The first round of the NFL Draft was filled with intrigue.
There were some hits — the Vikings had a stellar draft — and some misses — who is the Giants' draft pick, Justin Pugh? Offensive and defensive lineman dominated this year’s draft (18 of the 32 picks), while only five offensive skill players were selected. Here is a list of the top 5 stories about the first round of the NFL Draft.
1. E.J. Manuel is the first quarterback drafted.
The Buffalo Bills moved up to tale Manuel #16 in the draft. Manuel was the only quarterback taken in the first round. He was projected to be a late second round pick at best. NFL.com gave him a rating of 68.7 which means he was projected to be a “draftable play,” projected to go between the 4 and 7 round and expected to be at best a backup/role player and maybe a special teamer. Manuel has a decent arm, completed 66% of his passes, and was 25-8 in his career at Florida St. A huge gamble by the Bills, who now have three new quarterbacks in camp.
2. Geno Smith is not the first quarterback drafted
Geno Smith, the former West Virginia QB, was considered the best quarterback in the draft. The 6’3”, Virginia tech quarterback threw 42 touchdowns and only six interceptions last year. Immediately prior to the draft Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki released a scouting report questioning Smith’s leadership ability, work habits, and football acumen. The scouting report said he was “A cross between Akili Smith and Aaron Brooks.'' Akili Smith and Aaron Brooks are African American quarterbacks that fizzled at the pro level, with Smith (no relation) being considered one of the all-time quarterback draft busts in history.
Smith took umbrage to the criticism and rather than letting sleeping critics lie, did multiple interviews displaying what some felt could only be considered a chip on his shoulders. First Smith tweeted “Just want to thank all those so called "experts" who say I can't be an NFL QB. Thursday will be a special day but the work has only begun.” He then gave an interview with USA Today where he said “'I'd like to thank you for continuing to motivate me and to keep me motivated.” Smith was in attendance at the draft, and initially showed his disappointment by announcing he would not appear for the second day. Since then he has confirmed he will be at the draft for the second and third round.
3. Manti Te’o is not drafted
Te’o of Notre Dame was the second best player in college football. He led Notre Dame to the championship game. Te’o’s stock began to drop after a not-so-stellar performance against Alabama in the 2013 BCS Championship Bowl game. He then became embroiled in a media hoax where he finally admitted that he was “catfished.” The final straw was when he had a subpar performance at the NFL combine where he appeared out of shape. This raised red flags because, if Te’o couldn’t handle off field distractions at this level, then he may be ill equipped to handle the intense pressure of media scrutiny at the NFL pro level.
4. No running backs were drafted
For the first time in 50 years a running back was not selected in the first round. This is a down year for college running backs. Alabama’s Eddie Lacey is the top rated running back in the draft, but he was at best a Top 50 pick. The league has become pass-oriented and teams are reluctant to spend the expensive capital of a first round draft pick unless there is an Adrian Peterson available.
5. The SEC is still the best conference in college football.
A SEC player has been selected in the first round 66 straight years. The last time a SEC player was not selected in the first round was 1947. The last time a SEC player was not drafted in an NFL round was the second round in 1993. Last year 42 SEC players were drafted. That was the most of any conference. With six rounds to go, the SEC could exceed that total this year. SEC Football by the Numbers is projecting that 66 SEC players will be drafted this year. ESPN’s NFL draft expert suggested that as many as 13 SEC players would be drafted in the first round. He came up just short. 11 of the 13 players listed by Kiper were drafted in the first round (Lacey and Kevin Minter of LSU did not make the cut, while Eric Reid of LSU did). Twelve players from seven SEC schools were selected in the first round, including six of the top 15. The 12 players selected tied the NFL draft record of most players by an individual conference selected in round one set by the ACC in 2006.