The ongoing Manti Te’o saga and the fates of the quarterbacks passed over in the opening round will be the focal points when the NFL draft resumes Friday evening with the second and third rounds.
Thursday night’s first round was notable for the run on offensive linemen, with nine of them being taken. It also was notable for Te’o and all but one quarterback, Florida State’s EJ Manuel, going unpicked.
It had been widely speculated entering the draft that Te’o would be a first-round pick even after his disappointing performance against Alabama in the collegiate national championship game and the highly publicized hoax in which his online girlfriend turned out never to have existed.
But it didn’t happen as the three teams needing inside linebackers viewed as possible landing spots for Te’o went in other directions. The Chicago Bears, even after parting ways this offseason with Brian Urlacher, used the 20th overall choice on offensive tackle Kyle Long.
The Minnesota Vikings had the 23rd and 25th selections but went with defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings even traded up for a third opening-round pick but used it on wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
The Baltimore Ravens, after losing Ray Lewis to retirement and fellow linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe to free-agent departures, used the final choice of the opening round on safety Matt Elam.
So Te’o was left waiting. But at least he did his waiting with his family in Hawaii, far from the television cameras stationed in the players’ waiting area at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Geno Smith, the West Virginia product widely viewed as the top available quarterback entering the draft, had to endure his long wait while being on hand at the draft proceedings.
There were questions leading up to the draft about whether any of the quarterbacks was worthy of being taken in the opening round. So it wouldn’t have been all that surprising if none was taken in the first round. But it was surprising that Manuel, a quarterback described by some talent evaluators as being promising but not yet ready to get meaningful playing time in the NFL, was the lone quarterback chosen, going to the Buffalo Bills with the 16th pick.
The Bills traded down eight spots and it was thought they might use the 16th choice on Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. He played for Buffalo’s recently hired head coach, Doug Marrone, at the school. Instead, the Bills went with Manuel.
“I don’t think I was very conflicted,” Marrone said at a news conference. “I think that at the end of the day, there are a lot of good quarterbacks in the draft. And we were able to take the best quarterback that we felt fit us here in our situation in Buffalo.”
Smith, Nassib and Southern California’s Matt Barkley remain available for the second round. The Jacksonville Jaguars have the opening pick of the second round and there has been some speculation that they could take a quarterback. The Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets and Oakland Raiders also possess picks within the first 10 choices of the second round.