The draft process of the National Football League started last Thursday and wrapped up this past weekend. We saw a third-round offensive lineman picked in the first, when the top-rated quarterback didn’t. A 300-pounder from Central Michigan was drafted first overall and a Heisman runner-up was left out completely of the 254 total picks. You get the point; the NFL Draft is an unpredictable process that not even the “experts” can forecast. With that knowledge, though, there were still a few things that left me stunned after the conclusion of this year’s draft.
1) EJ Manuel – QB, Buffalo Bills
According to NFL.com and their writers, Manuel was rated at 68.7 (out of 100), which is good for seventh place among the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. ESPN’s draft guru Todd McShay predicted that the Bills would draft former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib at No. 8 considering that Buffalo’s head coach (Doug Marrone) just finished coaching the Orange and Nassib in 2012. At best, people expected Manuel to be drafted in the second or third round.
However, the Bills took Manuel at No. 16 (after trading down in the round) and made him the first quarterback taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. It’s not that the former Florida State QB is bad, it’s the fact that guys named Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Nassib and Mike Glennon were all on the board when he was chosen. On the bright side, Manuel’s gotten comparisons to Panthers QB and former-Heisman winner Cam Newton.
2) Eric Fisher – OL, Kansas City Chiefs
Ever since the college football season ended, Texas A&M offensive lineman Luke Joeckel was predicted to go first overall in the draft to the Chiefs. His scouting combine performance further cemented this speculation. And then April 24th rolled around – the day before the draft began – and a rumor came out that Fisher would be selected first by Kansas City instead of Joeckel.
Now, let me introduce you to Eric Fisher. When he was a senior in high school, ESPN graded him as “not rated,” meaning that scouts viewed him as unimportant. Rivals.com gave Fisher two out of five stars as a recruit. Hailing from the state of Michigan, Fisher attended Central Michigan University after the big-deal football programs that dominate his state didn’t want him. Now, he’s the first non-BCS player to be taken first overall since Alex Smith of Utah in 2005. Good for him, but totally didn’t see this coming.
3) Ziggy Ansah – DE, Detroit Lions
This Ghanian-born athlete first came to America attempting to make it as a basketball player. He originally attended Brigham Young University to try out for their basketball team, but was cut in 2008 and 2009 from the team. He then tried track where he ran the 100 meters in 10.91 seconds until he was convinced to try out for BYU’s football team. This was 2010. Ansah had never put on football pads in his lifetime before this year. In his sophomore and junior seasons at BYU, he compiled a total of 10 tackles as a backup defensive end. During Ansah’s senior season, he saw more playing time only because the starting noseguard on the defensive line got injured.
The rest is history. Ziggy totaled 62 tackles and 4.5 sacks in nine games as a starter for the BYU defense. The Detroit Lions took the 6-foot-5-inch, 270-pound freak athlete with the fifth pick overall in the draft. Now, he will be playing alongside Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on a dirty, mean D-line. For a foreign-born basketball player who was introduced to the sport just three years ago to be drafted to an NFL team behind just four other players? That’s astounding.
4) Heisman runners-up falling fast
Tyrann Mathieu finished fifth in the 2011 Heisman Trophy voting as a sophomore defensive back – finishing higher than notable names like Matt Barkley, LaMichael James and Russell Wilson. The Honey Badger also won the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the defensive player of the year, in 2011. In 2013, he was drafted in the third round, 69th overall.
Manti Te’o finished second overall in the Heisman voting last year and was the closest defensive player to win the award since Charles Woodson in 1997. He led his Notre Dame team to an undefeated record during the regular season, only to lose to powerhouse Alabama in the national title game. Te’o also took home the Bednarik Award last season (along with the Lott, Maxwell, Camp, Nagurski, Butkus and Lombardi Awards – no, really). In 2013, he was drafted in the second round, 38th overall.
Collin Klein finished third in that same Heisman race in 2012, right behind Te’o, and would’ve been the best quarterback in college football if Johnny Football didn’t exist. He tied Ricky Williams for the most rushing TDs in a single season by a Big 12 player – that’s a QB matching a running back, FYI. Klein took home the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (best senior quarterback) and the Kellen Moore Award (quarterback of the year) this season as well. In 2013, he went undrafted and signed by the Texans.
I could go on and on, but do you see my point? These are top players at their respective positions who deserve to be, and should have been, drafted earlier than they did. Maybe this is why I’m in college and not in an NFL team’s “war room,” but I am shocked that these three players fell as low as they did, no matter what background history they have. It’s pure talent being left on the board.
5) Vikings get three first-rounders
Sometimes teams trade up or down using their late round picks to get more selections where they desire. The Vikings must have had a vision of the top-caliber players that they still wanted after they drafted Shariff Floyd 23rd overall. The Vikes ended up successfully acquiring two more first-round picks at No. 25 and 29, snagging cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, respectively. Floyd was projected to go in the top five in some mock drafts, Rhodes was regarded as the second-best defensive back in this draft class, and Patterson is widely the best wide receiver coming out of college. That’s a pretty good draft if you ask me, and it was still the first of the three days.