Predictably unpredictable: A year ago, every draftnik said the 2014 crop of quarterbacks was worth waiting for. Teddy Bridgewater looked like the potential No. 1 overall pick and players like Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger loomed as likely first-round selections. Thursday night, the first quarterback off the board was a guy no one was even talking about last April. The Jaguars stunned the room by taking UCF quarterback Blake Bortles at No. 3, while Manziel slipped to the Browns at No. 22 and Bridgewater had to wait until the final pick of the first round to find a home in Minnesota. Some will say the NFL finally learned not to reach for a quarterback, but it’s hard to back that up when Bortles goes No. 3 and is far from a sure thing himself.
Factory of gladness: Bravo, Ray Farmer. The first-year general manager didn’t land sure things in Manziel or top cornerback Justin Gilbert, but both players are more talented options than anything the Browns had at those positions next season. Gilbert will step right into the lineup opposite Pro Bowl corner Joe Haden, replacing the likes of Buster Skrine and Chris Owens. Meanwhile, Manziel has already lit the city of Cleveland on fire with the simple promise of excitement at the quarterback position. Manziel will be the most-dissected prospect in this entire class, but falls into a perfect situation under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who, you may remember as the guy who directed RG3 to a rookie of the year campaign just two years ago. Did I mention they also landed a 2015 first-round pick from Buffalo, too? A good haul all around for Farmer and first-year coach Mike Pettine.
Texans stick to their guns: In the end, there weren’t enough picks to convince the Texans not to draft Jadeveon Clowney and it was the right call. Houston may not have gotten the safest pick in Thursday’s first round, but they picked up a dynamic defensive lineman to pair with All-Pro end J.J. Watt. In a division that goes through Andrew Luck for likely the next 10-12 years, that’s probably a good thing. The only disappointment in Houston may stem from Bridgewater getting swiped out from under their nose with the last pick of the first round. But in lighter news, the Texans have the chance to take Derek Carr with the first pick of the second round. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Derek’s older brother, David Carr, was the first pick in franchise history.
The board rules all: The Rams didn’t do the sexy thing, but they did the right thing. I think. The St. Louis brain trust of Les Snead and Jeff Fisher swears Sam Bradford is a starting quarterback in this league and while I still don’t believe them, I do admire that they stuck to their guns. With no sure-fire QB to take at No. 2, the Rams did the next best thing, drafting a player in Greg Robinson who will start at guard immediately before making the move out to starting left tackle in a year or two. When faced with the prospect of Manziel at No. 13, the Rams stuck to their board and added defensive tackle Aaron Donald to their already-stacked defensive line. It wasn’t a need, but Donald, the best interior line prospect in the draft by far, was an insane value at that point. It was oddly reminiscent of the Jets’ decision to add Sheldon Richardson to their line a year ago at No. 13. Richardson went on to win defensive rookie of the year.
Buffalo gets bold: A franchise long maligned for botching the first round year after year, the Bills made the boldest stroke of Thursday’s action, shipping that 2015 first-rounder and a 2014 fourth-round pick to Cleveland for the No. 4 selection, which they used to take Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins. The best skill position prospect in the draft, Watkins might already be the best receiver on a group that was much-improved in 2013 with the selections of Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in the second and fourth rounds, respectively. Add in the recent low-risk trade for former Bucs receiver Mike Williams and of running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and the Bills have the makings of a dangerous group of skill position players around second-year quarterback EJ Manuel. The Bills paid a high price, but you can’t argue with hypothetical return.