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First round of NFL draft is a rush to judgment

By Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times –

NEW YORK — The NFL, a league that has long embraced its tradition, tried something new Thursday night.

A no-huddle draft.

The picks were coming so fast and furious, at one point Commissioner Roger Goodell had a backlog of three picks in his suit pocket. And the first is usually the slowest, most contemplative round. The league might need an auctioneer Friday for Rounds 2 and 3.

The first round ended in three hours, a tidy made-for-prime-time span. Amazingly, that was an hour slower than the fastest opening round on record, in 1972, when there were six fewer franchises.

Thursday’s round still went lightning-fast, but not as scripted. After the expected — quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III going first and second to Indianapolis and Washington — the next five teams were involved in trades.

Luck acknowledged the challenge of replacing future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning with the Colts.

“He’s arguably the greatest ever,” the Stanford star said. “He was my football hero growing up. I realize you don’t replace a guy like that. Those shoes to fill are huge. I’m not going to go crazy trying to do everything that Peyton did.”

Just as Manning calls all sorts of audibles at the line of scrimmage, teams throughout the first round made significant tweaks and adjustments. Fourteen draft spots were affected by trades, and there were 19 swaps in all, surpassing the previous mark of 15 for most in the modern era.

Another possible record: The agreeable Griffin stayed around for two hours of interviews after he was selected — reporters hailing from Waco, Texas, to Tokyo.

“There have been great quarterbacks that have had terrible rookie years,” he said. “I don’t want to be that guy. I’m going to make sure I do everything to make sure I’m not that guy.”

Cleveland, which began the day with the fourth pick, started the trading frenzy by switching positions with No. 3 Minnesota to take Alabama running back Trent Richardson — thereby ensuring Tampa Bay couldn’t trade up and get him.

That left the Vikings in position to take the player they wanted all along, USC tackle Matt Kalil, who comes to a team that surrendered 49 sacks last season and has a lot invested in second-year quarterback Christian Ponder.

During his celebration on the stage of Radio City Music Hall, Kalil got a bearhug from his older brother, Ryan, Pro Bowl center with the Carolina Panthers.

“He’s just proud of me,” the younger Kalil said. “He’s my No. 1 fan, so it was definitely fun hugging him through that whole moment and kind of celebrating with everyone who’s helped me throughout my whole life to get where I am today.”

Kalil’s Trojans teammate, defensive end Nick Perry, was taken 28th by Green Bay, where he’s expected to be a bookend to fellow USC alumnus Clay Matthews.

The Packers had been thought to be targeting Boise State defensive lineman Shea McClellin, who was chosen by Chicago at No. 19.

With Richardson off the board, Tampa Bay bailed out of the fifth pick, allowing Jacksonville to move up two spots to select Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, who won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top college receiver the last two seasons.

Dallas, meanwhile, made an aggressive move up to the sixth spot to intercept the top-rated defensive back, Morris Claiborne of Louisiana State. The last two years, the Cowboys had the worst pass defense in team history.

The Buccaneers followed that by taking the best safety in the draft, Alabama’s Mark Barron, who some scouts have compared to a young Ronnie Lott, the Hall of Fame safety in the glory days of the San Francisco 49ers.

That opened the door for Miami to take the third quarterback of the first round — and there would be four — in Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, a converted receiver who played quarterback for only one full season.

It was Cleveland that took the fourth quarterback of the opening round, using the No. 22 pick on Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, 28, a former professional baseball player.

The most surprising pick of the night was made by Seattle at No. 15. The Seahawks selected West Virginia linebacker Bruce Irvin, a spectacular pass rusher with a checkered past. According to multiple reports, Irvin was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and destruction of property in March, a day after his pro day. He was projected by many scouts to go in the second round.

Another player who went earlier than many evaluators expected was Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, a 350-pound workout warrior whose game tape didn’t match his phenomenal performance at the combine.

With the 18th pick, San Diego landed South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram, a ferocious pass rusher some draftniks thought could go as early as No. 7 to Jacksonville, before the Jaguars were involved in that flurry of trades.

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