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Top 10 surprises through first three rounds

by | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

From the surprising run on quarterbacks in the top 12 picks to the high-profile players who slipped, the first three rounds of the NFL Draft have been chock full of drama.

A look at the 10 biggest surprises from the first three rounds.

10. Arms race Teams anticipated four to five quarterbacks going in the first round, but the rapid fashion in which they went off the board remains the big story of the first three rounds. It also set other teams to capitalize on prospects who slid as a result. With Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder coming off the board within the first 12 picks, the Lions and Rams were able to snag defensive linemen Nick Fairley and Robert Quinn, respectively. Both were top 10 prospects.

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9. Mallett takes a tumble Having broken every meaningful single-season passing record in University of Arkansas history and leading the SEC in passing touchdowns each of the past two seasons, Ryan Mallett was projected by many to be a top 10 pick. To see him slip all the way to the New England Patriots with the No. 74 overall pick, however, speaks to the concerns teams clearly had about his lack of athleticism and the perception that he lacks the intangibles necessary to be a successful NFL quarterback.

8. Falcons' bold move I admire the Falcons' aggression in trading up for Alabama wideout Julio Jones, but investing five picks into any one player other than a quarterback is too steep a price to pay. Jones is certainly in an ideal situation to succeed. He'll be surrounded by talent, but for a receiver with legitimate concerns about the consistency of his route-running and hands, the Falcons' decision to go for broke could come back to bite them next year when the Cleveland Browns are re-tooling their roster with Atlanta's first- and fourth-round picks.

7. Locker before Gabbert I have been as high on Washington quarterback Jake Locker as just about anyone, but I certainly didn't anticipate that he'd be picked before Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated quarterback and No. 10-rated overall prospect.

6. Bowers' freefall In leading the country with 15.5 sacks last season, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers was once viewed as a potential top five pick, and perhaps even a candidate to go No. 1 overall (in full disclosure, he graced the cover of Lindy's draft magazine, produced by NFLDraftScout.com). Instead, concern over the long-term health of his right knee dropped the All-American to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 51st pick. Bowers' infinitely less-hyped former linemate, Jarvis Jenkins, was selected 10 spots earlier (Washington), adding insult to injury.

5. Chiefs channel their inner Bengals With the notable exception of two-time Jacobs Blocking Trophy recipient Rodney Hudson with the 55th overall selection, the Kansas City Chiefs took several players known more for their exploits off the field than their production on it. The Chiefs could wind up getting the last laugh, as wide receiver Jon Baldwin (No. 26), outside linebacker Justin Houston (No. 70) and Allen Bailey (No. 86) certainly have the raw athleticism to warrant the selections. None, however, were the type of high-effort players that general manager Scott Pioli has typically drafted in the past.

4. Saints prove rich can get richer If a draft could be graded simply on name recognition of the players selected (and, of course, it shouldn't be), no team has enjoyed a better first two days than the New Orleans Saints. They found a scheme-diverse defensive lineman in California's Cameron Jordan with the No. 24 overall pick for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to get creative with. They traded back into the first round four picks later to nab 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, the top running back in the draft. The Saints added another first-round caliber athlete in linebacker Martez Wilson (Illinois) with their third-round pick, No. 72 overall.

With these three making up a virtual Who's Who in the Pac-10, SEC and Big 10, the Saints painted their masterpiece with broad strokes. Adding Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick with their final pick of the day (No. 88 overall) only adds to their talented class.

3. Labor impact With no CBA in place, teams will not be able to sign undrafted players as free agents. As such, some have theorized that clubs could be aggressive in their pursuit of Day Three picks. The Seattle Seahawks, thus far, were the most successful team in doing so. Seattle traded down from their second-round pick (No. 57) overall with Detroit (Illinois' RB Mikel LeShoure) and in doing so added third- and fourth-round picks, as well as flip-flopping fifth- and seventh-round picks with the Lions. The move gave the Lions a power back to pair with 2010 first-rounder Jahvid Best. It also gives Seattle seven picks for Saturday, after having only used two picks thus far (Alabama OT James Carpenter, Wisconsin OG John Moffitt).

2. Jets engage in trench warfare Primarily due to boasting the league's top shut-down cornerback in Darrelle Revis and a brilliant defensive coach in Rex Ryan, the Jets rode their suffocating defense to consecutive AFC championship games. Though they accumulated a respectable 40 sacks last season, it was expected the Jets would look to add a pass-rushing outside linebacker, especially considering Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor are aging, the release of former first-round pick of Vernon Gholston and the unlikely retention of Bryan Thomas. Pace, entering his 10th season, led the Jets with 5.5 sacks last season. Rather than add a pass rusher, however, the Jets focused on the defensive line, adding potential five-techniques in Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson (No. 30) and Hampton's Kenrick Ellis (No. 94).

1. The Butte of no jokes Serving as great evidence that NFL talent comes from programs other than top BCS teams, there were as many former Butte Junior College Roadrunners drafted in the first three rounds as there were from the two teams that competed in the 2011 BCS title game. Butte, which is where Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers played his collegiate ball before moving on to Cal, boasted the likes of offensive lineman Danny Watkins (Philadelphia, No. 23 overall) and running back Alex Green (Green Bay, No. 96) before they moved on to success at Baylor and Hawaii, respectively. No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton starred at Auburn, of course, as did defensive tackle Nick Fairley, taken No. 13 overall by the Lions. The Oregon Ducks, however, have yet to have a player drafted in 2011. Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.


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