NEW YORK, May 9, 2014 — The NFL Draft got underway at Radio City Music Hall to the sounds of deafening cheers from leatherheads of all 32 teams. When Commissioner Roger Goodell made the magic announcement, “The Houston Texans are on the clock,” the crowd went wild.
The Draft is for the biggest die-hard football fans who obsessively pore over every single selection before it is made. Mock drafts were on hand, and many of them were shredded early on.
The 2014 Draft started out normally. The Texans took South Carolina defensive end Jadavean Clowney, the consensus top pick. Considered a can’t miss pick, Clowney is now paired with J.J. Watt. Expect the 2-14 Texans to be a fearsome defense for perhaps the next decade.
Rumor had the St. Louis Rams wanting to trade down and the Atlanta Falcons wanting to trade up. Nothing materialized, and the Rams played it very safe and smart, drafting offensive tackle Greg Robinson. Robinson will probably slot in at left guard and help keep Sam Bradford upright.
Jacksonville stunned the auditorium with the third pick and turned the Draft upside down. Expected to take outside linebacker Khalil Mack, the Jaguars went for a quarterback. However, they did not pick Johnny Football. Manziel would have to wait with the shocking announcement that Blake Bortles was chosen. Once Bortles went, all bets were off.
Cleveland has been ridiculed for much of the last 50 years, but on this first Draft night the Browns were brilliant. Maybe Kevin Costner’s Sonny Weaver was helping them because they were flawless. They could have selected Manziel with the fourth pick. Instead they traded down with the Buffalo Bills for a king’s ransom, including next year’s first round pick. The Browns slipped down to the ninth pick. Then they traded with Minnesota to move up one slot. With everyone on Manziel alert, another shocker came. They went with cornerback Justin Gilbert.
The Browns were not done, and Manziel kept falling. Fellow quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked like he would be out of the first round altogether.
Back to the Bills with the fourth pick, they had been gift-wrapped the choice of either Khalil Mack or wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The Raiders wanted Watkins, assuming they and no shot at Mack. The Bills were expected to take Mack. Buffalo shocked moony in the crowd again by taking Watkins.
Oakland needed about ten seconds to make their decision, although they waited a couple minutes to see if anybody would offer two kings’ ransoms for Mack. Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie may have been banned from coming back for Round 2 had he chosen anybody else. Khalil Mack now wears Silver and Black, as the Raiders took this gift and ran with it as fast as possible. The Raider Nation was jubilant at their good fortune.
Atlanta played it very safe with the sixth pick, Jake Matthews. Matthews is descendent from football royalty. His father is Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and his uncle is Hall-worthy Clay Matthews Sr. His cousin is Clay Matthews Jr., the family rebel who plays defense for the Green Bay Packers instead of offensive line.
After that, the Draft settled down for a bit. The Vikings passed up a quarterback with the ninth pick, angering their fans. The Lions got a solid blocking tight end to protect Matthew Stafford. The Giants curiously chose a wide receiver over an offensive tackle to protect Eli Manning.
The Steelers, Ravens and Jets all made attitude picks on defense after lacking the hard-nosed intensity in 2013 that defined them in recent years.
There is always drama in Dallas, and Cowboy fans prayed that owner Jerry Jones would pass over Manziel. Jones must have been duct taped in a closet because the Cowboys selected offensive tackle Zack Martin with the17th pick. This was a safe, smart and very non-Jerry-like pick. The Cowboys fans were relieved.
The Browns were starting to look like geniuses, and there was a real chance Manziel would still be available when Cleveland had their next pick with the 26th slot. The Browns decided not to get greedy, trading back up to the 22nd position. They got their quarterback in Manziel, and the Browns fans erupted in celebration.
T-shirts reading “Johnny Super Bowl” were proudly displayed. The Browns worked this same strategy a few years ago with Brady Quinn, but these Browns fans believe the Manziel story will play out better than that of former Notre Dame stand out Brady Quinn.
The Chiefs, Bengals, Chargers, Eagles, and Cardinals all have potent offenses that took them to the playoffs in 2013. All five teams played it smart with picks 23 through 27 by going with defense for their first pick.
Carolina made the logical choice at 28 of a wide receiver to replace departed Steve Smith, while the Patriots, Broncos and 49ers all went with defense. This made sense since the Patriots miss Ted Washington, and Vince Wilfork is getting older. Getting more physical is necessary for Denver and New England.
The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks had the 32nd and last pick. A night that featured many surprises appropriately ended with a bang when rather than select anyone, Seattle traded down with the Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater got his major sigh of relief when he was selected by the Vikings with the final pick of Round 1. The Vikings fans got their replacement for the much-maligned Christian Ponder.
Round two will see if the Raiders grab quarterback Derek Carr with the number 36 pick, and if quarterback A.J. McCarron of Alabama really will fall as far as many experts think.
Round one is in the books. It was just another reminder of why leather heads love the National Football League as passionately as they do.