NFL Draft 1st Round: Three Surprises from Pro Football’s Big Night

Luck landed in Indy and RG3 will light up the nation's capital, but not everything was completely predictable Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall.

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Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Trent Richardson from the University of Alabama holds up a jersey as he stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Cleveland Browns as the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft in New York, April 26, 2012

Early round musical chairs:

Andrew Luck went No. 1 overall to the Colts as everyone expected, but Indianapolis ended up being the only team in the top seven to pick at their original slot. Through a trade orchestrated long before Radio City Music Hall opened its doors to fans and prospects, the Washington Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III at No. 2, while a series of last minute deals saw the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles move up to snatch coveted players off the board early. Cleveland leapfrogged one spot to lock down Alabama running back Trent Richardson at No. 3, leaving the Minnesota Vikings with extra picks and USC tackle Matt Kalil at No. 4; Jacksonville flipped picks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to get Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon fifth overall, while the Cowboys secured LSU corner Morris Claiborne 6th. Philadelphia finagled Miss. st. D-lineman Fletcher Cox at 12 and even the New England Patriots, known for moving back to take later-round value picks, traded up twice to shore up their weak defense. There weren’t many head-spinning selections Thursday night, especially at the top of the round, but the frenetic swapping kept things interesting. Indeed, the 19 trades that took place in the first round (admittedly, three of them occurred last year) were the most in the NFL since the 1970 merger.

(MORE: Q&A: Washington D.C.’s NFL Savior, Robert Griffin III)

The other QBs:

At 1 and 2 respectively, Luck and Griffin were the no-brainer picks of the night. But the other two quarterbacks to go in the first round were far more intriguing. The Dolphins selected Texas A&M slinger Ryan Tannehill at No. 8 overall, laying their franchise’s hopes on an extremely promising but largely untested QB, who only started 19 games in college after converting from wide receiver. If anyone knows how to shape his potential, it’s Miami’s coaching staff: head coach Joe Philbin developed Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn in Green Bay, while offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was Tannehill’s head coach at A&M. The Browns, meanwhile, showed brazenness on the other end of the experience spectrum, drafting 28-year-old Brandon Weeden, the oldest player ever taken in the NFL’s first round, at 22 overall. A former baseball prospect who spent time in the minor leagues, Weeden landed at Oklahoma State, where he put together a stellar 11-1 season in his senior year–he even out-gunned Luck in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl. But not too many guys start NFL careers at Weeden’s age.

A Seattle stunner:

A junior college transfer with three seasons at linebacker in West Virginia and a dodgy off-field record that included jail time for robbing a drug dealer’s house, pass rush specialist Bruce Irvin surely set off some teams’ bust alarms despite showing considerable upside. Seattle was apparently unfazed by the cautionary tales, and picked Irvin at No. 15 in the only complete shocker of the night. Most draftboard geeks had him going in the 2nd round if not lower, but a shortage of pure pass rushers and head coach Pete Carroll’s penchant for high-risk plays landed Irvin in the first round. “This is the kind of guy that puts fear in offensive tackles,” Carroll said. He’s also the kind of guy who puts fear in wary general managers.

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