If you’re a fellow draft nerd like myself, you figured that there would be plenty of surprises in the first round on Thursday night. Here are five that caught me off guard.
1. The Falcons trade two drafts worth of picks for Julio Jones.
The fact that the Falcons traded into the top 10 wasn’t surprising. There were pre-draft reports that suggested they would do just that. The fact that they traded 72 picks in order to climb up in order to take him…wow. Make no mistake: Julio Jones is a stud and he’s going to look real good in an offense that already consists of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. But a first, second and a fourth this year, plus a first and a fourth next year is a TON to give up for one player. But hey, GM Thomas Dimitroff knows he has a Super Bowl-caliber roster and he just added an impact player. The loss to the Packers in the playoffs last year proved just how badly the Falcons needed a deep threat that could stretch the defense. Jones fills that need instantly; he just better pan out.
2. Titans take Jake Locker at No. 8.
With Vince Young heading out of town, everyone knew a quarterback was an option for Tennessee at No. 8. But the fact that they passed on Blaine Gabbert, who was arguably the better QB prospect, for Jake Locker was a surprise that not many people saw coming. That said, had Locker came out last year he would have probably be the No. 1 overall pick. But since he struggled as a senior at Washington, draft observers thought he would go in the late first round, or possibly even slip into the second. The Titans obviously were incredibly high on him and he’s going to bring a lot of excitement to Tennessee – at least initially. But consider this: if Locker doesn’t pan out and Gabbert does, not only will it set the Titans back, but Gabbert (whom Tennessee’s AFC South rivals the Jaguars traded up to take at No. 10) could wind up haunting them for years.
3. The Vikings pull the trigger on Christian Ponder.
For three months I’ve written that the Vikings would take a quarterback at No. 3. (Hey, this back isn’t going to pat itself…plus I’m wrong so often that I need to point out the few times I’m right.) And given Leslie Frazier’s pre-draft comments, you got the sense that Minnesota wanted to draft and start a rookie signal caller. That said, Ponder was a third round prospect in February. Granted, his stock has been on the rise since the combine and the fact that he went in the first round wasn’t all that surprising. But I wonder if Jake Locker had fallen would the Vikings have taken him instead. In other words, was Ponder even at the top of Minnesota’s draft board? Either way, Ponder is a great fit for new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who will run a version of the West Coast Offense. It was still a surprise he went that high, but Minnesota needed to land their signal caller of the future in this draft and they did.
4. Lions take back-to-back DTs in first round.
The Lions have a habit of loading up at one position in the first round, don’t they? It doesn’t seem that long ago that Matt Millen was loading up on receivers and now Martin Mayhew is stockpiling defensive tackles. But hey, as I tweeted after Detroit took Nick Fairley: If you can’t cover anybody, you better be able to get after the quarterback. The Lions had a major need at cornerback, but they’re going to have one hell of an interior defensive line if Fairley develops. Still, with Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Sammie Lee Hill and now Fairley, it was surprising that Mayhew went back-to-back DTs for the second consecutive year.
5. Prince Amukamara fell to pick No. 19.
I thought Amukamara would go No. 7 to the 49ers and if he didn’t, I figured he wouldn’t get past the Cowboys at No. 9. If somehow he got past Dallas at No. 9, I thought there was zero chance he would fall any further than No. 13 to the Lions. So of course the young man fell all the way to No. 19 to the Giants. Shows how much I know, although in my defense, many draft observers had the Prince going much higher than 19. Just based on his talent, he could wind up being the steal of the first round.
Honorable Mention: The Redskins pass on Blaine Gabbert by trading the No. 10 pick to the Jaguars…who took Blaine Gabbert; Aldon Smith goes No. 7 to 49ers; The Seahawks draft James Carpenter at No. 25; Cam Jordan falls to the Saints at No. 24.