Tears of relief for Manuel in NFL draft 1st round
NEW YORK -- EJ Manuel told himself he wasn't going to cry.
But then he heard his name called and thought about all his family has gone through to get to this moment, when the Florida State star became the first quarterback picked in this year's NFL draft.
His mother, Jackie, is in remission from breast cancer, he said. She's still undergoing radiation therapy but is back at work.
"Her hair is growing back; she's starting to look like herself," Manuel said Thursday night. "I'm just ecstatic right now."
The Buffalo Bills took Manuel with the 16th pick -- the only quarterback selected in the first round. One of the first people to hug Manuel was West Virginia's Geno Smith, a popular prediction to be the first QB drafted. Instead, Smith wasn't taken in the first round at all.
The two have known each other since 10th grade.
"That says a lot about Geno's character," Manuel said.
This was the latest the first QB has gone since 2000, when the Jets took Chad Pennington 18th. Since then, a quarterback had been selected with the first overall pick 10 times in 12 years.
Over that span, an average of nearly three QBs has been taken in the first round each year.
Now Manuel will be the standard-bearer for what was considered a weak class for quarterbacks.
"I love having a chip on my shoulder," he said.
WAITING GAME: Manti Te'o wasn't the only big name missing from the first round of the NFL draft.
Quarterbacks Geno Smith and Matt Barkley didn't get picked, and for the first time since 1963 no running back went in the opening round.
Smith looked like a lock to be selected not only in the opening round, but with a high choice, when West Virginia got off to a sensational start last season. But he slumped, as did the Mountaineers, and his stock dropped.
Barkley was projected as a high pick last year had he skipped his final season at Southern California. He stayed, the Trojans struggled and Barkley injured his throwing shoulder.
With questions about his arm strength and poise in the pocket, he slipped out of the first round.
The top-rated running back was Eddie Lacy of Alabama.
Other highly rated players not selected Thursday included linebackers Arthur Brown of Kansas State and Kevin Minter of LSU; tight end Zach Ertz of Stanford; tackle Menelik Watson of Florida State; and defensive lineman Damontre Moore of Texas A&M.
Lacy, Smith and Watson were at Radio City Music Hall.
REUNION OF SORTS: Offensive tackle Lane Johnson, picked fourth overall by Philadelphia out of Oklahoma, is looking forward to a reunion of sorts in the Eagles' NFC East matchups against the New York Giants.
In 2008, Johnson played his first junior college game for Kilgore (Texas) -- as a quarterback -- against Fort Scott (Kan.). He recalls looking at the scouting report and seeing the opponent had a 6-foot-6 defensive end named Jason Pierre-Paul.
"Nobody knew about him," Johnson said. "He got on the field and did a back flip, and I think everybody kind of figured out what he's about."
Now Johnson, in his new position, looks forward to trying to block the Giants' Pierre-Paul, who also developed into a first-round pick (in 2010) from that meeting almost five years ago.
FOREIGN FLAVOR: Ziggy Ansah and Bjoern Werner hail from countries where football -- well, American football -- doesn't rule. Neither has played football for long, but both are now first-round NFL draft picks.
Ansah, from Ghana, didn't play the sport until 2010 when he walked on at BYU. He was a quick learner: The defensive end was the fifth overall pick, going to the Detroit Lions.
"A crazy journey," he called it.
Werner, from Germany, picked up the sport at age 15. The defensive end from Florida State went 24th to Indianapolis.
TOP GUYS: Three schools are tied for the most overall No. 1 picks in the NFL draft: Auburn, Notre Dame and Southern California. None of them came close to the first spot this year, and only Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert went in the opening round from those three schools.
Auburn's most recent player leading off the selections was QB Cam Newton by Carolina in 2011. Before Newton, it was LB Aundray Bruce by Atlanta (1988); RB Bo Jackson by Tampa Bay (1986); RB Tucker Frederickson by the New York Giants (1965); and guard Ken Rice by Buffalo in the AFL (1961).
For Notre Dame, it was QB Angelo Bertelli by the Boston Yanks in 1944; QB Frank Dancewicz by the same team two years later; end Leon Hart by Detroit (1950); RB-K Paul Hornung by Green Bay (1957); and DE Walt Patulski by Buffalo (1973).
Southern Cal's top overall picks began with OT Ron Yary in 1968 by Minnesota, followed by RB O.J. Simpson by Buffalo the next year; RB Ricky Bell by Tampa Bay (1977); WR Keyshawn Johnson by the New York Jets (1996); and QB Carson Palmer by Cincinnati (2003).
FAMILY AFFAIR: Oregon guard Kyle Long was chosen 20th overall by Chicago. He joins older brother Chris Long, a defensive end with St. Louis, in the NFL.
They are the sons of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long. It's the first time a Hall of Famer had two sons chosen in the draft. Chris was taken second overall in 2008.
SECOND-ROUND VALUE: A study conducted by Worcester Polytechnic Institute says there's more value for second-round draft picks than first-rounders.
The analysis of the past 13 seasons shows that second-rounders provide 70 percent of the production of first-round picks but at just 40 percent of the salary.
"That's a significant value and it tells me that general managers should give more value to second- and third-round picks," said Craig Wills, the head of WPI's Department of Computer Science.
The study by WPI students Casey Barney, Anthony Caravella, Michael Cullen and Gary Jackson, also concluded that the Pittsburgh Steelers have been the most cost-effective team in the drafting since 2000. The Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers are next, while the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns ranked as least efficient.
As part of the study, WPI researchers developed a football metric called Appearance Score, a weighted combination of games played, games started and recognition as a top player. Highlighting the value of non-first-round picks, two of the top three players in Appearance Score last season were sixth-round draft picks in 2012: Washington running back Alfred Morris and Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh.
Third was Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, who went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
In addition to team rankings, researchers focused on positions, and found that safeties provide the greatest value to teams.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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