The lineman-laden first round of the 2013 NFL Draft was full of surprises Thursday night in Radio City Music Hall. The Chiefs surprised many by taking Eric Fisher, not Luke Joeckel, with the first overall selection. Joeckel slipped to second, and then the Dolphins traded with the Raiders to obtain the third pick. Every expert on the air thought Miami had traded up to take Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson, only to hear the name “Dion Jordan” being called. John Gruden questioned his durability due to the fact that he didn’t play very many snaps in college due to injuries, but the guy is an incredible athlete with innate pass-rushing skills.
Linemen were then drafted with picks four through seven, before the St. Louis Rams traded up to snag the first skill player of the draft in West Virginia WR Tavon Austin. This was a perfect fit for the Rams as Austin, the best offensive skill player in this year’s draft, can replace Danny Amendola (lost to free agency) while also providing explosiveness from the slot and also in the return game.
The next three picks belonged to the Crimson Tide, as the Jets replaced Darrelle Revis with Dee Milliner. The Titans followed up Rex Ryan’s pick by drafting Alabama OG Chance Warmack, and then the Chargers took OT D.J. Fluker to protect Philip Rivers.
The next unexpected move was made by the Buffalo Bills with the 16th selection, as they reached to draft Florida State’s EJ Manuel, who was the third ranked quarterback on the board. The Steelers took Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones next, and then the 49ers took LSU S Eric Reid to boost their already stellar defense. Bjoern Werner and Xavier Rhodes went 24th and 25th to Indianapolis and Minnesota, respectively, and Clemson standout WR DeAndre Hopkins went 27th to Matt Schaub and the Texans.
The next major pick took place at number 30 as St. Louis drafted Georgia ILB Alec Ogletree before Dallas and Baltimore concluded the first round by drafting Wisconsin C Travis Frederick to protect Tony Romo and S Matt Elam to replace the legendary Ed Reed.
Favorite First Round Selections:
There were a lot of teams that I thought made great picks Thursday night, but there were three that I liked more than the rest. Let’s take a look:
Tavon Austin to the Rams at #8: I mentioned this briefly earlier in this article, but Tavon Austin is a perfect fit for the Rams. St. Louis lost Danny Amendola to free agency this off-season, making Austin just what the doctor ordered to replace Amendola’s production. Not only is Austin a dynamite slot receiver with innate playmaking ability, but he can also contribute to the return game with his 4.22 speed. In addition to all that, Austin can also line up in the backfield. He’s a tough guy that will undoubtedly boost the Rams offense and return game. According to espn.com, “The Rams are desperately looking for explosive plays, and this guy provides them.”
Jarvis Jones to the Steelers at #17: This pick was actually my second-favorite of the first round, as Pittsburgh gets a guy who is a relentless pass-rusher. Jones is a ball hawk who can stuff the opposing team’s run game and make plays all over the field. Jones’ 4.84 40 time was a pretty big concern for some teams, but I honestly don’t see that being too big of an issue. Jones was the most proven linebacker in the draft, and I feel like he fits the bill perfectly to be a defender for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Look for Jones to have an immediate impact in the Steel City bringing pressure off the edge.
DeAndre Hopkins to the Texans at #27: This was far and away my favorite pick of the round, as I feel like Houston is getting great value for their selection at number 27. Houston desperately needs a receiver that can take some attention away from Andre Johnson who, according to espn.com, was targeted nearly 60 percent of the time when the Texans passed the ball. Hopkins is the guy they’ve been looking for. He can and will be a threat in the passing game, making Andre Johnson even more effective and keeping all the opposition’s attention from being focused solely on one guy. His 4.49 40 time was pretty average, but he more than makes up for that with his playmaking ability. Hopkins significantly upgrades Houston’s passing attack.
Least Favorite First Round Selections:
There were three moves that left me scratching my head. Here they are:
Dion Jordan to Miami at #3: When Miami traded up to obtain the third overall pick, it seemed completely obvious that the Dolphins would draft Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson. Miami just lost four-time Pro Bowl OT Jake Long to free agency (now with the Rams), so many experts thought they would look to replace that position first, given the exceptional talent at OT in this draft. The Dolphins took Jordan instead, however, leaving Johnson to Chip Kelly and the Eagles at number four. Jordan is a great player but his durability is questionable, causing me to wonder why the Dolphins didn’t take Johnson. It would’ve been a great fit.
Sheldon Richardson to New York (Jets) at #13: Rex Ryan, Rex Ryan, Rex Ryan…The guy can’t seem to stay away from drafting only defensive players early. This year, thanks to the Darrelle Revis trade, the Jets had the ninth and 13th overall selections. Now, I’m not a Jets fan by any means but…UPGRADE YOUR OFFENSE!! The Jets were an atrocious 30th in the league in passing yards last year and their rushing attack is only average. I understand drafting one defensive player if I’m the Jets, but it makes absolutely no sense to me for New York to not then draft an offensive weapon. It’s not like Mark Sanchez and Jeremy Kerley are going to turn into Peyton Manning and Wes Welker overnight. The Jets offense needs major help and, with the opportunity to significantly improve and help out Sanchez, got none Thursday night.
EJ Manuel to Buffalo at #16: I don’t necessarily hate this pick, but I was completely surprised when the Bills took Florida State QB EJ Manuel. The Bills already have Kevin Kolb and Tavaris Jackson on their roster, so drafting Manuel seems to imply that Buffalo is going to employ some sort of a read-option offense. The Bills passed on Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib to snatch up Manuel, so they surely have a certain style of offense in mind. Buffalo’s run game is already incredibly explosive with Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller, so we’ll see what the Bills offense looks like under first-year head coach Doug Marrone. The pick isn’t terrible, it’s just an interesting fit.
There are still several storylines heading into Round 2 tonight, which starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be shown on ESPN. Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, and Manti Te’o are three big names that are still on the board. Will Round 2 see them drafted?
Photo Citations: Stuart, Chase. “Tavon Austin.” Tavon Austin. “www.footballperspective.com.” 17 April 2013. [http://www.footballperspective.com/tavon-austin-is-a-new-breed-of-player-like-so-many-before-him/].
Gross, Chris. “Jarvis Jones.” Jarvis Jones. “www.turnonthejets.com.” 2 April 2013. [http://turnonthejets.com/2013/04/2013-nfl-draft-scouting-the-prospects-jarvis-jones/].
Cox, Kevin. “DeAndre Hopkins.” DeAndre Hopkins. “www.thenewsportsguru.com.” 31 August 2012. [http://thenewsportsguru.com/college-fb/top-acc-performances-week-2/attachment/deandre-hopkins-auburn].