Who did the best and worst Thursday night? Here are some early thoughts on the winners and losers in the opening round:
Offensive Linemen: They dominated the opening round, with nine of them being taken. Offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel went first and second overall. Fellow tackle Lane Johnson, guards Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker joined them in the top 11. There were eight offensive linemen among the top 20 selections. By comparison, there was a total of four quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers taken in the first round.
Vikings: They used the 23rd pick on Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who inexplicably plummeted after being widely projected to be taken in the top five. They used the 25th choice on Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes, thought by some to be worthy of going in the top 15. Then the Vikings traded back into the opening round, becoming the first NFL team since the St. Louis Rams in 2001 to make a trio of first-round selections, and got Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, once believed to be vying with Tavon Austin to be the first wide receiver taken.
Rams: They traded up eight spots to land Austin, the West Virginia speedster that several teams seemed to want badly in the final stages of the pre-draft process, with the eighth overall choice. Then they traded down eight spots from the 22nd selection, one of the picks they received from the Redskins in the Robert Griffin III trade, and managed to get Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree, a seemingly good value on the draft’s 30th overall choice.
Alabama: The reigning collegiate national champions produced three straight picks between Nos. 9 and 11. Cornerback Dee Milliner was taken ninth by the New York Jets. Guard Chance Warmack went 10th to the Tennessee Titans and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker was taken 11th by the San Diego Chargers.
Manti Te’o: So much for the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens having sufficient interest to keep the Notre Dame linebacker from slipping out of the first round.
Quarterbacks: Everyone knew this draft would not resemble last year’s draft, when Andrew Luck and Griffin went first and second overall to launch the year of the rookie quarterback in the NFL. But there had been notions that perhaps the always-present lure to teams of trying to land a franchise quarterback would result in one of two of the available passers going in the top 10. It was not to be. Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib went unpicked as the Buffalo Bills, with the 16th choice, surprisingly made Florida State’s EJ Manuel the only quarterback drafted on opening night.
Running backs: Tailback Eddie Lacy didn’t join his former Alabama teammates in their first-round parade. This became the first NFL draft since 1963 without a running back taken in the opening round.
Bills: They are receiving some sharp criticism for their selection of Manuel, who is described by some observers as talented but not yet sufficiently polished to be ready to play as a rookie. When Buffalo traded down from the eighth spot, it appeared the Bills would reunite Nassib with their newly hired head coach, Doug Marrone, who coached Nassib at Syracuse. Instead, they took Manuel, describing him as the best quarterback available and the best fit for their offense. If Manuel isn’t ready to play as a rookie, the Bills must hope Kevin Kolb comes through as their starter. If Manuel becomes a reliable NFL quarterback, the Bills will be vindicated for their surprising choice. If not, this move will be questioned for years to come. Either way, it’s debatable whether the Bills needed to use the 16th selection to get Manuel, even if they’d targeted him as the quarterback they wanted. So for now, describe them as a potential first-round loser here.