NFL draft: Tebow steals the first NFL draft show in prime time
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — Tim Tebow brought down the house at Radio City Music Hall — and he wasn't even in the building.
Until Tebow was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the No. 25 pick, the opening 2½ hours of the first NFL draft in prime time Thursday night went almost according to form.
Sam Bradford was the first pick, going to the St. Louis Rams, who desperately need a starting quarterback, not to mention better players at most other positions.
The Big 12 Conference took control of the first round with nine first-rounders. Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska, the standout defensive player in the draft, went to Detroit with the No. 2 pick.
Sure, there were a few surprises, such as Jacksonville using its No. 10 pick on California defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and the New York Giants going for inexperienced South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
But about 10:15 p.m., with Denver on the clock after swinging a deal with Baltimore, a big screen TV flashed to Tebow and his family at a home in Jacksonville, Fla. The Florida quarterback was on a cell phone and nearly everyone in the room was putting on a Broncos cap.
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walked to the podium and announced that the Broncos had indeed selected Tebow, the roar of the crowd — mixed boos and cheers — would have made the Rockettes kick up their heels.
Tebow was the biggest question mark in the draft, and some thought Jacksonville might even go for him to boost sagging ticket sales. Others thought he could drop as low as the third round. The knock: a questionable throwing motion and he starred in a non-pro style offense with the Gators.
But the Broncos and coach Josh McDaniels went all in on Tebow. Three picks earlier, the Broncos took Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. This past week, McDaniels raved about the left-handed Tebow, who has developed a new passing motion that allows him to drop back with the ball at his shoulder instead of near his hip and release it quicker.
Tebow likely will be a work in progress as the Broncos already have Kyle Orton and recently acquired Brady Quinn.
The Lions certainly helped themselves in the first round when they acquired the No. 30 pick in a trade with Minnesota. Detroit tabbed California's Jahvid Best, the third running back chosen. C.J. Spiller of Clemson went to Buffalo at No. 9, and Ryan Mathews of Fresno State went to San Diego at No. 12 after a trade with Miami. Best has been hampered by concussions, but he's among the fastest backs when healthy.
San Francisco and Seattle also ended up with two first-rounders. The 49ers probably got themselves two starters on the offensive line in Mike Iupati of Idaho at No. 17 and Anthony Davis of Rutgers at No. 11. The Seahawks, under new coach Pete Carroll, made Russell Okung, a 6-foot-5, 307-pounder from Oklahoma State, their first pick. Seattle filled another need at No. 14 by picking All-American safety Earl Thomas of Texas.
Early on, after a pre-draft red carpet walk of Hall of Famers and future stars, the draft delivered few surprises despite lots of chatter about trades, including possible deals for suspended Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Browns did attempt to move up to get cornerback Eric Berry, but the Chiefs selected him with the No. 5 pick. Cleveland was just fine with cornerback Joe Haden of Florida at No. 7.
The Jaguars tossed in the first eye-opener by selecting Alualu. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Alualu has shown flashes of being a dynamic pass rusher, and the Jaguars hope he can become a consistent one after his new team had a league-low 14 sacks last season.
NFL losers of a year ago did well in the first round. Rounds two and three are Friday night and the remaining four rounds are Saturday.
Bradford led the Big 12 parade, which totaled nine first-rounders — four from Oklahoma.
The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner played three games last season before needing right shoulder surgery. But the 6-4, 236-pounder should step right in and start for a team that went 1-15 and then released quarterback Marc Bulger. The Rams recently signed A.J. Feeley, and also have inexperienced Keith Null and Mike Reilly.
Bradford has a quick release and is quite accurate on the short and medium passes. He should fit in well with coach Steve Spagnuolo's offense.
Suh can do wonders for the Lions. The AP Player of the Year stands 6-4 and weighs 307 pounds. The one-man wrecking crew who nearly beat Texas single-handedly in the Big 12 title game certainly help a defense that surrendered a whopping 494 points last year.
Back to Oklahoma for the next two picks, with Tampa Bay going for Sooners DT Gerald McCoy and Washington taking OU offensive tackle Trent Williams.
The Bucs were last against the run in going 3-13 last season — their worst finish since 1991. McCoy should slip right into coach Raheem Morris' 4-3 defense and could be a dominating force thanks to his speed.
The Redskins will do all they can to protect new quarterback Donovan McNabb, acquired from Philadelphia. So they went with Williams, a 6-5, 315-pounder who should start at right tackle as he'll replace the retired Chris Samuels.
Williams becomes the first player drafted under the new Redskins regime of coach Mike Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen.
Kansas City went to the SEC for its pick. In Berry, the Chiefs got the top safety in the draft, and one who can run a defense. The 6-0, 211-pound All-American is a hard, physical player who seems to make all the right reads. Even if he makes only a few in his rookie season, Kansas City will still be a better team. The Chiefs can use a linebacker or offensive lineman the next time their draft number comes around.
New Browns president Mike Holmgren and coach Eric Mangini went for Haden, a 5-11, 193-pound junior with excellent ball skill who can also be a return man. Cleveland had nine more picks to fills holes at quarterback, defensive line and receiver.
The choice of linebacker Rolando McClain of Alabama might have been a surprise to some, but not for the Raiders, who made All-American the No. 8 overall pick. He's a leader and played a key role in helping Alabama to a national championship. The Raiders, meanwhile, posted their NFL-worst seventh straight season with at least 11 losses. Oakland can use help elsewhere, too, especially on both lines.
The Bills hope Spiller will spark their anemic offense, opting for speed over size.
"He's a playmaker," first-time general manager Buddy Nix said of the 5-11, 196-pounder. "He's exciting. We need some excitement."
No kidding. Buffalo has missed the playoffs for 10 straight years and the offense has ranked 25th or worst in yards gained each of the past seven seasons. Now the Bills could use a blocker or two to open some holes for him. And maybe a quarterback.