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NFL Draft round-up: Dolphins take Jake Long, Kansas City Chiefs deemed successful, and rookie quarterbacks could play big role

By web

Section: Sports

May 2, 2008

Last weekend, the National Football League held its annual draft, the yearly player selection process that determines which team acquires the rights to sign each rookie player. Spanning two days and seven rounds, the draft is debated and analyzed by football fans for months before it actually begins, and it has become arguably the most closely followed sports-related activity that does not involve actual athletic competition.

Because the Miami Dolphins finished with the worst winning percentage during the previous season, they were awarded the first pick during this year’s draft. There was no drama in their selection, however; they had already agreed to a contract with offensive tackle Jake Long from the University of Michigan and had signed him four days before the draft. Long was given a five-year deal worth $57.75 million dollars, making him the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. A two-time captain at Michigan, Long received First-Team All-American honors as a junior and a senior.

With the second pick, the St. Louis Rams selected Chris Long (no relation), a defensive end from the University of Virginia. The son of NFL Hall-of-Famer and noted broadcaster Howie Long, Chris finished third in the country in sacks, fourth in tackles by a lineman, and tenth in tackles for a loss as a senior. He began the year on the watch lists for 6 seperate yearly trophies, winning the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award.

The third pick belonged to the Atlanta Falcons, who used it on Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, last season’s ACC player of the year. The fourth pick went to the Oakland Raiders, who chose Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, two-time Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist. Glenn Dorsey, a defensive tackle from the BCS champion Louisiana State University, was selected fifth; the Kansas City Chiefs got the rights to this Defensive Player of the Year.

This year’s first round was only thirty-one picks long, one shy of the number of teams in the League; this is because the New England Patriots forfeited their pick, which would have been the thirty-first, after breaking NFL rules by videotaping defensive signals in a game against the New York Jets last season. However, the Patriots still had a first-round selection this year, having received the San Francisco 49ers first round selection in a trade during last year’s draft; the Patriots then swapped picks with the New Orleans Saints and selected Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo with the tenth pick.

The draft continued through 252 picks. Team’s selections seemed to go through trends, with 8 linebackers being taken in the fourth round and ten wide receivers going in the second. Finally, David Vobora, an outside linebacker from Idaho was selected with the final, “Mr. Irrelevant” pick by the St. Louis Rams, ending the 2008 Draft.

The consensus among most analysts is that the Kansas City Chiefs had the most successful draft. Apart from Dorsey, they filled a hole at cornerback with Virginia Tech’s Brandon Flowers and traded to select lauded Virginia guard Branden Albert. Their later selections focused on offensive player known for their great physical attributes, such as Texas running back Jamaal Charles, Tennessee tight end Brad Cottam, and Missouri wide receiver Will Franklin. The Chiefs became significantly younger and more althetic on both sides of the ball, and they have positioned themselves well to become contenders in the highly competitive AFC West.

Among the other teams considered particularly successful are the Atlanta Falcons, who received their quarterback of the future in Ryan and gave him strong offensive line protection with USC tackle Sam Baker, and the Chicago Bears, who shored up both lines with Vanderbilt offensive tackle Chris Williams and Arkansas defensive tackle Marcus Harrison.

The Cleveland Browns and Tennesse Titans, however, were widely criticized for underwhelming drafts. Cleveland had traded away its selections in the first three rounds and was thus unable to acquire any players expected to be able to fill major roles. Tennessee picked up highly touted East Carolina running back Chris Johnson, but their other selections are expected to be role-players at best.

Much of the talk following the draft focused on the quarterback position. Despite the lack of any big-name talent other than Matt Ryan, most of the other first and second round signal-callers found themselves in situations where they can contribute immediately. Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco was chosen with the 18th pick by the Baltimore Ravens, a team searching for a starter in the wake of Steve McNair’s retirement.

Former Louisville starter Brian Brohm became the 56th pick when he was chosen by Green Bay, a team suffering from Brett Favre’s retirement and Aaron Rodgers’s injury woes. The next pick was used on Chad Henne, who is going from the Michigan Wolverines to the Miami Dolphins, a team without a tested quarterback. Even fifth round selection John David Booty of USC could find himself staring for the Minnesota Vikings sooner rather than later if Tavaris Jackson cannot grow some consistency.

These newest NFL players will get the first chance to practice with their teams as training camp begins this summer. The NFL preseaon begins on August 3rd.

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