You don’t pass up a potential franchise quarterback.
Not in today’s pass-happy NFL.
So Jameis Winston is headed to Tampa Bay as the first overall selection and Marcus Mariota goes to Tennessee at No. 2. They'll take their Heisman Trophies (Winston in 2013, Mariota last year) and try to turn two downtrodden franchises into contenders, maybe even champions.
It was the sixth time since 1967 that quarterbacks went 1-2, and this was no surprise. The biggest question was whether Florida State’s Winston had too much off-field baggage for the Bucs. Obviously not.
His college coach, Jimbo Fisher, has no doubts either.
“There are always bumps in the road,” Fisher said. “But as far as on the field, he'll learn. He has an unbelievable ability to learn and learn fast.
“Off the field he’s an extremely great guy. People will be shocked with how he represents (the Bucs).”
Some questioned Mariota having barely taken any snaps behind center in Oregon’s quick-tempo attack, but Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, who has done big things with such veteran quarterbacks as Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and Philip Rivers, clearly isn’t concerned.
“He’s a talented young man who has a very good feel for the position and how to process those things,” Whisenhunt said, “and we’re excited to get a chance to work with him.”
Tampa has the receivers to help Winston in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, both of whom went over 1,000 yards last year despite shoddy quarterbacking. Tennessee can’t make the same claim.
Each of those teams went 2-14 in 2014, but coaches Lovie Smith and Whisenhunt, in their first seasons in charge, survived the awful record. Now, they presumably have the main building tool.
With the top QBs out of the mix, the Jaguars picked Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who was considered by some to be the best player available, even including Winston and Mariota.
Fowler was in the house in Chicago, wearing a white tuxedo with red piping and sparkling gold shoes. After walking onto the stage, he gave Roger Goodell a nice, long bear hug.
He figures to be an instant hit in Jacksonville, which isn’t far from where he played college ball in Gainesville, Fla.
Oakland used the fourth pick to choose Amari Cooper out of Alabama, who immediately becomes the best receiver that beleaguered franchise has had in a while.
The Washington Redskins selected offensive tackle Brandon Scherff out of Iowa, the first senior picked in this draft. Not that offensive linemen ever bring people jumping out of their seats, but there were some moans and groans when Goodell announced this pick.
An annual tradition stayed right on track when the New York Jets selected defensive tackle Leonard Williams with the sixth pick.
Not so with the seventh pick, which the Chicago Bears selected West Virginia receiver Kevin White.
Fans erupted when Goodell announced the pick – the complete opposite reaction of Jets fans, who routinely serenaded their pick with boos for all those years the draft was held in Manhattan.
A few minutes after being announced, White came out to the stage. More cheers.
With the eighth pick, the Atlanta Falcons took pass rusher Vic Beasley out of Clemson.
On stage, Deion Sanders asks him the first thing he’s going to do: “I’m just ready to go out and play football,” Beasley says.
Good thing. Falcons ranked last in total defense and pass defense last season.
The Giants chose offensive lineman Ereck Flowers of Miami with the ninth pick – a selection that was met with a collective yawn inside the auditorium.
New York, which averaged only 3.6 yards per rush last season, was clearly selecting for need. When Scherff went to the Redskins, the Giants looked a bit farther down the list to come up with Flowers. He was ranked in the teens by many of the draft experts.
The St. Louis Rams used the 10th pick to take a running back: Todd Gurley out of Georgia.
This has become the least-popular position in a growingly pass-happy league – no running back was picked in the first round of the last two drafts – and the Rams selection is even more intriguing because Gurley, a Tarboro native, is five months removed from a major knee injury.
But doctors say he’s on track and his combination of size (6-1, 222 pounds) and speed has some folks thinking he could be the next Marshawn Lynch.