Friday, March 7, 2014
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - Short on glam, slim on glitter, the NFL draft was still nothing less than a rock solid B-plus.
Eric Fisher, with Commissioner Roger Goodell, started the surge of lineman selections, picked at No. 1 by Kansas City.
The Associated Press
As in Big, as in Brawn, as in Bulk, as in Beefy.
We're talking a scale-busting 600 pounds at the outset Thursday night with offensive tackles Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M.
The first seven picks were linemen: four on offense, three on defense.
"That's a lot of love for the big boys up front, which we usually don't get," Fisher said.
Unlike the last few years when bumper crops of quarterbacks reigned, this was pure muscle, and lots of it.
Not a single quarterback was selected until E.J. Manuel of Florida State went to Buffalo at No. 16 -- the lowest since 2000, when Chad Pennington went 18th to the Jets.
Fisher became the first Mid-American Conference player selected at the top when Kansas City's new regime led by Coach Andy Reid chose the 6-foot-7, 306-pound offensive tackle.
"This is so surreal," Fisher said. "I'm ready to get to work right now. I'm ready to start playing some football. I can't process what's going on right now."
Fisher was followed by All-American Joeckel going to Jacksonville, defensive end Dion Jordan of Oregon to Miami, which traded up with Oakland, and Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson to Philadelphia. Not a skill position player yet in sight -- a stark change from the last four drafts, when quarterbacks went first.
The procession of linemen continued with BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah, born in Ghana, going to Detroit; LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo to Cleveland; and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper to Arizona.
That made for a ton of beef after the first seven picks.
And they wore it well, with their designer suits that barely were ruffled when they each engulfed Roger Goodell in the now traditional bear hugs between draftee and commissioner.
Fisher was only the third offensive tackle picked No. 1, joining Orlando Pace (1997) and Jake Long (2008) since the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL. It's also the first time since '70 that offensive tackles went 1-2.
Even without a high-profile passer, runner or tackler going at the outset, the fans were pumped. They chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A" when Goodell paid tribute to the first responders at the Boston Marathon bombings and to the victims of the West Texas, explosion.
The crowd didn't seem to care that early on the picks were linemen.
"What you're getting is a very athletic player, a great kid, smart kid, engineering major," Reid said of Fisher, who really began to draw attention with a strong Senior Bowl, showing he could handle the highest level of competition.
Joeckel didn't seem any less thrilled to go No. 2. "I don't have words for the emotions I feel," he said. "It's the best feeling of my entire life."
Miami, envisioning Jordan as the next Jason Taylor, sent its first-rounder (12th overall) and this year's second-rounder to Oakland. Then Eagles Coach Chip Kelly got a road-grader for his uptempo offense in Johnson.
"Tackle is not a very sexy position," Johnson said, "but it's a position of dire need."
The next big trade saw the Rams move up eight spots, and send four picks to Buffalo to do so. St. Louis ended the pursuit of heft by grabbing West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin.
The New York Jets may have found a replacement for cornerback Darrelle Revis, traded to Tampa Bay, when they picked Alabama All-American Dee Milliner. That was the first of three straight selections from two-time national champion Alabama: Tennessee took guard Chance Warmack and San Diego got offensive tackle D.J. Fluker.
Oakland used the pick it got from the Dolphins for Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden, who nearly died last November after a collision in practice tore a blood vessel off the back of his heart. He was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery.
Unlike with their choice of Milliner, which was met with raucous cheers, the Jets' next selection, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson of Missouri, drew scattered boos and even a few "Who?" comments.
Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who had a heart scare at the NFL combine but checked out fine, went 14th to Carolina, followed by Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro to New Orleans.
Then came Manuel, although many analysts pegged Geno Smith of West Virginia as the top quarterback.
Pittsburgh, which always seems to find standout linebackers, took the highest-rated one in Georgia's Jarvis Jones. Tight end Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame was chosen 21st overall by Cincinnati.