17 minutes. That was all it took for the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft to descend into chaos in front of the highly energetic Philadelphia crowd.
There would be no shock from the first pick as the Cleveland Browns caused little controversy by selecting Myles Garrett, the devastating edge rusher from Texas A&M.
As someone who is already being considered as a once-in-a-generation talent, the 21-year-old defensive end out of Texas was one player that the Browns could not afford to miss out on. That would be the first, and only predictable selection of the opening round, which quickly became characterised by a number of big trades.
The man responsible for the chaos was Ryan Pace, the General Manager of the Chicago Bears and the man responsible for running the team’s draft. Just moments after Roger Goodell had announced Garrett’s name amidst the customary jeers which follow the NFL Commissioner, the Bears swiftly took their chance to move up to the second pick, trading places with the San Francisco 49ers.
Pace’s dealings set the tone of the evening, which quickly became one of the most exciting and unpredictable first rounds of recent times. The Chicago trade was followed by five more, with a number of sides looking to propel themselves up the draft board to avoid missing out on the top talent, while others looked to cash in on the desperation of their rivals. The Browns and Seahawks were particularly busy in this regard, with each team making two trades apiece.
In addition to the high volume of unexpected transfers, the scramble to pick up the draft’s best offensive talent caused a number of prospects to be taken earlier than expected, with others dropping down.
Here is a look at some of the most surprising picks from the first night of the NFL draft:
Mitchell Trubisky – Drafted 2nd overall by the Chicago Bears
Which player could cause Ryan Pace to willingly relinquish three picks (two third rounds and a fourth)? The answer was Mitchell Trubisky, the 22-year-old Quarterback out of UNC, in a pick which had many Bears fans on the TV with their heads in their hands.
Their reaction was not a surprising one. There are several reasons to question the decision of the Bears’ General Manager. One of the biggest criticisms of Trubisky is that he was not even the strongest Quarterback available in what, on paper, looked like a weak class.
Opinions were strongly divided regarding which Quarterback would be the best choice of Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes from Texas Tech, and DeShaun Watson from the National Championship-winning Clemson side.
While many consider Trubisky to be the most talented of the trio, there is a wide recognition that there is a lot of work to be done and that Watson would have provided a more well-rounded, NFL-ready option.
This contributes to the second question mark over Trubisky’s suitability, his experience. Although the Junior from Ohio broke all the UNC passing records in their recent campaign, the concern is that he only started 13 games in his entire College career, making someone like Watson, who led Clemson to two National Championship finals (winning one), a more attractive prospect.
The final concern about the selection involves former Tampa Bay QB Mike Glennon. The former 3rd round pick penned a three-year contract worth $45 million with the Bears back in March, giving every indication that he would be leading their offence going forward. The selection of Trubisky no doubt causes questions about who will be starting for the NFC side come the start of the season.
Despite the large amount they invested into taking him to Chicago, the Bears are still expected to start the campaign with the more experienced Glennon, in the hope of preparing Trubisky to take the reigns in a couple of years.
Patrick Mahomes II – Drafted 10th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs
Although it might just look like I am picking on the QBs from this season’s draft, there are reasons why I have included Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes on my list.
Like Chicago, Kansas City traded to secure the services of the 21-year-old, moving up 17 places in the draft order to obtain the 10th pick. There is little doubt that the AFC Franchise were impressed by both Mahomes’ movement and his ability to throw the ball huge distances, both traits very popular with Chiefs HC Andy Reid.
The son of a former MLB pitcher, Mahomes was considered a top prospect in the 2014 MLB draft and could have pursued a career in the sport had he not dedicated himself to football. Possessing the ability to throw the ball over 75 yards, it was his huge arm which set him apart from other QBs in the draft.
In spite of all his talents, it is very obvious that Mahomes is a very raw player that will need lots of nurturing. Even then, there is every chance that he could be a ‘boom or bust’ kind of player.
With Alex Smith gaining plenty of plaudits for his role in helping Andy Reid’s Chiefs side to the playoffs last season, it would be a big surprise if Mahomes was to usurp the former no.1 overall pick. It seems more likely that, like Trubisky, Mahomes will serve as understudy to the veteran QB for the first two or three years of his NFL career, barring any big developments.
O.J. Howard – Drafted 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Far from being a shock for the wrong reasons, Tampa Bay’s acquisition of Alabama tight end O.J. Howard surprised us in the fact that very few people expected the 6ft6 behemoth to drop so far down the board.
As a tight end, Howard seems to have all bases covered. A fast, physical player with excellent hands, the 22-year-old had been touted as a potential top 10 selection, and the Bucs would have hardly been able to believe their luck when the time arrived for them to make their pick.
With the arrival of Howard, other teams in the NFL will be looking at the Tampa offence with some trepidation. With Mike Evans already leading the Bucs receiving corps, the additions of free agent DeShaun Jackson and now Howard mean talented QB Jameis Winston with no shortage of weapons to choose from.
Gareon Conley – Drafted 24th overall by the Oakland Raiders
When looked at from the perspective of the team’s needs and player ability, there is nothing controversial about the Oakland Raiders’ choice to snap up Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley.
Having lost a number of star names from their defence, Raiders’ fans were fully aware of their team’s need to strengthen, especially in the secondary. On paper, few prospects from this year’s draft fit the bill better than Conley. Although the 22-year-old does not stand out in any one area, he impressed scouts with his athleticism and well-rounded playing style.
The controversy lies in the recent off-field issues. Less than 48 hours before the start of Thursday night’s proceedings, Conley found himself accused of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman in a hotel room.
Although Conley now finds himself at the centre of a police investigation, the Raiders decided that they would take a chance on the defensive back on the basis that he had passed a polygraph test earlier that day.
In spite of the passed polygraph, in addition to Conley’s vehement denials that he committed any crime, there will still be several questions over Oakland’s decision to pick someone facing a criminal conviction.
Reuben Foster – Drafted 31st overall by the San Francisco 49ers
In the weeks leading up to the Draft, many scouts had inside linebacker Reuben Foster pegged as a top-10 talent and the strongest linebacker in the this year’s class.
In fact, his performances for Alabama have been so impressive that they have led to comparisons with retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker, and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.
However, growing concerns over a shoulder injury have seen the 23-year-old’s stock fall, causing him to fall to the bottom end of the first round, with sides choosing the likes of Jarrad Davis in his place.
When Foster fell to the penultimate pick of the first round, his talents were too great for the 49ers to pass up, with the Californian team trading with rivals Seattle to go back into the first round to secure his services.
Foster’s move to San Francisco is one which makes a lot of sense. Alongside Solomon Thomas, the 23-year-old will provide the 49ers with a much-needed boost on the defensive side of the ball.