NEW YORK — The opening round of the NFL draft was notable for who was not picked as well as for who was. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and the quarterbacks widely viewed as the best available in the class, including West Virginia’s Geno Smith, were left waiting while NFL teams opted to select nine offensive linemen.
Hours after the anticipated run on blockers began with tackles Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M being selected with the top two picks, the Baltimore Ravens became the final team to pass over Te’o in the first round. Te’o was left unpicked on the draft’s opening night after a sharply criticized performance in the collegiate national championship game and a highly publicized hoax.
Only one quarterback was taken Thursday and it was a surprising choice, as Florida State’s EJ Manuel went 16th overall to the Buffalo Bills.
Te’o did not attend the draft in New York, opting to be with his family in Hawaii. But his first-round fate was among the night’s leading story lines. His once seemingly secure status as a likely first-rounder had come into question after his disappointing play against Alabama in the national title game and the bizarre story of his online girlfriend who turned out never to have existed.
The most likely landing spots for Te’o when the night began appeared to be the Chicago Bears at the 20th pick, the Minnesota Vikings 23rd or 25th or the Ravens at 32nd. The Bears chose Oregon tackle Kyle Long. The Vikings went with Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, ending his first-round plummet, and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
Minnesota even bypassed Te’o after trading for a third opening-round pick, choosing Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson 29th overall. That left Te’o for the Ravens if they wanted him after they lost one linebacker, future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, to retirement and two more, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, in free agency. But the reigning Super Bowl champions selected Florida safety Matt Elam, a potential replacement for departed free agent Ed Reed.
Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy also went unpicked, as this became the first NFL draft since 1963 in which no running backs were chosen in the opening round.
Offensive linemen were taken with eight of the evening’s first 20 selections. The draft began with a mild surprise as the Kansas City Chiefs used the top overall choice on Fisher. Joeckel went second to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Philadelphia Eagles used the fourth overall selection on Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson.
It had been clear for some time that the Chiefs were very likely to use the top pick on a tackle, either Fisher or Joeckel. But most of the pre-draft speculation in recent weeks had focused on Joeckel, perhaps a more polished player who spent last season protecting Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.
In the final 24 hours before the draft, however, it became increasingly clear that Kansas City’s new brain trust of General Manager John Dorsey and Coach Andy Reid preferred Fisher. Some draft observers had expressed wariness about the lack of top-notch college competition faced by Fisher, but he was considered a gifted athlete with a bit of an on-field streak of nastiness and considerable NFL promise. The Chiefs also appeared to believe that Fisher was a better fit for Reid’s offensive system.
“I’m standing here right now and I just can’t believe it yet,” Fisher told the NFL Network soon after the Chiefs’ selection was announced by Commissioner Roger Goodell at Radio City Music Hall.
Joeckel expressed no dissatisfaction with being chosen second instead of first.
“It’s the happiest moment of my life,” Joeckel told the NFL Network. “It’s the best moment.”
The Miami Dolphins traded up nine spots in the first-round order and, with the third pick previously possessed by the Oakland Raiders, chose Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan. The Eagles then put the draft back into tackle mode and chose Johnson, a former high school quarterback thought to have the athleticism to fit into the revved-up offense of the team’s new coach, Chip Kelly.
The Detroit Lions rounded out the top five by selecting Brigham Young defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah. Louisiana State defensive end and outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo went sixth to the Cleveland Browns, making it three pass rushers to go with the three tackles in the first six picks.
The St. Louis Rams traded up eight spots, in a deal with the Bills, to get West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin with the eighth overall selection. The Bills, after their trade down to 16th, made Manuel the first quarterback taken. That might have qualified as the night’s first true stunner. The Bills passed up not only Smith, widely regarded as the top quarterback available, but also Ryan Nassib, who played at Syracuse for Buffalo’s new head coach, Doug Marrone.
“I didn’t know how the draft was going to work out,” Manuel told the NFL Network. “I knew Buffalo liked me a lot.”
The New York Jets focused on their defense by taking Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner ninth and Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson 13th. The Jets traded cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend for the 13th choice.
The Rams traded down from the 22nd choice, one of the picks they got from the Washington Redskins last year in the Robert Griffin III trade, to take Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree 30th.
More NFL draft and Redskins coverage from The Post:
The Early Lead: NFL draft 2013: Viewer’s guide for TV, online (and radio)
Opening Kick: Who do Redskins fans want to see not taken in Round 1?
D.C. Sports Bog: RGIII on being held out of the Cleveland game
Opening Kick: How much draft movement can we expect from the Redskins?