Big Night For Big Men In Round 1 Of NFL Draft
The first seven picks, starting with the Kansas City Chiefs' selection of Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, were offensive or defensive linemen. As NPR's Tom Goldman tells our Newscast Desk, the first round "was a celebration of players who anchor both sides of the line of scrimmage."
A quarterback wasn't taken until the 16th pick, when the Buffalo Bills chose Florida State's E.J. Manuel. He was the only signal caller chosen Thursday. The Bills even "traded down" to get their man — another sign that 2013's quarterback crop wasn't impressing scouts the way 2012's did. Buffalo sent the No. 8 pick to St. Louis in exchange for more picks later in the draft. Then the Bills used the No. 16 spot to take Manuel.
Last year, quarterbacks Andrew Luck (chosen by Indianapolis) and Robert Griffin III (by Washington) were the first two choices. A year later, quarterbacks Geno Smith of West Virginia and Matt Barkley of USC — who had been talked about as likely first round choices — will still be on the board when Round Two gets under way tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN will be broadcasting).
Also not selected Thursday: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who saw his once-bright draft prospects dim in January when word emerged that a supposedly dead girlfriend of his never existed. Te'o has said he was the victim of an elaborate hoax.
Meanwhile, if you're a fan of unusual names, Thursday was a big night for you. Defensive linemen Ziggy Ansah of BYU and Barkevious Mingo of LSU were taken in the No. 5 and 6 spots.
ROGER GOODELL: With the first pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select Eric Fisher.
GOODELL: Tackle, Central Michigan.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
That was National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell last night, opening the league's annual draft of college players. As evidenced by that first pick, the first round of the draft was low on big names. Sports writer Stefan Fatsis joins us now, as he does most Fridays. Hi Stefan.
STEFAN FATSIS, BYLINE: Hey Robert.
SIEGEL: Eric Fisher is 6'7", 300 pounds. He's a lineman. His school, Central Michigan, is not a big-time football power. The players selected after him weren't household names either. What's happened this year?
FATSIS: Well, it's just one of those years, Robert. Talent pools in sports are cyclical. Last year the draft produced a remarkable number of highly desirable players at what are known as the skill positions, especially quarterback, when you had the instant starters Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III. They went one and two. And two more quarterbacks were taken in the first round.
That contributed to the fact that a lot of teams are set at quarterback, and the ones that were available didn't blow anybody's doors off.
SIEGEL: Yeah, in the first 32 picks, only one quarterback was chosen.
FATSIS: Yeah, E.J. Manuel of Florida State by the Buffalo Bills, big guy, strong arm, great runner, pretty unrefined. No running backs were taken, and it's the first time that's happened in 50 years. So teams need a lot of those relatively anonymous big men like Eric Fisher, and since they were viewed as the best players available, they were taken.
And, in fact, a record 18 offensive or defensive linemen were selected in the first round, total weight 5,338 pounds. I added it up.
FATSIS: And if you've heard of any of the big guys, Robert, it was probably LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, but that was probably because he has such a great name.
SIEGEL: That was the best name in the draft, for sure. On the other hand, players that the fans might have heard of, like linebacker Manti Te'o of Notre Dame, none of them went in the first round. Why not?
FATSIS: Well, you know, it's just the difference between what makes a great college player and what makes a great NFL player. There are different standards, different metrics. Manti Te'o got a lot of publicity because he played for Notre Dame, the team went to the national title game, also because he was embroiled in that fake dead Internet girlfriend mess. But he simply wasn't considered by scouts to have the speed or the strength to merit being a top pick.
SIEGEL: Now there's always one player who's invited to sit in the green room at the draft so that the cameras can capture his celebration, and then he doesn't get picked. Who was that unfortunate player this year?
FATSIS: That was quarterback Geno Smith of West Virginia. He had to endure the ESPN cameras at Radio City Music Hall. Afterward he said that he wasn't even going to come back to Radio City for today's second round of the draft, but his agent must have talked him off the ledge, and he's supposed to be there this evening.
SIEGEL: The NFL draft itself has now gone from a business meeting of football executives to this highly staged TV extravaganza, particularly stunning if not brilliant memory for you of this event?
FATSIS: I'm going to go with the league lining up 32 guys in identical suits outside Radio City holding glass cases containing the caps that would be placed on the heads of the first-round draftees. And then I always love it when the players give Commissioner Goodell a big bro-hug because very soon these same players are going to find a reason to hate the commissioner.
GOODELL: Yeah, why'd you suspend me?
SIEGEL: Stefan Fatsis is the author of "A Few Seconds of Panic: A Sportswriter Plays in the NFL." He joins us most Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports. Have a great weekend, Stefan.
FATSIS: Thanks, Robert.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.