Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III were the top two selections in Thursday night’s National Football League draft, but that’s where the predictability ended.
After the Indianapolis Colts tabbed Luck and the Washington Redskins picked Griffin, a slew of trades shuffled the next five selecting teams. Cleveland and Minnesota were the first to barter, with the Browns moving from fourth to third to snatch Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
“When we went through this process, we knew that he was our guy, so we did what we had to do to secure it,” Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said on the team’s website. “We had pretty good knowledge that there were teams behind us that wanted him as well, so we gave up a couple of picks to make sure we got him.”
Richardson, who set Alabama single-season records last year with 1,679 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, became the highest running back taken in the draft since Southern Cal’s Reggie Bush went second to the New Orleans Saints in 2006. Richardson rushed for 3,130 yards in his three-year career despite splitting time his first two seasons with Mark Ingram, who was selected by New Orleans in the first round of last year’s draft.
“Every player you bring from college, you have to project some,” Shurmur said, “but I saw him play running back — a physical style — in an outstanding conference in the SEC, and they won a lot of games. He helped that team win a national championship. In my mind, you saw what you needed to see to project he’s going to be an outstanding player in this league.”
Richardson was the first of four first-round picks produced by the reigning BCS champions. Crimson Tide safety Mark Barron was tabbed seventh by Tampa Bay, while cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick went 17th to Cincinnati and linebacker Dont’a Hightower 25th to New England.
Alabama was looking to become the first program in SEC history with five first-round selections, but linebacker Courtney Upshaw wasn’t chosen. The SEC as recently as last week had 12 of ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s top 25 projected players, but nine league players wound up getting taken in the opening round.
Also left out of the first round were Georgia left tackle Cordy Glenn and LSU receiver Rueben Randle.
The SEC had five of the first six overall picks last April. This year, the league had three of the first seven, with Richardson leading the way.
“When it comes down to if you’re going to hit me or I’m going to hit you, nine times out of 10, I’m trying to hit you,” Richardson said during February’s NFL combine. “I love contact. I love running the ball. I love having the ball in my hands on first and second down.
“When I can, I love putting a team on my back when we can’t throw the ball or it’s a rainy day or something like that. I just love that pressure.”
The Redskins traded spots with St. Louis last month for the chance to snag Griffin, and there were eight more trades Thursday, including four within the first 12 selections alone.
Cleveland gave Minnesota a fourth-, a fifth- and a seventh-round pick to flip spots with the Vikings to take Richardson. Jacksonville moved from seventh to fifth, giving Tampa Bay a fourth-round selection, in order to tab Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, and the Dallas Cowboys jumped from 14th to sixth to take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
By agreeing to the previous trade with Washington and to Thursday’s trade with Dallas, the Rams went from picking No. 2 overall to choosing 14th. In return, they gained tonight’s second-round picks of the Redskins and Cowboys as well as Washington’s first-round picks in 2013 and ’14.
Philadelphia moved up as well by trading with Seattle and choosing Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox with the 12th pick.
The expected names came off the board early despite the flurry of trades, but that changed with Seattle’s pick at No. 15. The Seahawks selected West Virginia outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, who had been pegged as a second-round talent.
“This is a shocking first-round guy,” Kiper said during ESPN’s telecast. “I don’t think he even thought he would be a first-round pick.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...