There was no doubt about who was the star of Thursday night’s NFL draft. I mean, once Johnny Manziel was finally selected 22nd by the Browns, he walked out to a rap song that includes his own name (Draft Day by Drake). During LeBron James’ postgame press conference, he said he wished his Cowboys took Manziel. Within 25 minutes of the pick, the Browns sold 200 new season ticket accounts and had 300 renewals. It was Johnny’s night. On to the headlines:
TEXANS TAKE THE CHALK AFTER ALL
The Texans wanted to trade out of the No. 1 spot, but were asking for a RG3 kind of ransom (two first-round picks, one second and one third). They failed to realize that moving up for a defensive end – even if he’s the best pass rushing prospect in 30 years as Mel Kiper Jr. insists – is not like moving up for a quarterback. So the Texans ended up getting “stuck” with the pick and taking the most freakishly talented player available, Jadeveon Clowney.
In the days leading up to the draft, rumors were flying all over on just about every top-10 pick. One name rarely mentioned was Central Florida QB Blake Bortles. That was a surefire sign that he was going to pop up and bite the mock drafters, which is exactly what happened when the Jaguars took him third overall. Bortles looks the part at an athletic 6’5/232, but often struggled when pressured and doesn’t have the biggest arm.
Barry Sanders came onto the stage to announce the Lions’ pick at No. 10. Cool. Then he started awkwardly reading an ad for the Madden video game empire, which was not so cool. It’s bad enough to have advertorial content in the middle of the first round of the draft, but bringing one of the best players in the history of the NFL under the lights to do it made it worse.
BIGGEST FANTASY LOSER
It’s Rueben Randle and it’s not even close. Yes, the Giants project to run more three-wide sets this season under new OC Ben McAdoo, who was exposed to a ton of three-wide schemes during this time in Green Bay. But the selection of LSU WR Odell Beckham at No. 12 overall is another shot at Rueben Randle, a player the coaches and execs have failed to get behind since Hakeem Nicks’ departure. They clearly don’t think Randle is ready or capable of being a truly featured player.
INSTANT FANTASY IMPACT
Thursday’s first round saw five wideouts, three quarterbacks and one tight end get selected. Look for Texas A&M WR Mike Evans, who went No. 7 overall to the Bucs, to have the best fantasy season. He has an extremely clear path to targets opposite Vincent Jackson, has a prototypical NFL frame at 6’5/231 and will benefit from the regime change in Tampa. Everyone is starting from square one under Lovie Smith. Josh McCown, who went off while throwing to “twin towers” Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery last year, has similar weapons for 2014.
ALL THE LIES
In the 48 hours leading up to the draft, the vast majority of rumors are smokescreens. The Johnny Manziel/Rams one was laughable as they told Sam Bradford about it – and allowed that nugget to get out Thursday morning. Then the Rams passed on Manziel twice.
But the most creative lies came from the Browns. Not only did they leak that they were “enamored” with Teddy Bridgewater, but they also dropped this $100,000 study on quarterbacks. The study allegedly determined that Bridgewater was the top QB prospect in this draft. Then the Browns passed on Teddy three times, eventually landing on Manziel at No. 22.
BY THE NUMBERS
11: Players from the SEC selected Thursday night. That’s more than the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 combined.
0: Running backs selected in the first round for the second consecutive year. Before 2012, the last time no RBs went in Round 1 was 1963.
Johnny Manziel’s freefall started when the Jaguars took QB Blake Bortles at 3. Then the Bucs went WR Mike Evans at 7, the Browns took CB Justin Gilbert at 8, the Vikings added defensive help with OLB Anthony Barr at 9. Somewhere around then, #beforemanzielgetsdrafted started trending on Twitter (my favorite was "Teo’s girlfriend gets drafted #beforemanzielgetsdrafted"). The real drama came at No. 16, when Jerry Jones and the Cowboys were on the clock. But even Jerry held off, choosing to add another piece to his already strong offensive line with Notre Dame G/T Zack Martin. The relief for Manziel happened when the Browns traded back up to No. 22 and got the man they claim will “compete” with Brian Hoyer at camp.
BIGGEST TRADE OF THE NIGHT
The Bills mortgaged their future to some degree, giving up 2015 first- and fourth-round picks just for the right to move up from No. 9 to No. 4 overall. They used that pick on Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. He better make an instant impact – and be better than both Stevie Johnson and Mike Evans.
It has to be the Browns. Not only did they land a much-needed corner to play opposite Joe Haden in Justin Gilbert and a potential franchise quarterback in Johnny Manziel, but they also netted a 2015 first-round pick from the Bills in the process. Given how inconsistent and raw E.J. Manuel appeared as a rookie, that 2015 pick could easily be in the top-10 or higher. The Browns are a sneaky team to begin making noise this year and push for real relevancy in 2015.