Far from its originally intended setting under the bright lights of Las Vegas, the NFL Draft lockdown version was played out in the quieter surroundings of the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut and into my living room in Twickenham in the early hours of this morning.
There was no shortage of drama, however, as Round 1 unfolded. Harry Connick, Jr performed the national anthem from a piano in his living room, before the commissioner, Roger Goodell opened the Draft from his study, declaring the Cincinnati Bengals “on the clock” with 15 minutes to submit their choice for first overall pick, the future of their franchise and the first of 32 lives that were about to be changed for good over the following three and a half hours.
This was a bit like Christmas morning for me – up at 4am with a huge amount of expectation after weeks of build up. Goodell was like Santa Claus, delivering presents to the 25 teams with picks in the first round (the other 7 had traded their picks away). He was just missing the Santa suit and obligatory drink, biscuit and carrot for Rudolph.
So, the highlights…
They have a local quarterback, Joe Burrow, fresh from the best season in college football history as the future of their franchise.
Chase Young is the best player in the draft, following the prolific pass rushers Nick and Joey Bosa as defensive dominators from Ohio State University into the NFL.
Ohio State and Alabama
These college powerhouses had a combined 9 players selected in the first round, cementing them as programs of choice for elite high school football talent. The top three picks this year were all team mates at Ohio State in 2017, before Burrow transferred to LSU.
Six were taken in Round 1, four in the first thirteen picks. Tampa Bay made the first trade of the round at #13 to grab Tristan Wirfs, a surprise faller, to protect their $50million investment in Tom Brady, recently signed from the Patriots.
My team, the Packers arguably owned the story of Day One, trading up four places to select Utah State QB Jordan Love. While Love is seen as a development prospect, NFL’s Ian Rapaport reports sources close to Rodgers suggest he is “beside himself” with Love’s selection, having been promised players would be picked to support him on offense. Unless Green Bay address this in Round 2 and also privately with their superstar quarterback, expect tension to grow. Rumours of a potential trade for Rodgers are already surfacing. The Patriots, having recently lost Tom Brady, might be waiting in the wings.
The teams with multiple picks:
Miami used their three picks wisely to address positions of need – QB Tua Tagovaiola, OT Austin Jackson and CB Noah Igbinoghene were all taken without the need to trade up. They go into the day needing a running back. With the fifth pick in Round 2, D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor and JK Dobbins all still available
L.A. Chargers took QB Justin Herbert at #6 and then traded their second and third round picks with New England to get back into the first round to take Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray at #23, which addressed a big need.
Jacksonville took one of the best cornerbacks in CJ Henderson at #9 and added the second best pass rusher in the Draft, K’Lavon Chaisson, at #20, an absolute steal.
San Francisco 49ers – John Lynch showed his shrewdness as a GM by taking Javon Kinlaw at #14 (he was expected to be a top 10 pick) and then traded up to #25 to snag WR Brandon Aiyuk, replacing two departed stars in DeForest Buckner (Colts) and Emmanuel Sanders (Saints) at a fraction of the cost.
Las Vegas Raiders and Minnesota Vikings both filled key positions at wide receiver and cornerback, the Raiders making Henry Ruggs III the surprise choice of first receiver taken.
Day Two kicks off tomorrow (Boxing Day?) with the second and third rounds. There are some very good players still available who can make an immediate impact.
Day Three wraps up the rest of the Draft with Rounds 4-7, concluding with the 254th pick, historically and slightly unkindly known as “Mr Irrelevant”.
He is actually one of the lucky few. Hundreds of prospects will spend the next couple of weeks as undrafted free agents, scrabbling to get on the roster of a team who could still make their dream come true.
Round 1 confirmed picks:
1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, Quarterback – LSU
2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, Edge – Ohio State
3. Detroit Lions – Jeff Okudah, Cornerback – Ohio State
4. New York Giants – Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle – Georgia
5. Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, QB - Alabama
6. L.A. Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB - Oregon
7. Carolina Panthers – Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle - Auburn
8. Arizona Cardinals – Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker/Safety – Clemson
9. Jacksonville Jaguars – CJ Henderson, CB - Florida
10. Cleveland Browns – Jedrick Wills, OT – Alabama
11. New York Jets – Mekhi Becton, OT – Louisville
12. Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver – Alabama
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tristan Wirfs, OT – Iowa (trade with 49ers)
14. San Francisco 49ers – Javon Kinlaw, DT – South Carolina (trade with Buccaneers)
15. Denver Broncos – Jerry Jeudy, WR – Alabama
16. Atlanta Falcons – AJ Terrell, CB – Clemson
17. Dallas Cowboys – CeeDee Lamb, WR – Oklahoma
18. Miami Dolphins – Austin Jackson, OT, USC
19. Las Vegas Raiders – Damon Arnette, CB – Ohio State
20. Jacksonville Jaguars – K’Lavon Chaisson, LB - LSU
21. Philadelphia Eagles – Jalen Reagor, WR - TCU
22. Minnesota Vikings – Justin Jefferson, WR - LSU
23. L.A. Chargers – Kenneth Murray, LB – Oklahoma (trade with Patriots)
24. New Orleans Saints – Cesar Ruiz, Center - Michigan
25. San Francisco 49ers – Brandon Aiyuk, WR – Arizona State (trade with Vikings)
26. Green Bay Packers – Jordan Love, QB – Utah State (trade with Dolphins)
27. Seattle Seahawks – Jordyn Brooks, LB – Texas Tech
28. Baltimore Ravens – Patrick Queen, LB – LSU
29. Tennessee Titans – Isaiah Wilson, OT - Georgia
30. Miami Dolphins – Noah Igbinoghene, CB – Auburn (trade with Packers)
31. Minnesota Vikings – Jeff Gladney, CB – TCU (trade with 49ers)
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB - LSU