SEC has record 12 first-round picks

SEC has record 12 first-round picks

April 26th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

SEC Southeastern Conference

Alabama had a profound impact on another NFL draft when cornerback Dee Milliner, guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker were the ninth, 10th and 11th selections in Thursday night's first round.

Milliner was picked by the New York Jets, Warmack by the Tennessee Titans and Fluker by the San Diego Chargers. Never before in Crimson Tide history had two offensive linemen been selected in the first round of the same draft.

"Chance is a player we had a great consensus on, and we're very happy to have him as a Titan," Tennessee general manager Ruston Webster said in a news conference. "We like his physical style of play and his power. We got the guy we were looking to get."

Titans coach Mike Munchak was in agreement on the 6-foot-2, 317-pounder, saying, "Even in the NFL, you don't see the kind of power he has and the way he moves the line of scrimmage. To me, he's the complete package."

Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy was not picked in the opening round, but the SEC still had a record 12 first-round selections. The league made late-night noise when Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson went 29th to Minnesota, Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree 30th to St. Louis and Florida safety Matt Elam 32nd to Baltimore.

Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was the 17th overall pick and went to Pittsburgh. Most of the projections leading up to the draft had the two-time All-American going to the Steelers.

The top of the draft was heavy on the heavies.

Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher and Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel were the first two selections, with Fisher going to the Kansas City Chiefs and Joeckel the Jacksonville Jaguars. The two 306-pounders became the first offensive linemen to go 1-2 in the draft since 1968, when Southern Cal tackle Ron Yary went first to Minnesota and Tennessee center Bob Johnson went second to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Oregon defensive end/outside linebacker Dion Jordan went third overall Thursday to the Miami Dolphins, who traded up with Oakland and gave the Raiders their first- and second-round picks.

Joeckel was Rivals.com's No. 5 tackle prospect in 2010, but Fisher was a two-star recruit who signed with the Chippewas in '09. Fisher is the first No. 1 pick from the Mid-American Conference.

"This is what America is all about," former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said on the ESPN telecast. "This kid came out of nowhere."

Fisher wasn't the only top-five pick to emerge from obscurity.

Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who went fourth to the Philadelphia Eagles, was a lightly regarded pro-style quarterback coming out of Groveton, Texas, in 2008. Brigham Young defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, the fifth pick who went to the Detroit Lions, entered this past season with seven career tackles for the Cougars.

"Ezekiel Ansah is probably the No. 1 meteoric rise I've seen in my 35 years of doing this," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said.

LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo went sixth to Cleveland and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper went seventh to Arizona before the opening run of offensive and defensive linemen ended. After trading up with Buffalo to acquire the eighth pick, the St. Louis Rams snagged 5-8, 174-pound West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin.

Offensive linemen were taken in six of the top 11 picks once Warmack and Fluker were off the board. San Diego general manager Tom Telesco told the Chargers website that Fluker should be a cornerstone of the offensive line moving forward.

"He can help us in a lot of ways," Telesco said. "He's a powerful run blocker, so he's going to help us out a lot in the run game. He's also a very good athlete for a big man. He can get out in space, and as a right tackle he's going to be a very good pass protector for us with his arm length, size and again his feet for his size."

The Atlanta Falcons were scheduled to have the 30th pick but traded up with the Rams to take Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant with the 22nd selection.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.