Big prospects fall in first round
NEW YORK (AP) - There were plenty of big names missing from the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night: Manti Te'o, Geno Smith, Matt Barkley.
And every running back in this year's crop.
The biggest surprise might have been quarterbacks Smith and Barkley being trumped by Florida State's EJ Manuel, who was the only QB selected. The last time just one went in the first round was 2001, when Michael Vick was the first overall pick.
Teams might have been scared away from Te'o because of the Notre Dame linebacker's poor performance in a championship game rout at the hands of Alabama. Or because of the fake girlfriend hoax he was ensnared in and which became a national soap opera.
Smith looked like a lock to be selected not only in the opening round, but with a high choice, when West Virginia got off to a sensational start last season. But he slumped, as did the Mountaineers, and his stock dropped.
Barkley was projected as a high pick last year had he skipped his final season at Southern California. He stayed, the Trojans struggled and Barkley injured his throwing shoulder.
With questions about his arm strength and poise in the pocket, he slipped out of the first round.
The top-rated running back was Eddie Lacy of Alabama, and unlike three Crimson Tide teammates taken in a row (ninth-11th), he was ignored. It was the first time since 1963 that no running back went in the opening round.
Other highly rated players not selected Thursday included linebackers Arthur Brown of Kansas State and Kevin Minter of LSU; tight end Zach Ertz of Stanford; tackle Menelik Watson of Florida State; and defensive lineman Damontre Moore of Texas A&M.
Lacy, Smith and Watson were at Radio City Music Hall.
REUNION OF SORTS: Offensive tackle Lane Johnson, picked fourth overall by Philadelphia out of Oklahoma, is looking forward to a reunion of sorts in the Eagles' NFC East matchups against the New York Giants.
In 2008, Johnson played his first junior college game for Kilgore (Texas) - as a quarterback - against Fort Scott (Kan.). He recalls looking at the scouting report and seeing the opponent had a 6-foot-6 defensive end named Jason Pierre-Paul.
``Nobody knew about him,'' Johnson said. ``He got on the field and did a back flip, and I think everybody kind of figured out what he's about.''
Now Johnson, in his new position, looks forward to trying to block the Giants' Pierre-Paul, who also developed into a first-round pick (in 2010) from that meeting almost five years ago.
FOREIGN FLAVOR: Ziggy Ansah and Bjoern Werner hail from countries where football - well, American football - doesn't rule. Neither has played football for long, but both are now first-round NFL draft picks.
Ansah, from Ghana, didn't play the sport until 2010 when he walked on at BYU. He was a quick learner: The defensive end was the fifth overall pick, going to the Detroit Lions.
``A crazy journey,'' he called it.
Werner, from Germany, picked up the sport at age 15. The defensive end from Florida State went 24th to Indianapolis.
TOP GUYS: Three schools are tied for the most overall No. 1 picks in the NFL draft: Auburn, Notre Dame and Southern California. None of them came close to the first spot this year, and only Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert went in the opening round from those three schools.
Auburn's most recent player leading off the selections was QB Cam Newton by Carolina in 2011. Before Newton, it was LB Aundray Bruce by Atlanta (1988); RB Bo Jackson by Tampa Bay (1986); RB Tucker Frederickson by the New York Giants (1965); and guard Ken Rice by Buffalo in the AFL (1961).
For Notre Dame, it was QB Angelo Bertelli by the Boston Yanks in 1944; QB Frank Dancewicz by the same team two years later; end Leon Hart by Detroit (1950); RB-K Paul Hornung by Green Bay (1957); and DE Walt Patulski by Buffalo (1973).
Southern Cal's top overall picks began with OT Ron Yary in 1968 by Minnesota, followed by RB O.J. Simpson by Buffalo the next year; RB Ricky Bell by Tampa Bay (1977); WR Keyshawn Johnson by the New York Jets (1996); and QB Carson Palmer by Cincinnati (2003).
FAMILY AFFAIR: Oregon guard Kyle Long was chosen 20th overall by Chicago. He joins older brother Chris Long, a defensive end with St. Louis, in the NFL.
They are the sons of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long. It's the first time a Hall of Famer had two sons chosen in the draft. Chris was taken second overall in 2008.
SECOND-ROUND VALUE: A study conducted by Worcester Polytechnic Institute says there's more value for second-round draft picks than first-rounders.
The analysis of the past 13 seasons shows that second-rounders provide 70 percent of the production of first-round picks but at just 40 percent of the salary.
``That's a significant value and it tells me that general managers should give more value to second- and third-round picks,'' said Craig Wills, the head of WPI's Department of Computer Science.
The study by WPI students Casey Barney, Anthony Caravella, Michael Cullen and Gary Jackson, also concluded that the Pittsburgh Steelers have been the most cost-effective team in the drafting since 2000. The Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers are next, while the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns ranked as least efficient.
As part of the study, WPI researchers developed a football metric called Appearance Score, a weighted combination of games played, games started and recognition as a top player. Highlighting the value of non-first-round picks, two of the top three players in Appearance Score last season were sixth-round draft picks in 2012: Washington running back Alfred Morris and Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh.
Third was Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, who went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
In addition to team rankings, researchers focused on positions, and found that safeties provide the greatest value to teams.
CHARACTER ISSUES: Every general manager and personnel director in the NFL can't look solely at a player's on-field achievements. His performances away from the stadium are significant, particularly when there have been problems.
Several players in this draft have had such troubles, including Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and Tennessee Tech receiver Da'Rick Rogers. Only Ogletree was chosen in the opening round, by St. Louis.
``Well, I think they're 21, 22-year-old kids, so none of them are going to be perfect,'' Broncos boss John Elway said. ``It comes down to what you feel like and what's the best package.
``My philosophy has always been as long as that core group in our locker room is strong enough, everyone else is going to have to fall in line. It's when you have a divided locker room that you have issues with different guys that may have maturity issues or that type of thing down the line. It's real important for us to have a real good core group of guys in that locker room, which is to say that we look at everybody and evaluate everybody as a player and also their personal character and see where they'd fit in.''
Colts GM Ryan Grigson said his staff considers every possible draftee, then does a thorough evaluation that goes beyond the physical talents.
``We take into account if a guy has mental issues, mental concerns, if those are going to be concerns for us,'' Grigson said. ``Can we get him the right help and support system that will get him to be where he can function on this team and be a good teammate and a player? So we take all those things into account.''