linebacker Rashaan Evans.
Then came the Evil Hoodie.
The New England Patriots had two first-round picks. In addition to their own spot at 31, they owned the 23rd pick through the Los Angeles Rams. Tom Brady’s eventual successor remains a mystery. Rather than draft that protege, owner Robert Kraft and Belichick brought on tackle Isaiah Wynn to keep Brady upright.
Kraft also did what the Giants did in selecting a running back. They took Sony Michael.
The defending champion Philadelphia Eagles traded away their first round selection, but the other end of the Keystone State provided plenty of emotion for football fans everywhere.
As tough as Pittsburgh Steel
The Pittsburgh Steelers with the 28th pick chose Safety Terrell Edmunds, but the real spark came before the pick. Last year Ryan Shazier was in a hospital fighting for his life after a brutal neck injury on the field.
He has become a symbol of inspiration for Steelers and other football fans everywhere.
When he walked on stage, the crowd of nearly 100,000 people exploded. Shazier is Pittsburgh tough.
The 32nd and final pick of he first round saw some excitement as well. The Eagles traded the pick to the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore finally took Lamar Jackson off the board. Jackson has a cannon of an arm, and he will learn under the team’s current cannon arm Joe Flacco. John Harbaugh will be able to develop Jackson, a raw talent, along slowly.
Two more days, six more rounds and at least 192 more picks remain.
For now, Day 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft in the books and heading to the field.