Shutdown Corner

Offensive and defensive linemen dominate the top of the NFL draft

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

For casual NFL fans, the first hour of the draft was a snooze.

It went lineman, lineman, lineman, lineman, lineman, lineman, lineman. Not too many jerseys are were sold over the first seven picks of the draft.

This draft had almost no star power at the top. There were no can't-miss quarterbacks at the top. No star running backs like Trent Richardson. No game-breaking receiver. The Rams traded up to the eighth pick to select receiver Tavon Austin and finally break the lineman run, a welcomed sight to anyone who likes following the players who touch the ball.

[Photos: Biggest first-round NFL draft busts]

But hardcore football fans will understand, the first seven picks represent life in the NFL. You better be able to rush the quarterback on defense and protect the quarterback on offense, or you have no chance.

Three of the first four picks were athletic offensive tackles. Eric Fisher went to the Chiefs first overall, Luke Joeckel went to Jacksonville second and Lane Johnson went to Philadelphia fourth. That's the first time since 1968 offensive linemen were taken with three of the first four picks of the draft. With the seventh pick, Arizona took guard Jonathan Cooper, an agile player who can help the mess that was the Cardinals' pass protection last year. After Austin went eighth and cornerback Dee Milliner went to the Jets at No. 9, another linemen was selected. The Titans took guard Chance Warmack 10th overall.

All those linemen were being snapped up because other teams are loading up with pass rushers.

The Dolphins continued general manager Jeff Ireland's "all in" offseason and traded up to the third overall pick, then shocked everyone by drafting defensive end Dion Jordan, who might be a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Jordan wasn't exceptionally productive at Oregon, but he's the kind of athlete who can get after the quarterback. BYU's Ziggy Ansah, one of the great all-time draft stories from Ghana who picked up football after he couldn't make the Cougars' basketball team, is a ridiculous athlete off the edge. Then Cleveland took Barkevious Mingo sixth overall. Like the two ends taken before him, Mingo didn't have a ton of sacks last year at LSU, but teams are willing to gamble if it means finding the next great pass rusher.

Those moves might not be sexy, but they're smart. If the next great quarterback isn't there –and this year wasn't the year to try to speculate on that possibility – get the next best thing: the big guys that can get after the quarterback, or the big guys who can protect your own passer. That's life in the current wide-open NFL.


More NFL draft coverage on Yahoo! Sports:

E.J. Manuel, first QB taken, shares moment with cancer-survivor mom
D.J. Hayden goes from near death to 12th NFL draft pick
Chiefs take Eric Fisher with top pick in NFL draft
Rams trade up to snag WVU WR Tavon Austin
Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball
View Comments