A number of things worth mentioning surfaced during the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday.
1. I discussed with commissioner Roger Goodell the May 8 start date for the draft and how it gave injured players more time to prove they would be ready for the 2014 season. It seems most clubs used the time constructively. Goodell agreed and said he got a lot more positive feedback from clubs than was being reported. I got the feeling the May draft is here to stay.
2. I interviewed 18 of the first-round picks moments after they were drafted and a number of the young men really impressed me. Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel both have a leadership quality about them that I believe veteran players in Jacksonville and Cleveland will respect.
Jake Matthews was quick to point out that not only was he the only Matthews man to attend the draft but he was the highest-drafted member of the Matthews family tree. I asked him if he could stay in the league the longest and he shook his head and said, "Nineteen years, wow, I don't know."
Two of the players who stopped by had an edge about them that reminded me of enforcer types. Calvin Pryor, the new Jets safety, and Ryan Shazier of the Steelers had a look in their eye like "get ready NFL, I'm going to do some damage." I told Pryor to bring his checkbook to the games (for fines) and he just smiled and nodded his head up and down.
3. The Vikings did it right when they traded lower into the first round and only gave up their second-round pick and a fourth to select Teddy Bridgewater. Now they get him for four years with an option for a fifth. There will be no rush to put him out on the field early. If they selected him in the second round, the clock would be ticking on a three-year deal. Also, they moved ahead of the Texans, who will be looking for a quarterback Friday if they don't trade for one.
4. Two surprise picks I get. Few of us who do mock drafts had Marcus Smith or Deone Bucannon going in the first round. I interviewed both this past spring -- plus watched tape as well as spent time with them at the Senior Bowl -- and I get why they went in the first round.
Smith is a former quarterback turned outside linebacker and his knowledge of route progressions and how to play coverage's was only outdone by the things he knew about rushing the passer. He talked about how he quickly recognized the quarterback's cadence and audibles to change protections and he had a great sense of what quarterbacks would do under pressure and where they would escape. That football intelligence (FBI) led to 14 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss as well as four forced fumbles. Anytime an athlete like Smith makes 32 plays behind the line of scrimmage in 13 games we should have all seen this pick coming.
As for Bucannon he was in a thin draft class of safeties and registered close to 400 tackles in his college career. For those who painted him as a box safety please explain the 15 interceptions, which were more than Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor combined.
My top 15 left on the board:
1. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
2. Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California
3. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
4. Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
5. Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
6. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
7. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
8. Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
9. Morgan Moses OT, Virginia
10. Tom Savage, QB, Pitt
11. Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
12. Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
13. Marcus Martin, C, USC
14. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
15. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU