LOS ANGELES, April 26, 2013—From Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the 2013 NFL Draft began to raucous cheers.
The Super Bowl is for casual fans. The Draft is for the diehards. ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman made that clear at the start. “This is a football builder’s draft.” This was not about flash or sexiness. the gruntworkers were expected to get a ton of love and respect early on, and they did.
After Roger Goodell’s classy tribute to Boston, the Commissioner of the greatest sport on the planet reminded us that no league promotes itself like the NFL. Joe Namath and Phil Simms came on stage as a tribute to the cold weather Super Bowl in the New Meadowlands to cap off the upcoming season. Then Goodell said the magic words, and it was game on.
“The Kansas City Chiefs are now on the clock.”
Mel Kiper’s hair was as rock solid as Jimmy Johnson and Mitt Romney combined, and he was fired up out of the gate.
Despite quarterbacks being picked first overall ten out of the last twelve years (Orlando Pace and Jake Long the exceptions), Draft 2013 was expected to be heavy on wedges of beef. His Royal Hairness Kiper had Luke Joeckel edging out Eric Fisher for the top spot.
Walrus Lite Andy Reid and the Chiefs “war room” used most of the entire ten minutes to make a decision, and the envelope was delivered.
The mild surprise was in, as Fisher was chosen. So once again, the conventional wisdom and the experts were both wrong. Nevertheless, the Chiefs made a very “safe” choice. Fisher will solidify the left tackle spot and keep new Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith standing upright. Smith took a beating in San Francisco before a concussion knocked him out of their lineup and out of town when his successor flourished.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and his famous mustache promised to remake “everything” about the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason after a 2-14 season. The wrath of Khan began with a rebranding of the team logo. The cat on the helmet looks more “fierce.” Now he needed a bunch of players. Again Joeckel was the expected choice of new coach Gus Bradley. Joeckel was the pick, and the Oakland Raiders were on the clock.
When Al Davis was alive, shocking picks were the norm. With General Manager Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders are expected to be a more traditional front office. McKenzie has fired a lot of players with bloated contracts. Last year he did not have a first round pick because of the Carson Palmer trade, and now he has Matt Flynn instead of Palmer. Trading down to stockpile picks would have been the best option, but many teams were in no mood to trade up.
Geno Smith or another quarterback would be the riskiest choice, especially with more linemen on both sides of the football available at the third slot. Then the word came down. The Raiders made a trade with the Miami Dolphins. McKenzie wanted more picks, and he found a taker.
The Dolphins took defensive bed Deon Jordan. Nothing was going as expected, since everybody expected Lane Jordan to be the replacement for Jake Long, who left in free agency. Johnson was expected to keep quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright. Instead Miami went with defense. Jon Gruden panned the pick.
In exchange for trading down to the number twelve spot, the Raiders will also receive Miami’s second round pick. The Raiders were without a second round pick because of the Palmer trade, but now have a full compliment of draft picks. The Raider Nation should be very pleased with McKenzie’s first move, even if it was not an actual player.
The Philadelphia Eagles had Andy Reid’s replacement Chip Kelly making his first NFL draft pick. Kelly is associated with explosive offense due to his Oregon tenure, but he played it safe as well. Lane Johnson was off the board and a member of the Eagles. Quarterback Michael Vick is a thrill ride when healthy, and Kelly showed an immediate commitment to keeping his quarterback healthy.
The Detroit Lions went all the way to Ghana (through BYU) for their pick. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is a raw talent meant to put attitude and toughness into a Jim Schwartz team that lost it last year. Well, they had attitude problems, but it hurt them. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has a new toy to play with. The downside is that Ansah came to America five years ago knowing nothing about football. He has only played in nine total games.
The rest of the first round offered more excitement. Here is the list of all 32 first round picks.
The Cleveland Browns with the sixth pick took defensive end Barkevious Mingo. He may be the first ever player named Barkevius to play in the NFL, although the Ravens have a Lardarius. The Browns new owner Jimmy Haslam my be ensnared in a financial scandal involving illegalities. So whoever they draft, they are still the Browns.
The first seven picks were all trench guys, with three offensive tackles, a guard, and three defensive ends. A wide receiver went eighth, as teams opted for toughness over flash.
The New York Jets at the nine slot did take Dee Milliner to replace Darrelle Revis at cornerback. Revis was shipped off to Tampa Bay a few days earlier.
The Raiders finally did take a player at spot twelve. Even without Al Davis, the Raiders generate controversy. They took cornerback D.J. Hayden. A few months ago he nearly died after taking a hit on the field. His being alive is a miracle. This scared off many teams, but the Raiders note that if he stays alive he could be a solid football player.
The Buffalo Bills with the sixteenth pick took the first quarterback, and it was a big surprise. EJ Manuel got the nod, and the pick was universally panned. Manuel was the only quarterback taken in the entire first round.
Some analysts had defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd as a top five pick. He fell all the way to the 23 spot and the Minnesota Vikings. They had three first round picks, and also added help at cornerback and wide receiver.
Finally, there were the list of players not called. Quarterbacks Geno Smith and Matt Barkley plummeted. Smith is seen as unpolished while Barkley could be the next “Captain Checkdown” Matt Leinart because of a perceived lack of arm strength. Alabama running back Eddie Lacy was not chosen. For the first time since 1963, no running backs were selected at all. The NFL is now a passing league, and even elite running backs break down. Just ask the Raiders about Darren McFadden. Manti Teo was not picked, but that could have less to do with his whole fake girlfriend scandal than the fact that he and his defense got obliterated in the BCS Title Game against Alabama. Owners put up with a lot, but not a perceived lack of toughness on the field.
Now America rests for a few hours before Day 2 brings us all rounds 2 and 3 of the Draft.
It cannot come soon enough.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian who is obsessed with the National Football League. There is no offseason. Every February he pretends to care about other sports while sobbing uncontrollably each Sunday until September. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
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