Quarterbacks are top attraction in NFL draft’s Round 1
Philadelphia — With defensive studs everywhere in this draft, NFL teams turned offensive. With an emphasis on quarterbacks.
Hardly stunning in a pass-happy league, except that no quarterbacks in this crop have been highly touted. Yet three went in the first dozen Thursday night, with two surprising trades putting the Bears and Chiefs in position to grab QBs.
Chicago paid a whopping price to move up one spot to second overall for North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky. Kansas City gave up its first-rounder next year to go from 27th to 10th for Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.
Altogether, eight of the first dozen picks were offensive players, including Houston trading up for Clemson QB Deshaun Watson.
One controversial pick was Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, who was drafted by Oakland at No. 24. Days before the draft, allegations emerged that Conley raped a woman in Cleveland. He called the accusations “completely false” and no charges have been filed. Conley was named in a police report that details the allegations but no information has been forwarded to prosecutors.
The top of the draft was predictable: Roger Goodell got booed, then Myles Garrett was picked first by the Cleveland Browns.
“C’mon, Philly, C’mon,” Goodell said Thursday night amid the boos, not even wincing at the reception. Moments later, he was back onstage announcing the Texas A&M defensive end’s name. Garrett, a junior and All-American considered the best pass rusher in this crop, is the first Aggie selected No. 1 overall.
Garrett stayed close to home in Texas, and he promised Cleveland fans “great things are coming.”
Cleveland went 1-15 last season and has holes everywhere. It ranked 31st defensively and had only 26 sacks.
The Browns were the first team since Minnesota in 2013 with three first-rounders. Cleveland also took Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers and Miami tight end David Njoku.
The Bears sent a third-round pick, a fourth and a 2018 third to San Francisco to switch that one slot and take Trubisky, who started only 13 games for North Carolina.
“It was crazy,” Trubisky said. “There was no call. I didn’t think I was going to be picked until the commissioner said my name.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace said he was “100 percent” sure that other teams were looking to get to San Francisco’s spot.
“I knew there were teams inquiring about going up,” he said. “There were teams calling me at our pick, wanting to come up. You could feel that all around us.”
San Francisco was up next, and new GM John Lynch already was looking good for bringing in such a haul to drop back to No. 3. The 49ers took DE Solomon Thomas from just down the road at Stanford.
For much of the round, it was an offensive draft, although the breakdown wound up 19-13 on defense, including strings of six and five defenders from the 13th pick onward.
“We had a lot of scenarios, but we did not have any scenarios like what’s happened here,” Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said.
LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who some scouts compared to Adrian Peterson, went to Jacksonville; new Jaguars boss Tom Coughlin is enamored of powerful running backs.
“He’s special,” Coughlin said. “We need playmakers. We need people to put the ball in the end zone. We need to do something about balance. We need to do something about creating a better situation where the quarterback doesn’t have the entire game on his shoulders.”
Another LSU player, safety Jamal Adams, whose father, George, was an NFL running back, was taken by the New York Jets, one pick after Tennessee, needing an upgrade at wide receiver, selected Corey Davis of Western Michigan. Davis is the FBS career leader in receiving yards with 5,285 and was a key to the Broncos’ turnaround last season.
Two more skill position offensive players went seventh and eighth. Receiver Mike Williams, who came off a serious neck injury in 2015 to help Clemson to the national championship last season, was taken by the Chargers. Then Christian McCaffrey, son of former NFL wideout Ed McCaffrey, wound up with Carolina.
The Panthers, eager to get back to the form that won them the 2015 NFC title, got a versatile running back from Stanford who also can play receiver and return kicks. Cam Newton sure must be smiling.
“Can’t wait to grind every single day for that team, the fans, for everybody there,” McCaffrey said.
More picks and more offense followed. A third receiver, John Ross of Washington, was taken by Cincinnati, which desperately needs a complement to A.J. Green. Ross tore a ligament in his left knee in 2015 that didn’t slow him down much. He ran a record 4.2 in the 40 at the scouting combine.
The next trade saw Buffalo’s new coach, Sean McDermott, deal with his mentor, Chiefs coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs surged up for … a quarterback. They took Mahomes, whose stock soared in workouts this year. Mahomes comes from a spread attack and will need to learn a pro-style offense, but Kansas City has Alex Smith in place right now.
“Right now, Patrick isn’t absolutely ready to play. He’s got some work to do,” Reid said. “But he’s coming into a great room, he has an opportunity to learn from Alex (Smith), which will be a great for him. We have to have some patience with him, but he has tremendous upside.”
What KC no longer has is its first-round choice next year, which went in the deal that also saw the Bills get a third-rounder on Friday.
Nine of the first 10 picks were underclassmen.
Watson, another junior who led Clemson to the national title, landed with the Texans after they moved from 25 to 12, and included their No. 1 selection in 2018 in the trade with the Browns. Houston got out of the big contract it gave Brock Osweiler as a free agent last year by dealing him to Cleveland earlier this offseason.
“You’re trying to anticipate what’s going to happen,” Texans GM Rick Smith said. “The foundation for this move was laid earlier with Sashi (Brown, Cleveland’s VP of football operations). You’ve got all kinds of scenarios that you have to run to be prepared, because as much as you think you’re prepared when the draft starts, it’s such a fluid process that you’ve got to be able to react, and the only way to do that is to be in some respects prepared.”
Surprisingly, no one from Alabama was chosen until cornerback Marlon Humphrey went 16th to Baltimore. Two more Crimson Tide players went in the next three picks: DE Jonathan Allen to Washington and tight end O.J. Howard to Tampa Bay.
T.J. Watt of Wisconsin, brother of three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt of Houston, was selected by Pittsburgh.
New Orleans, which chose Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore earlier, concluded the round with Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk.