By Connor Morgan, video by Joe Musso
Chicago’s first draft in over 50 years produced an evening of quarterbacks going first and celebrating elsewhere, of character issues affecting (some of) the selections, and of blockbuster trades that never happened.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston No. 1 in the 2015 NFL Draft on Thursday night. The former Heisman-winning quarterback from Florida State University who has faced numerous off-the-field issues said he was thankful to Bucs ownership for giving him an opportunity.
“Shout out to Tampa Bay nation,” Winston said. “Thank you for accepting me as your quarterback right now, and I look forward to getting in there with the guys, earning a spot and competing my tail off and bring us some wins.”
Tennessee fielded offers for the No. 2 overall pick, and ESPN reported that the Bears wanted the pick if the Titans would take former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. Instead, the Titans picked University of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
That made this the first draft since 2012 when quarterbacks were taken with the first two picks. They would be the only quarterbacks selected in the first round.
Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper going No. 4 to the Oakland Raiders meant three of the top four picks in the draft weren’t at the draft, which just doesn’t happen in the NFL.
Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. was the exception, going No. 3 to Jacksonville.
That selection, he said, was a surprise.
“They could have got a lot of great players that was in the draft that was in the back of the room,” he said. “And just for my name to be chosen, to be the first one to come to that stage, that’s a true honor.”
University of Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson and Duke offensive guard and Lane Tech graduate Laken Tomlinson seemed likely second-day selections, but they went 25th (to Carolina) and 28th (to Detroit), respectively.
Meanwhile, Alabama safety Landon Collins figured to go on the first day. He was at the draft, but his name wasn’t called.
It was a draft surprisingly devoid of major Day One deals. The first didn’t come until No. 15, when San Diego drafted running back Melvin Gordon after trading up two spots with San Francisco.
Denver traded up five spots with Detroit to No. 23 to select Shane Ray in an intriguing move. The Missouri linebacker had a nagging foot injury and received a citation early this week for marijuana possession, seemingly jeopardizing his chances for the first round.
Backs are back
This was the first year since 2012 that a running back went in the first round. Two were selected in the first 15 selections.
First, Georgia’s Todd Gurley landed in St. Louis with the No. 10 pick. He said he is hoping to earn the starting job.
“I mean, obviously, I want to be the guy,” Gurley said, “but nothing is going to be given to me.”
Gordon, who played at Wisconsin and is headed to the Chargers, grew up just north of the Illinois border in Kenosha.
Nebraska linebacker Randy Gregory, once a projected top 10 pick, fell out of the first round after testing positive for marijuana at the NFL combine. He recently told NFL.com that he also tested positive for marijuana twice at Nebraska.
Six wide receivers were drafted Thursday, but not Dorial Green-Beckham. Considered a first round talent, he was dismissed from Missouri’s team after being arrested twice for alleged marijuana-related incidents (one charge was dismissed, and he pled guilty to a lesser charge in the other) and accused once of pushing a female down some stairs (although no charges were filed). Beckham transferred to Oklahoma, but never played, sitting out last season because of NCAA transfer rules.
Louisiana State offensive tackle La’el Collins also fell out of the first round as police investigate the shooting death of a 29-year-old pregnant woman, his ex-girlfriend. Collins’ agent reportedly tried unsuccessfully to get his client moved to the later supplemental draft.
Character questions figured to affect cornerback Marcus Peters, considering the University of Washington kicked him off the team for his problems with the coaching staff. Instead, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted him 18th.