Looking back on a strange first round, ahead to a starry second
ST. LOUIS -- After the strangest first round of an NFL draft that I have seen, here's a look at the bizarro-world day-one (yes: Justin Pugh and Travis Frederick; no: Geno Smith and Matt Barkley) and a look ahead to a second day that will be starrier than the first.
1. I think the story line of this draft always will be this: In the most unfamous draft in years, the most famous, noteworthy and worthy players went home with long faces. The quarterback we all thought a year ago would be a very high first-rounder, Matt Barkley, wasn't chosen in the first round. The quarterback who appeared a lock for the first overall pick last September, Geno Smith, wasn't picked. The stars from the two teams that played in the national title game in January, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, weren't picked. I talked to the agent for Barkley, Jimmy Sexton, early this morning, and he said he had no idea who'd pick Barkley Friday night. Smith said he planned to go home, his head apparently sore from hanging it in the Green Room for four hours Thursday. What a strange night.
2. I think the Bills could be CIA agents. E.J. Manuel over Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib? If you had that one, you are either Doug Marrone's wife or Buddy Nix's mantra-keeper. But Manuel is the kind of versatile quarterback -- the guy Jon Gruden firmly believes is the best all-around quarterback and team leader in the draft -- who should have a long career in the league. Great career? No one knows, and God knows the Bills have had their failures since Jim Kelly retired.
3. I think Ryan Nassib might not be inviting Doug Marrone to many family functions as life goes on.
4. I think, for me, the take-your-breath-away moment in the first round was Kyle Long over Manti Te'o, Tyler Eifert and Menelik Watson at 20 to the Bears. Chicago GM Phil Emery called him the highest-rated guard he's scouted in his last 12 draft classes. That's a wow -- and a good example of how different scouts and GMs look at players. Stunning, too, when you consider that universally, around the league, Chance Warmack or Johnathan Cooper -- or both -- were ranked higher on a vast majority of draft boards.
5. I think Tavon Austin became the most desired skill player in the draft because of the way the game is going. People want multi-faceted offensive players, and Austin, though very small, scored four ways last fall. The Rams might get him killed doing it, but they plan to use him as a slot receiver (maybe 700 snaps) and a punt-returner (maybe 50 punts) and are open to using him as a kick-returner too. Think of Austin -- after watching his highlights over the last few days -- playing on the Ed Jones Dome turf. What a weapon.
6. I think the NFC West, in the span of 16 months, has gone from the seventh- or eighth-best of the NFL divisions to the best. Seattle trading for Percy Harvin and this Austin pick, to me, solidified that.
7. I think I never thought I'd see a draft, in this day of offensive explosiveness, with one skill player (Austin) picked in the top 15. Or with one quarterback, one wideout and zero running backs in the top 25. Amazing.
8. I think the Ravens went into the day hoping they'd have one of the following players available at 32: Matt Elam, Johnathan Cyprien, Manti Te'o and Arthur Brown. And all four were. Luck of the Ravens, baby.
9. I think I'd have loved to have been in the Dallas area Thursday night at a draft party, with all the Cowboys people drooling in anticipation of the draft, which is a regional holiday in that area. And so the Cowboys didn't like how the board looked at 18, and traded down 13 spots and picked up a third-rounder in the process. OK. But then to hear Roger Goodell say, "With the 31st pick in the 2013 National Football League Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Travis Frederick, center, Wisconsin,'' I can just imagine the joy in Mudville over that one.
I'm sure what Dallas was acting on was a desire to get a good offensive lineman almost regardless of position, then pick up needed secondary help in the second and third rounds. But for the record, I looked at approximately 1,649 mock drafts in the last month, and I never saw Frederick's name. "I thought I probably fit in the second round somewhere,'' he said. Listen: Let's not get up in arms because the Cowboys drafted the second- or third-rated center 31st overall in a weak draft. It's nitpicky.
10. I think, and I don't know Nolan Nawrocki at all, that he's looking quite a bit like Nate Silver this morning. Here's the thing about the plummeting of Geno Smith: So many of us in the business heard it might happen, and we kept trying to fit Smith with a team with a quarterback need, and we had the theory that even though we didn't know where he'd go, that by golly he had to go somewhere ... and then he didn't. What Nawrocki foreshadowed -- that NFL teams had serious reservations about Smith -- turned out to be correct. It's a good lesson in the mock business: Just because everyone is sure a guy's going to be drafted in a certain area of picks, there's no guarantee he will be. And there are a few painful illustrations of that this year.
1. I think the second round mock draft is the province of my friend Don Banks, and you can look for it on this site shortly. But I wouldn't put Geno Smith in Jacksonville; the Jags have many other positions they want to solidify, I'm told. But what if Jags GM David Caldwell gets into the office today and has three calls from teams wanting that pick to take Geno? And what if one of those calls involves a first-round pick in 2014? If I'm Caldwell, and Cleveland calls with that offer (plus a small sweetener), I'm going to have to do it. In any case, Geno Smith at 33 overall, even with his leadership and decision-making flaws, is the kind of gamble a quarterback-needy team should make.
2. I think, if you want to put money down on one particular pick tonight, I'd put Eddie Lacy to the Bengals at pick 37, the one acquired from Oakland. I believe there's a good chance if Tyler Eifert had been gone at 21, the Bengals would have chosen Lacy in the first round. Now that he's likely to be there five picks into tonight's proceedings, I'd bet the Bengals target him there.
3. I think the Patriots are gambling on the fact that their draft board was obviously so closely stacked in dealing down 23 picks with Minnesota. New England wasn't slated to pick until the 29th overall spot in round one; now the Patriots will be on the clock at number 22 in the second round tonight. The Patriots, as it turns out, are slated to have zero picks in the top 51, then five in the next 51, with (overall), the 52nd, 59th, 83rd, 91st, and 102nd choices.
4. I think you should watch for a run on corners today. I'm predicting 12 of the 62 picks today, minimum, will be corners.
5. I think, after the docked second-round pick for New Orleans, 45th overall, passes, the Bountygate sanction is finished. Good for the people of New Orleans, and good for the Saints -- even though the team appealed to Roger Goodell to give them the second-round pick back this offseason. No dice. Would have been a nice little cornerback there for them. Now they'll have to hope a corner, or a potential starter, lasts until 75th overall, which is their next pick -- the 44th of the day today.