By Zach Gilliland
The first round of the NFL Draft was the most interesting draft there has been in a while. With not many standout players in the draft this year, there were many surprises in the first round.
The biggest surprise I saw came with the 16th overall pick when the Buffalo Bills went with EJ Manuel over Geno Smith and Matt Barkley. It was no surprise that the Bills would choose a quarterback, but many figured that quarterback would be Geno Smith. Even though Manuel has the skillset for the NFL, the Bills are still taking a chance here. With high risk comes high reward though.
Another surprise was how far down Manti Teo dropped. Many considered him a top 15 pick, even after the girlfriend hoax story. He is a very solid linebacker and many projected him to go much earlier. Teams that are in need of a linebacker such as the Minnesota Vikings opted to pass on Teo and fill other positions.
The draft this year was not talked about as much because of the lack of spotlight players. In last year's draft, there was debate over Luck or Griffin for the top pick, while this year everyone knew it would be an offensive lineman but quite frankly didn't give a crap which one. Some solid offensive lineman went in the first ten picks, along with some stout defensive players such as Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, and Dee Milner.
There were many teams that really helped themselves in the first round, but a few that stood out to me were the Carolina Panthers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Carolina selected Star Lotulelei, a defensive tackle from Utah. Early mock drafts had Lotulelei going anywhere from 1-10, so it was assumed he would be off the board quickly. The Panthers were lucky to get him at pick number 14, and this was a needed pick. The biggest need for Carolina was at defensive tackle to add to an already good defense that can be one of the best in the NFC when healthy.
The Steelers also helped themselves tremendously with the selection of Jarvis Jones. The departure of James Harrison was a major loss, but with the addition of Jones Steeler fans have something to smile about. This playmaking linebacker from Georgia figures to be one of the more dominant defensive players in the draft this year. His ability to find the ball and make plays is through the roof.
The Eagles selected Lane Johnson with the 4th overall pick, which will really help out the Eagles. Turnovers plagued the Eagles season last year and part of the problem was related to the lack of pass blocking on the edges. The Eagles added a strong, skillful lineman from Oklahoma to be a part of this "new era" offense Chip Kelly hopes to campaign to the NFL world this coming fall. With as many stretch plays and play-actions as Kelly's offense will run, the foundation of a strong offensive tackle will be essential to the Eagles success offensively.
The first round of this draft has turned out to be fulfilled with surprise and excitement towards the future for many teams, and the remaining rounds figure to be just as good.
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