A quarterback was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft 2013 but it was not West Virginia University’s Geno Smith. Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o was also left waiting to be drafted at the end of the first round.
While the first round of the draft may not be as star-studded as it was in 2012, which included Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, there were plenty of surprises. Te’o’s stock had fallen prior to the draft on Thursday, and many mock drafts did not have the Notre Dame linebacker among the first 32 picks. The same could not be said of Smith as many mock drafts indicated he would be the first QB taken and was possibly the best QB available in the draft.
Te’o’s off-season leading up to the draft has dominated headlines due to the fake girlfriend and catfishing story that Deadspin first revealed but soon became a mainstream media story. Te’o became one of the most recognizable college athletes in the country, but his NFL career had yet to start, and the linebacker had to perform well at the NFL Scouting Combine and on Pro Day to distance himself from the story and his poor performance during the BCS National Championship against Alabama.
Te’o posted a decent 4.82 second time in the 40-yard dash during the Combine and only improved his time slightly during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, ultimately failing to impress scouts and coaches who worried the baggage Te’o would bring to a team would be a distraction.
Smith’s slide is a little harder to explain, but many teams passed on drafting a QB in the first-round due to the perceived lack of quality in 2013’s QB class. Other options, including USC’s Matt Barkley and Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, were also not picked during the first round of the draft. There was just one QB picked, with the Buffalo Bills’ surprise selection of E.J. Manuel from Florida State University as the 16th pick in the draft.
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Buffalo’s selection of Manuel has left many experts scratching their heads as many believed Manuel was a reach who is far from being NFL-ready and could very well be a “boom-or-bust” pick. If Manuel turns out to be a RGIII-type player, Buffalo’s pick will be considered a stroke of genius -- but if he does not pan out, Buffalo’s pick will be just another entry into a future “what were they thinking” list.
ESPN notes that it’s been 12 years since only one QB was chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft, when in 2001 Michael Vick went number one overall to the Atlanta Falcons.
Another big surprise in this year's draft was the lack of running backs selected with the first 32 picks. Although three Alabama players were chosen in succession near the top of the first round (Dee Milliner is going to the New York Jets at nine, Chance Warmack going to Tennessee at 10; and D.J. Fluker going to San Diego at 11), Alabama RB Eddie Lacy was not among the first 32 selections.
Lacy was considered the top RB in this year's draft, and with no running backs selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, the 49-year run where at least one RB was selected during the first round of the draft is over.
The New York Giants' selection of Syracuse offensive tackle Justin Pugh produced one of the feel-good moments of the this year's draft. Pugh’s agent, Kevin Brooks, posted a video of Pugh receiving the call from Giants head coach Tom Coughlin that he was going to play in New York, leading to an emotional moment from friends and family.