Rams choose quarterback Sam Bradford to open 2010 NFL draft; Tim Tebow drafted by Broncos

Scenes from Redskins Park, where washington introduced its top selection, Trent Williams, and from New York's Radio City Music Hall, site of the NFL draft.
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 23, 2010

NEW YORK -- The first few picks of the 2010 NFL draft went about as expected Thursday night, beginning when the St. Louis Rams selected Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the top overall choice.

The surprises, some mild but others not, came later in the opening round. Tim Tebow became a first-round draft choice after all, as the Denver Broncos selected him with the 25th pick. Tebow's prospects for NFL success had been vigorously debated before the draft, even after he won a Heisman Trophy and two national championships at the University of Florida. But he was the second quarterback drafted Thursday, 24 spots behind Bradford but ahead of Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen.

Clausen wasn't chosen in the first round, a plummet reminiscent of the first-round descents of quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers in previous drafts.

Bruce Campbell, the University of Maryland tackle who had a dazzling performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in February but had his play last season questioned by some draft analysts, wasn't drafted Thursday. But another player with local ties -- Florida cornerback Joe Haden, formerly of Friendly High -- was taken seventh overall by the Cleveland Browns.

The Pittsburgh Steelers did not trade their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, on Thursday. One day earlier, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for the first six games of next season for violating the league's personal conduct policy, and there had been speculation that the Steelers would attempt to trade Roethlisberger for a top-10 choice.

The Rams' pick was announced by Goodell a few minutes into the draft's prime-time debut. Bradford potentially gives the Rams the franchise quarterback that they lacked. The club released veteran quarterback Marc Bulger earlier this offseason.

"I feel great," Bradford said. "Obviously it's a dream come true. You grow up and you dream of playing in the NFL and you dream of being drafted. But to actually have it happen, it's really unexplainable. It's pretty exciting."

The Rams gave consideration to defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma during the pre-draft evaluation process, along with other players. But Bradford convinced the Rams and other teams during pre-draft workouts that his surgically repaired right shoulder is sound, and in recent weeks he became regarded by executives with other clubs around the league as the virtually certain top choice.

Rams officials now must try to complete a contract agreement with Bradford and his agent, Tom Condon, before the opening of training camp this summer. The team did not reach a pre-draft deal with Bradford, as the club with the top pick is permitted to do with the player that it intends to choose.

Suh went to the Detroit Lions with the second pick. Some draft observers regarded Suh as the top player available in the draft, but the Rams went with a quarterback and left Suh for the Lions.

Two of Bradford's teammates at Oklahoma went third and fourth. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected McCoy with the third choice, and the Washington Redskins took Oklahoma left tackle Trent Williams with the fourth selection. That meant that four players from the Big 12 Conference, including three from Oklahoma, were taken with the first four picks of the draft.

Tennessee safety Eric Berry was chosen fifth overall by the Kansas City Chiefs and Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung, passed over by the Redskins in favor of Williams for the fourth selection, went sixth to the Seattle Seahawks.

Haden did not allow a touchdown pass in 40 starts in college and it was thought that he'd be the first cornerback drafted, but many in the league had become convinced in recent weeks that no cornerback would be taken in the top 10.

"I'll try to live up to it by coming in every day and just working hard," Haden said.

The Oakland Raiders provided a mild surprise with the eighth pick, using it on Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. Clemson running back C.J. Spiller went ninth to the Buffalo Bills, and the Jacksonville Jaguars took California defensive tackle Tyson Alualu 10th.

Tebow joins Quinn and fellow quarterback Kyle Orton in Denver. Some draft observers predicted that he'd fall into the second or third round, or even later, after he struggled at the Senior Bowl and then reworked his throwing motion, but the Broncos used the second of their two opening-round picks on him.

The first round was moved to prime time on a Thursday night under the league's new three-day draft format. The second and third rounds are to be held Friday evening, and the remainder of the seven-round draft is scheduled for Saturday.

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