LOS ANGELES, May 1, 2015 — More than 100,000 people were the outside on a 50 degree Chicago April evening. Roger Goodell uttered the words fans have been waiting for since the end of one of the most thrilling Super Bowls in history.
Just as football withdrawal was about to consume hardcore leatherheads, it came roaring back.
“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the clock.” Forget New Year’s Eve. The 2015 National Football League Draft is when 2015 begins.
Forget that this is three days of guys making phone calls and other guys talking about guys making phone calls. The NFL Draft is professional football. Nothing is too much, even Mel Kiper’s pompadour.
The question would be if the Bucs would take quarterback Jameis Winston and if the Tennessee Titans would select quarterback Marcus Mariota. Trades are what turn the Draft upside down and make for exciting entertainment.
Tampa Bay stuck with Winston despite questions about his character. Several teams were salivating over Mariota and willing to move up, as the Titans used the entire ten minutes of time. With the phones in their war room on full pinball tilt, quarterback guru coach Ken Whisenhunt grabbed Mariota.
Now Zach Mettenberger has a fight on his hands to keep his job behind the center. The Titans immediately announced that Mariota would not be traded and that they expected him to start the first game of the regular season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the draft last year by grabbing quarterback Blake Bortles with the third pick. Coach Gus Bradley again picked third, and this year they picked right away. While quarterback is the most vital position, this year the best players in the draft were on defense. Leonard Williams and Dante Fowler Jr. were both there for the taking, and Jacksonville went with the defensive end Fowler.
The Oakland Raiders had the fourth pick, and their only two sane options were to grab a wide receiver or trade down. General Manager Reggie McKenzie struck platinum last year with defensive speed rusher Khalil Mack with the fifth pick and quarterback Derek Carr early in the second round. They also got a gem of a guard in the third round. This year they needed somebody to catch the football from Carr. Amari Cooper and Kevin White were both considered close to can’t miss prospects. The Raiders also wasted no time making their decision. Al Davis had to be smiling in heaven as he pictured Carr throwing bombs to Cooper. The Raiders went with Amari Cooper as the Raider Nation pumped their fists like Davis used to do.
The first surprise of the night came when Washington picked fifth. Owner Daniel Snyder is known for bypassing quality players in favor of sexy names and superstars who sometimes do not pan out. With Williams available, Snyder and General Manager Bruce Allen went in the opposite direction of flash. Despite this being a very deep draft for offensive tackles, Washington drafted Brandon Scherff, who is now expected to help recreate the glory days of “The Hogs” Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm and Jim Lachey.
With the Draft in Chicago for the first time in half a century rather than New York, at least much of the audience would not walk out in disgust after this pick. Jets fans traditionally boo their own pick for not being Joe Namath. Gang Green has a new administration, and they used their entire ten allotted minutes to select Leonard Williams. The gift was there and they had to take it. Pass rusher Williams is expected to bring back the glory years of Joe Klecko, Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons and the New York Sack Exchange.
This time the Bears were the home Draft team who ran the risk of clearing the theatre. Chicago is a tough town where men like George Halas, Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher growled. The Bears drafted wide receiver Kevin White, who may be the flashiest receiver this team has had since Willie Gault, with all due respect to Brandon Marshall. White is now a Bear. The question will be if Coach John Fox can rehabilitate the anti-Bear, the talented, but surly quarterback Jay Cutler.
The elite picks all went off the board without trades or major surprises. In this Draft, outside of the first seven picks, there was seen to be a drop-off. That should make picks eight through ten play with a little attitude.
The Atlanta Falcons have Coach Dan Quinn, who built the Legion of Boom in Seattle. His first pick as Atlanta’s coach was to take linebacker Vic Beasley.
Captain Grumpy Tom Coughlin shocked New York Giants fans last year by taking wide receiver O’Dell Beckham rather than a wedge of beef offensive lineman to protect Eli Manning. Beckham is on his way to a Hall of Fame career. This time Giants fans got their need as Coach Coughlin went to the trenches and drafted offensive tackle Ereck Flowers.
Coach Jeff Fisher is a Buddy Ryan disciple who likes guys who can belt quarterbacks to the ground. He already has the defense, so the St. Louis Rams were expected to take an offensive lineman or wide receiver DeVante Parker. Instead, Fisher went with running back Todd Gurley. For the first time in three years, a running back went in the first round.
The Minnesota Vikings are in turmoil because of the Adrian Peterson situation, but they are not trading their star running back. With running back Melvin Gordon still available, they instead went with cornerback Trae Waynes.
The Cleveland Browns are a mess with a savior quarterback just out of rehab and a general manager suspended for texting players during games. The drafting of defensive tackle Danny Shelton was well received.
The New Orleans Saints took offensive tackle Andrus Peat to help keep Drew Brees upright. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill got a new toy to play with as the Miami Dolphins added wide receiver DeVante Parker.
With 14 picks in the books, the biggest shock was that there was not a single trade. Despite lots of wheeling, there was no dealing. Finally a trade came.
The San Diego Chargers announced earlier that they were not trading quarterback Philip Rivers. Instead, they moved up only two spots from 17 to 15, switching with the San Francisco 49ers. The Chargers also gave the 49ers their fourth round pick this year and their fifth round pick in 2016. It seemed to be a king’s ransom to move up only two spots in the middle of the round. San Diego chose running back Melvin Gordon, who is expected to take the pressure off Rivers, as did the beloved LaDanian Tomlinson.
The Houston Texans needed to replace wide receiver Andre Johnson. They got it half right, drafting a Johnson but not a receiver. Cornerback Kevin Johnson now joins a defense with J.J. Watt and perhaps a healthy Jadavean Clowney.
The San Francisco 49ers host Super Bowl 50, but the only potential champion this year from their group is former Coach Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines. Coach Jim Tomsula is like a seventh round draft pick. Although, he could turn out to be good once people find out who he is and what he does. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Arik Armstead now plays for the post-Harbaugh Silicon Valley San Jose 49ers.
After going an entire year without one wide receiver catching a touchdown pass, Walrus Lite Andy Reid selected cornerback Marcus Peters. Reid does not get his upgrade to full Walrus status until he wins it all.
The Browns used their second round pick on center Cameron Erving, allowing quarterback Johnny Manziel to keep his job for another few minutes.
At this point, teams usually draft players based on need. The desire to take the best overall player available often takes a back seat to teams desperately needing to fill certain holes.
Chip Kelly tried to trade up from the 20 spot all the way to number two to grab Mariota, but his backup plan was to stand pat and not give away the store. He did get rid of all of his receivers so the pickup of wide receiver Nelson Agholor made sense. Riots that broke out in Philadelphia that night may have been political, and not a reaction to Kelly’s trade decisions.
The Cincinnati Bengals played it safe with offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuiehi.
The Steelers added to their depleted defense with linebacker Bud Dupree.
A second trade happened when the Denver Broncos moved up five spots to the 23 slot. The Detroit Lions in exchange for moving down to position 28 were given Denver’s fifth round pick this year, the 2016 fifth round pick, and offensive lineman Manny Ramirez. President John Elway made it clear that he wanted the team to get nastier on defense after getting pushed around in the Super Bowl two years ago and at home last year in the AFC playoffs. Elway went with defensive end Shane Ray. Ray was arrested earlier this week for marijuana possession, which makes him a perfect complement to Von Miller. Marijuana friendly Colorado may make the perfect complement to Shane Ray. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning loses one of his protectors.
With the Cardinals down to their fourth string quarterback this year, Bruce Arians went with offensive tackle D.J. Humphries to help keep his signal callers upright and breathing this year.
The Carolina Panthers drafted linebacker Shaq Thompson, a two-way player who also plays running back. The Baltimore Ravens went with wide receiver Brashad Permian.
Last year, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had to be restrained by his son Stephen from drafting Johnny Manziel. This year, Jerrah kept it normal and non-controversial (by Cowboys standards) at Happy Valley by selecting Byron Jones.
The Lions went big with guard Laken Tomlinson. Coach Jim Caldwell was so enthusiastic about the pick that he almost made a facial expression. Then came his old team, as the AFC runner-up Colts looked to take the next step.
The Colts gave Andrew Luck wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
The Green Bay Packers went with safety Damarious Randall. Mike McCarthy will put him to work learning how to handle onside kicks.
One yard separated Super Bowl immortality from heartbreak. The Saints had the 31st pick after dealing wide receiver Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks. Coach Sean Payton added linebacker Stephone Anthony as NFL fans were spared seeing Seahawks fans weep on camera over what might have been.
The 2014 first round ended with a trade, but Mr. Excitement Bill Bellichick is known for just taking the best player available. The four time Super Bowl champion coach ended the 2015 opening round the same way they won the Super Bowl three months earlier. When you need a defensive X factor, you get a Malcolm. Malcolm Butler had the key interception in February and May gives the Patriots a typical value pick in defensive tackle Malcolm Brown.
The Buffalo Bills did not have a first round pick because of their 2014 trade with Cleveland to grab Sammy Watkins. By Friday night, there will be plenty of shots of Rex Ryan mugging for the cameras.
Starting with the second round, somebody other than Commissioner Roger Goodell announces the picks. This will decrease the amount of irrational booing of a man who is helping make rich players and owners everywhere richer.
Rumors had it that basketball, hockey and baseball games were played on Thursday, and that political stuff happened. In more important news, the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft takes place Friday evening.