KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — This year’s NFL draft is heavy on size and light on glamour.
There’s no high-profile quarterback destined to go No. 1 and instantly become the face of a downtrodden franchise. There’s not even a running back or wide receiver worthy of the top overall pick, someone with the kind of swagger that wins over fans weary of losing.
Nope, there’s just beef. And lots of it.
There’s 6-foot-6, 306-pound Luke Joeckel, the offensive tackle from Texas A&M whom the Kansas City Chiefs are expected to select first overall. There’s also Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Lane Johnson of Oklahoma, two more 300-pounders who could be snapped up in the first 10 picks.
Even the defensive side of the ball is big on bigness: Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, Utah’s Star Lotulelei and Sylvester Williams of North Carolina are considered premium space eaters.
Utilitarian? Sure. Flashy? Not so much.
“There are a lot of good football players there,” Broncos President John Elway insisted. “It’s kind of a matter of what kind of flavor you like, but there are plenty of defensive linemen – not only defensive ends but defensive linemen – in this draft, and it’s deeper than most.”
Only twice since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 has an offensive tackle been chosen first overall, but the Chiefs figure to make it three when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reads off the name of the league’s newest millionaire shortly after 8 p.m. EDT at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Joeckel is considered the surest thing in a draft full of uncertainty.
He protected the blind side of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel last season, won the Outland Trophy as college football’s top interior lineman, and wowed just about everyone at the NFL’s annual scouting combine with his speed, agility and, yes, his size.
“I think this year, the offensive line position has some true prospects in it,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. “Every draft has its own unique set of characteristics. Last year’s draft had its own unique set of characteristics. This year’s draft has its unique characteristics.”
Last year’s draft made for must-see TV.
One of the deepest quarterback crops in recent years stoked the passions of fan bases in several NFL cities, including Indianapolis, which took Andrew Luck with the first overall pick.
It was the fourth straight year that a quarterback went No. 1.
The run of signal-callers didn’t stop there, either. The Redskins traded up to select Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III at No. 2, and two more quarterbacks went in the first round.
West Virginia’s Geno Smith is expected to go in the first round this year, perhaps as early as No. 2 to Jacksonville. But outside the strong-armed but erratic quarterback, the market at the NFL’s most critical position is weak. That means a handful of teams in need – Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Arizona among them – might wait until later in the draft to make their move.
That’s all assuming that no trades are made on the opening night.
Quarterbacks who could still be on the board when the draft resumes with the second round Friday night include USC’s Matt Barkley, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and Ryan Nassib of Syracuse.
“This is really a meat-and-potatoes draft, certainly early in the first couple of rounds with linemen, which is exciting,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, who will pick fourth.
“It may not be the flashiest thing, but it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s hard to find big guys who can move, play with power, and there are lot of guys in this draft.”
Guys who can protect those expensive quarterbacks.
Joeckel may be the top offensive tackle available, but Fisher and Johnson are both expected to go early in the draft. And they’ll probably spend their careers lining up against a slew of players on the defensive side of the ball who could be picked early in the first round, too.
The Oakland Raiders, who pick third, have had their eye on Floyd and Lotulelei, among others, and defensive ends Dion Jordan of Oregon, Ziggy Ansah of BYU and Barkevious Mingo of LSU should have their names called in the first couple hours Thursday night.
Defensive back Dee Milliner is a trendy choice to go in the top 10, and offensive linemen D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack – Milliner’s teammates from national champion Alabama – also are expected to go early in a draft that is more wide open than any in recent history.
“You can go and ask every scout in the room and you’d probably get a favorite player that differs from the other,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “But that’s the fun part of this job is trying to get all those opinions and come to a common goal to choose one.”