The 75th National Football League Draft kicked off in primetime for the first team in the league's illustrious history this evening at 6:30 p.m. CT, thereby at least beginning to end the weeks and months of hype, speculation and countless mock drafts.
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford was the top selection overall when the St. Louis Rams selected the 6-4, 236 pound signal-caller shortly after the beginning of the draft. St. Louis' selection of Bradford addresses a significant area of need for Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo's team, despite the offseason acquisition of journeyman A.J. Feeley. St. Louis, earlier in the offseason, parted ways with long-time starter Marc Bulger, who has battled injuries for much of the past two seasons. In Bradford the Rams acquire a young, accurate quarterback who seemingly handles pressure well, although he was beset by shoulder trouble for much of the 2009 season. Bradford is entering the draft following his junior season but remained in a leadership role for the Sooners throughout the season.
The Detroit Lions, owners of the second selection overall, took one of the two highly rated defensive tackles when they tabbed Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh. A 6-4, 302 pound player with an exceptionally high motor and a dizzying array of pass rush moves and run stuffing techniques, Suh has also drawn accolades for his exceptionally high character, which was recently exemplified by a generous scholarship grant he made to his alma mater.
Draftniks everywhere were feeling good about their draft boards when Gerald McCoy, a 6-4, 295 pound defensive tackle out of Oklahoma followed Suh's selection when the NFC South's Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted McCoy third overall. McCoy, a gifted and disruptive defensive tackle that fits neatly in a 4-3 front, gives the Bucs a pass-rushing element in their interior that they have lacked since Warren Sapp once marauded through offensive lines across the league.
The first three picks in the draft took roughly twenty minutes of time, thus allowing new Head Coach Mike Shanahan time to make his first pick as skipper of the Washington Redskins. Shanahan and former Raiders and Bucs top personnel man Bruce Allen used the fourth pick overall to select another Okalahoma product, this time being offensive tackle Trent Williams. The 6-5, 315 pound big man was a left tackle this past season for the Sooners but has extensive experience at right tackle. Williams was ranked by many pundits as anywhere from the top tackle prospect in the draft down the third or fourth best, but the Redskins, with the recent retirement of Chris Samuels, clearly addressed an area of need to protect newly acquired veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb.
With the fifth pick overall, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Tennessee's highly touted safety prospect, Eric Berry. The former cornerback combines the athleticism of the corner spot with the ball hawking skills of a safety, and at 6-0, 200 pounds and with a 4.47 he has the potential to be one of the top safeties in the NFL for the next decade.
The Seattle Seahawks selected one of the premier names among offensive tackles when Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung's name was called at number six. Okung, 6-5, 307 pounder earned a reputation as a "gamer" when he often had his best games against his stiffest competition.
The Cleveland Browns, who for weeks had been floating rumors through the media regarding their alleged plans in the draft, surprised a few when they called Florida cornerback Joe Haden's name at number seven. Haden, who had posted a suspect 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine in February, clearly rebounded during his pro day and became the top cornerback off the board in this year's draft.
The Oakland Raiders, long associated with doing things in their own unique way, took the top inside linebacker in the draft in the form of Alabama junior Rolando McClain. The 6-4, 254 pound McClain, who ran a 4.68 in the 40, was a dominating defender on the collegiate level and against the top talent in the country in the SEC.
With the ninth pick overall, Clemson dynamo C.J. Spiller headed north to Buffalo to ply his wares for the Bills. The 5-11, 196 pound Spiller silenced his doubters about being a pure speed back with his tremendous 2009 season for the Tigers. Timed at a blazing 4.37 in the 40, Spiller could potentially team up with Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson to form a dynamic backfield.
The tenth pick in the draft turned out to be the most interesting, with the Jacksonville Jaguars taking 6-3, 295 pound defensive tackle Tyson Alualu out of the University of California. Alualu, a tireless defender, is known to get the most out of every play, but many pundits had him in the second tier of the defensive ends, behind the likes of Suh, McCoy, Tennessee's Dan Williams, UCLA's Brian Price, Penn State's Jared Odrick and Alabama's Terrence Cody.
The San Francisco 49ers then traded up to the 11th spot in the draft, taking Denver's spot, and selected offensive tackle Anthony Davis from Rutgers. The third offensive tackle in 11 picks, Davis fits the bill as a prototypical left tackle, with a 6-5, 323 pound frame and quick feet. Davis also has excellent strength and could be a bookend for the 49ers' offensive line for a long period of time.
The Miami Dolphins traded the 12th pick in the draft to the San Diego Chargers, who promptly took Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews. The Chargers, in need of a running back after letting go of LaDainian Tomlinson earlier in the off-season, will team Matthews with Darren Sproles, with Mathews filling the bill as the more conventional running back out of their pro-set offense.
Yet another trade occurred at 13, with the Philadelphia Eagles moving up to snare Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham. Although undersized at 6-2, 268 pounds, Graham is a high-intensity player with tremendous speed and a variety of pass rush moves to help the ninth-ranked defense from 2009.
The Seahawks made their second pick in the first round when at number 13 they selected
safety/cornerback Earl Thomas out of the University of Texas. The red-shirt sophomore had a school-record eight interceptions in 2009 and a national-best 24 passes defensed, owns the versatility to play either corner or safety. Though not boasting the same height advantage of Eric Berry, Thomas was similarly regarded in terms of ball skills and serves as an upgrade in the Seattle secondary for the defensive-minded Carroll.
The New York Giants, with the 15th pick, yet again selected an edge pass rusher when they selected South Florida's Jason Pierre-Paul. The junior, at 6-5, 270 pounds, is a physically gifted end with an explosive burst off of the ball with long arms and power. He teamed with draft prospect George Selvie at USF to form one of the most dynamic duo's in the country in 2009.
The midway point in the first round of the draft was hit at about 8:20 p.m. CT when Tennessee Titans selected Derrick Morgan, a defensive end out of Georgia Tech. Morgan, 6-3, 266 pounds, was rated by some as the top end in the draft and combines power, athleticism and speed and was named the ACC's defensive player of the year. The pick of Morgan made it four straight defensive players to come off of the board and made it 10 defensive players selected in the top half of the draft, compared to six offensive selections.
The San Francisco 49ers, making their second pick in the first round, took offensive lineman Mike Iupati out of Idaho with the 17th pick. Iupati, an interior offensive lineman, will team with OT Anthony Davis in giving the 49ers a more powerful and athletic offensive line for head Coach Mike Singletary and provide an already dangerous running game even more weaponry.
The Pittsburgh Steelers then made it back-to-back selections of offensive linemen when they took the highest rated center in the draft, Florida's Maurkice Pouncey. The 6-4, 304 pound Pouncey had a big performance in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and is regarded as a heady offensive linemen with above-average strength and agility and could be a cog in the Steelers desire to return to a more power-oriented offensive attack.
The NFC South's Atlanta Falcons tabbed Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon with the 19th pick overall. Weatherspoon, who many projected to be the Saints' pick at 32 in their mock drafts, is a playmaking edge player that makes up for his lack of ideal size (6-1, 240 pounds) with great field awareness and unique pass rushing skills. He seems like a good fit for the Falcons' 4-3 defensive front and is known to be a positive and chatty leader on the field.
The Houston Texans, who owned the 20th pick in the first round, Kareem Jackson, a defensive back out of Alabama. The junior is an aggressive bump-and-run corner who uses his 5-11, 196 pound frame to knock receivers off of the line of scrimmage and re-route them. Jackson has quietly risen up draft boards recently and turned in a 4.48 time in the 40 and could lessen the blow the Texans suffered when Dunta Robinson departed for Atlanta.
At number 21 the Cincinnati Bengals took Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham out of the University of Oklahoma. Gresham became the fourth Oklahoma product drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft, even though he missed last season due to torn knee ligaments. Nonetheless the 6-5, 261 pounder was regarded as the top tight end prospect in the draft and is viewed by many as a prototypical pass-catching tight end.
The New England Patriots, with the 22nd pick, traded the pick to the Denver Broncos, who in turn selected Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. A big target at 6-3, 229 pounds, the long armed receiver will be looked to help fill the void left when the Broncos traded Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins last week. Though playing in a run-oriented offense at Tech, Thomas averaged more than 25 yards a catch last season. Thomas became the first wide receiver off of the board, later than most draft years.
The Green Bay Packers selected next, at number 23, took Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga. The 6-5, 314 Bulaga had been projected to go higher in the draft, with some projecting him to be selected in the top five or six picks. Bulaga, though, is a big, sound tackle that comes out of a power running pro-set offensive set and is known to be a top-flight run blocker and plays with a nasty streak.
The New England Patriots, with the 24th pick overall (originally Philadelphia's), traded the pick to the Dallas Cowboys, who took 6-2, 225 pound wide receiver Dez Bryant out of Oklahoma State. Bryant, who was suspended by the NCAA for the second part of the 2009 season, was regarded by many as the top receiver in the draft with a combination of speed, excellent hands and ideal size. Bryant will now team with Miles Austin to form an imposing receiving corps and could very well bump Roy Williams to the bench.
With the 25th pick in the draft, the Denver Broncos selected Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. The biggest mystery of the draft in terms of where he would be selected, Tebow became linked with the Broncos in recent days before the draft. It is expected that the Broncos will start Tebow at quarterback in Head Coach Josh McDaniels' system and work with him as an understudy to incumbent Kyle Orton.
The Arizona Cardinals, who the Saints defeated in the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs, made the 26th pick of the evening when they drafted Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams. A stout 6-2, 327 pounds Williams continues the long-line of first round defensive lineman to come out of the Volunteers program. Williams had a strong season and has the ability to play either defensive tackle or nose tackle, with the likely move to defensive tackle in the Cardinals' traditional 4-3 sets.
The New England Patriots then made a selection with the 27th pick and took Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty. The 5-11, 193 pound member of the Scarlet Knights program was a three-year starter and is known to be a smart and studious player with the ability to shine in zone coverage schemes.
The Miami Dolphins, who had traded back to the 28th spot in the draft, took Jared Odrick out of Penn State. The defensive lineman, a 6-5, 304 pounder, owns a big frame and has a big upside as he possesses quickness and solid techniques. Odrick projects inside to a defensive tackle spot, but could also see time as a defensive end.
The New York Jets, one of the busiest teams in the 2010 off-season, had the 29th pick overall and took Kyle Wilson, a defensive back out of Boise State. Wilson, 5-10, 194 pounds, was a top senior cornerback who proved to be a tough and competitive player with exceptional agility and seems like a natural fit in Rex Ryan's frenzied defense. He also owns impressive return skills and could help the Jets on special teams.
With the 30th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the team the Saints defeated in the NFC Championship game, the Minnesota Vikings (and the squad the Black-and-Gold will open the 2010 regular season with), traded the pick to the Detroit Lions. With the pick the Lions nabbed running back Jahvid Best, a well-rounded runner out of Cal. The downside on Best was that he missed a healthy portion of last season after suffering a head injury after being upended and landing awkwardly on his head, neck and shoulders.
The 31st pick, owned by the Indianapolis Colts, was used to take TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes. Hughes is a dynamic pass rusher who could help Dwight Freeney continue to apply pressure on the quarterbacks, and though listed at 6-2, 255 pounds, owns excellent athleticism and continually improved each season while playing for the Horned Frogs. Hughes was a player that was pegged by quite a few prognosticators to land at the Saints, but the Colts insured that it would not be the case.
The Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints concluded the first round of the draft at 10:04 pm with the selection of Patrick Robinson, a 5-11, 190 pound defensive back out of Florida State. The speedster ran the 40 in 4.4 seconds and is known as a tremendous prospect that plays with confidence and explosiveness and known for his man-to-man coverage skills and special teams prowess.