Every year, teams celebrate as a collective 32 first-round picks enter the league. And there are 32 men watching from home, knowing they probably just lost their job to a younger, more exciting option.
That could have been Sam Bradford on Thursday. But he survived as the Rams' starting quarterback.
St. Louis passed on every quarterback with the second pick, and all but Blake Bortles with the 13th pick. Not only did they pass, they gave Bradford a stellar tackle in Greg Robinson with the second pick.
The Rams apparently weren't lying when they threw all their public support behind Bradford after there was speculation they were hot for Johnny Manziel. You can't rule out the Rams taking a quarterback in the second or third round, but even if they draft a second-day quarterback, the worst of the storm has passed for Bradford.
It's hard to believe any remaining quarterback would start for the Rams as a rookie, especially given the Rams' support the past few days. Bradford has at least another year to prove he can be the Rams' franchise quarterback.
Time will tell if that's the right move. Bradford has been average through his career, though he showed some good signs last season before tearing his ACL. The Rams have the makings of a championship-type nucleus, especially on the defensive line. But they're not going anywhere if Bradford isn't better than he has been through his first four years. It's clear he still has the team's confidence, though. That makes it a winning day for him.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from the first round of the NFL draft:
Ray Farmer: Farmer was thrust into the role of Browns general manager unexpectedly in the middle of the offseason, but he worked the first round of the draft like a veteran.
Farmer gladly took Buffalo's 2015 first-round pick and a fourth-rounder next year to move back five spots from No. 4 to No. 9. The move up to No. 8 to take cornerback Justin Gilbert was odd and probably unnecessary but it was a reasonably small cost of a fifth-round pick (compare that to the price Buffalo paid to go from No. 9 to 4), and Cleveland got the best corner in the draft. Then, when Johnny Manziel plummeted down the board, the Browns came to life and traded up to get the 22nd pick and selected Manziel.
Would it have been that crazy if the Browns drafted him No. 9? Not really. Getting him at No. 22 could be very good value. The Browns got the draft's top cornerback, a potential franchise quarterback and banked an extra first-round pick for 2015. Not a bad job for Farmer's first rodeo.
Matthew Stafford: No more excuses for Stafford, who has put up good numbers pretty much through the sheer volume of attempts he has made the past few years. If Stafford can't be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL with the supporting cast the Lions have given him, it's never going to happen.
Detroit, which had Calvin Johnson as its No. 1 receiver and signed Golden Tate this offseason, drafted tight end Eric Ebron with the 10th pick. No other tight end went in the first round. Ebron has great skills and will be a nightmare to cover because teams won't be able to give him extra attention. As a whole, not many teams can match Detroit's receiving corps, especially with the great Megatron leading it.
It's now or never, Matthew.
Brandin Cooks: Cooks was the kind of receiver who it seemed could really be a star if put in the right situation.
Well, he ended up in maybe the best situation.
The speedy receiver from Oregon State was drafted by the Saints, who traded up to get him. That shows how much they coveted him for their offense. Now Cooks gets to catch passes from Drew Brees, one of the best quarterbacks ever. And you can bet that coach Sean Payton, one of the best offensive minds in the game, will find some fun ways to use him. And the Saints didn't trade up for him to not have him in a big role right away.
You want to bet against Cooks winning offensive rookie of the year? I wouldn't.
Mike Glennon: Like Bradford, Glennon could sleep easier after the Buccaneers passed on a quarterback with the seventh pick. Tampa Bay had long been rumored to be interested in a QB in the first round, despite the fact that Glennon was the consensus all-rookie quarterback last year. Glennon already had his starting spot taken from him when the team signed Josh McCown, and another quarterback would have meant him being traded and starting over. Not only is he still in the Buccaneers' immediate plans, he got a vote of confidence from Lovie Smith.
"I love Mike Glennon. Mike Glennon is our quarterback of the future here," Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said, according to ESPN. "So why would you want to add a third quarterback to the mix?"
Not only that, but by the time Glennon gets the job full time he'll have Mike Evans, the seventh overall pick on Thursday, to throw to. Not bad.
NFC West quarterbacks: The 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals better take a moment before Friday's second round starts to make sure they have a plan to fix any offensive line issues. Because the Rams' front seven is coming.
St. Louis might have the best defensive line in the league after Thursday night. Robert Quinn and Chris Long are two dangerous ends. Michael Brockers is a space-eating tackle. And the Rams added Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who should provide a great interior pass rush against single blocking. All four of the Rams' starting linemen were drafted in the top half of the first round. Good luck blocking them all.
And if that wasn't enough, the Cardinals added to their already strong defense, taking hard-hitting safety Deone Bucannon with their first-round pick. The Cardinals secondary, with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, is also one of the league's best.
Life in the NFC West didn't get any easier on Thursday.
Johnny Manziel: Cleveland is the place where quarterback hope goes to die.
I hope Manziel breaks the Browns' incredible streak of ineptitude at quarterback. Manziel is good for the game, and it's fun that the Browns are now clearly one of the most interesting teams in the league. How long has it been since that was the case? But the history is what it is. Manziel will have to do what no other quarterback has done since the Browns re-entered the NFL in 1999, and that's succeed in Cleveland. Being a Texas guy in that Ohio weather won't help either. But the Browns have some weapons and Manziel has talent and moxie. Maybe he can break the curse.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers needed a receiver. Apparently nobody told them they need one right now.
Kelvin Benjamin is a good prospect, but he's raw. The Panthers took the Florida State receiver late in the first round. He'll be Cam Newton's top target by default. That doesn't mean Benjamin is ready for the job. While it seemed like Marqise Lee would be a good pick in that spot, and a little more polished, the Panthers took Benjamin.
He'll win some jump balls as a rookie but he Panthers need him to do everything. They don't have much else. If Benjamin takes some time to develop, Carolina's receiving group will be underwhelming. It's a mess the Panthers got themselves into by being passive about the problem all offseason. They better hope some of their speculative moves turn out to be right.
Buffalo Bills: I like Sammy Watkins. He should be a very good NFL receiver. But the price to get him was enormous.
The Bills traded their first-round pick and fourth-round pick in 2015 to move up five spots and draft Watkins, a very talented receiver. That's fine if you think you're a receiver away from being in the playoffs, but is that the case in Buffalo? There's just as good of a chance the Bills have a top-10 pick next year (sorry, Buffalo) and the Browns end up taking someone like Alabama receiver Amari Cooper with that pick. Would you rather have that pick and Ebron (he was there at No. 9) or Watkins? I like bold moves, and Watkins will be good, but there's gonna be some regret at this time next year.
Houston Texans: OK, let me explain. It's not that Jadeveon Clowney won't make the Texans better. He will. He's an instant impact player. But it seems like the Texans settled a bit.
There's no secret Houston was exploring a trade back. The Texans couldn't find a partner. Then you have to dissect what's true or completely false in the rumors that Houston preferred Khalil Mack over Clowney. Mack is a more natural fit in Houston's 3-4 scheme than Clowney, who was a 4-3 defensive end in college ("I fully expect that he will be an outside linebacker initially," Texans GM Rick Smith said about Clowney).
Then, when it looked like Teddy Bridgewater would fall to the Texans with the first pick of the second round, the Vikings moved up and took the Louisville quarterback from them. Maybe the Texans had no interest in Bridgewater, but they do need a quarterback and it seems like they might have got caught napping. The rumors that they have been talking about trading for Patriots backup Ryan Mallett, who hasn't proven anything in the NFL, aren't comforting.
There's nothing really wrong with the Texans taking Clowney and calling it a night. But did you expect them to do worse than that with the first pick? Given all the scenarios we heard associated with the Texans the past few weeks, their first round just seemed a bit underwhelming, that's all.
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