While the trenches dominated the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, there were a few skill position players who did enough to capture the eyes of teams within the first 32 picks.
Among those were Tavon Austin, E.J. Manuel, Tyler Eifert, DeAndre Hopkins and Cordarrelle Patterson, all of whom will now carry the inevitable weight of being a first-round pick and the expectations that go along with that designation.
While talent, need and a team's big board all factored into the decision to take an offensive player in the first round, the bigger question about these five players is simple: How will they fit with their new teams?
In a draft in which selecting lineman and defensive players has been the prevailing thought of the first day, it's hard to not stress how important these skill guys are given the circumstances of the first round.
That being said, here's a look at the different ways each of these five prospects will fit with their new teams in 2013 and how this pick helps each team achieve their ultimate goal with respect to the draft and a long-term vision for the future.
*For a complete list of the current draft order heading into Rounds 2 and 3 (with traded picks), click here.
2013 NFL Draft Round 1 Results
|1||Kansas City||OT Eric Fisher||Central Michigan|
|2||Jacksonville||OT Luke Joeckel||Texas A&M|
|3||Miami (from OAK)||DE Dion Jordan||Oregon|
|4||Philadelphia||OT Lane Johnson||Oklahoma|
|5||Detroit||DE Ezekiel Ansah||BYU|
|6||Cleveland||OLB Barkevious Mingo||LSU|
|7||Arizona||OG Jonathan Cooper||North Carolina|
|8||St. Louis (from BUF)||WR Tavon Austin||West Virginia|
|9||New York Jets||CB Dee Milliner||Alabama|
|10||Tennessee Titans||OG Chance Warmack||Alabama|
|11||San Diego Chargers||OT D.J. Fluker||Alabama|
|12||Oakland (from MIA)||CB D.J. Hayden||Houston|
|13||New York Jets||DT Sheldon Richardson||Missouri|
|14||Carolina||DT Star Lotulelei||Utah|
|15||New Orleans||S Kenny Vaccaro||Texas|
|16||Buffalo (from STL)||QB E.J. Manuel||Florida State|
|17||Pittsburgh||OLB Jarvis Jones||Georgia|
|18||San Francisco (from DAL)||S Eric Reid||LSU|
|19||New York Giants||OG Justin Pugh||Syracuse|
|20||Chicago||OT/OG Kyle Long||Oregon|
|21||Cincinnati||TE Tyler Eifert||Notre Dame|
|22||Atlanta (from STL via WAS)||CB Desmond Trufant||Washington|
|23||Minnesota||DT Sharrif Floyd||Florida|
|24||Indianapolis||DE Bjoern Werner||Florida State|
|25||Minnesota (from SEA)||CB Xavier Rhodes||Florida State|
|26||Green Bay||DE Datone Jones||UCLA|
|27||Houston||WR DeAndre Hopkins||Clemson|
|28||Denver||DT Sylvester Williams||North Carolina|
|29||Minnesota (from NE)||WR Cordarrelle Patterson||Tennessee|
|30||St. Louis (from ATL)||LB Alec Ogletree||Georgia|
|31||Dallas (from SF)||C Travis Frederick||Wisconsin|
|32||Baltimore||S Matt Elam||Florida|
How Round 1 Skill Players Will Fit with New Teams
WR Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
Austin was the first skill player taken on Thursday, and the Rams managed to maneuver a trade to move into the top 10 to ensure he didn't fall into another general manager's hands.
The speedster from West Virginia is explosive with the ball in his hands, runs great routes in addition to his blazing speed from both the slot and the outside and has the versatility to be a game-changer in any way Brian Schottenheimer feels he can help the team.
If you don't think the entire franchise is excited about this pick—think again. Jeff Darlington, of NFL.com, posted this tweet to confirm how excited quarterback Sam Bradford is about getting a slot receiver with Austin's abilities:
Jeff Darlington @JeffDarlington
Just asked Sam Bradford if he's pumped about Rams landing Tavon Austin. "Absoluuuuutely!" …The equivalent of Christmas morning for a QB.4/26/2013, 4:02:42 PM
Not only is Austin an ideal fit to replace Danny Amendola and expand on the one-time Rams' slot receiver's abilities, he's also motivated to be the best wideout right away.
Speaking to different media outlets and captured by the team's official website in this video, Austin has goals of both being the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and eventually making the Hall of Fame for his accomplishments.
High goals indeed.
However, they aren't so lofty if you consider Austin to be the kind of impact player worthy of a trade-up and a place in the starting lineup right away, which is what Jeff Fisher has to envision for the first of his two first-round picks (OLB Alec Ogletree being the other).
QB E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills
By trading back and still taking E.J. Manuel with the 16th pick in the first round, the Bills are tying the Doug Marrone era to the Florida State senior.
One of the best prospects in terms of pure measurables and potential in this draft, he will no-doubt be tasked with opening up the offense in a way the Bills weren't able to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.
As noted by B/R's own Chris Trapasso and NFL.com's Marc Sessler, Manuel will be vital to running an up-tempo, West Coast offense under Marrone which includes flashes of the read-option and an emphasis on running back C.J. Spiller's explosive traits.
In doing so, the Bills are taking a big risk in determining that Manuel's two biggest concerns in college (passing accuracy, decision-making) are going to turn around under the right coaching staff in the NFL.
On looks alone, Manuel passes the eye test. He was a Heisman Trophy candidate because of it, and on paper, he will have a leg up on Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson in the QB race in training camp. He must prove he can handle the finer parts of the position, but Buffalo loves his upside to go along with an NFL-ready body and will use his skill set to really open up the playbook this season.
TE Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
At first glance, this was a puzzling pick with Ogletree, Desmond Trufant and Sharrif Floyd still on the board and all three capable of turning Cincinnati's already talented defense into something else entirely.
If you go back and watch the games in which Andy Dalton and the passing game struggled, you'll see why management made offense the first-round choice.
Smart teams doubled star wideout A.J. Green, and that eliminated a big part of Cincinnati's offense in key spots. In the playoff loss to Houston, Jermaine Gresham also drew a crowd, and the best source of offense was forcing the ball to Green (five catches on 11 targets) or Gresham (two catches on seven targets) in traffic.
Eifert helps expand this offense to a New England-type level.
No one would take Gresham and Eifert over Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but having two TEs, both capable of stretching the defense and being huge targets against opposing defenders, helps the Bengals create matchup problems for the entire offense.
Green, the running game and Dalton will all benefit from having a guy like Eifert to run routes against smaller safeties and slower linebackers, and it might be the key to helping Andy Dalton take that next step as a QB in 2013.
WR DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
The Texans didn't trade up to get Hopkins, but it has to feel like they did after watching only one receiver leave the board before the 27th pick.
A focus of this draft was getting a playmaker to pair with Andre Johnson to help take pressure off of Arian Foster and Matt Schaub in the Houston offense, and the Texans did just that with one of college football's best end-zone hunters in 2012.
With DeVier Posey and Lester Jean the front-runners for the starting job pre-draft, Hopkins should have a leg up on both of those guys to win the outside wideout role when training camp opens. If he does perform well enough to earn that role, it would take pressure off of Johnson in the passing game in the form of less double teams and more responsibility underneath.
The Texans are high on what Posey can develop into, and don't forget about standout tight end (one of the most underrated players in football, too) Owen Daniels. If there's a consistent down-the-field threat not named Johnson, it opens up the field in a similar way that Eifert will in Cincinnati.
The learning curve shouldn't be that steep after Hopkins was the go-to guy for Tajh Boyd in an up-tempo offense at Clemson. If Schaub can put it together and Johnson stays healthy, this could be an absolute steal for the Texans at the bottom of the first round.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
The final skill player in the first round didn't come cheap—Minnesota surrendered four picks to the New England Patriots in exchange for a chance to move back into the first round to get a receiver it deemed worth of such a price.
Patterson certainly has the skills to back up the bold Vikings move.
As a underneath receiver in space, few wideouts show the burst and one-cut ability that Patterson did on film at Tennessee. He has a ways to go as a route-runner and as an overall receiver, but in terms of production when the ball is in his hands, few can do what he can in space.
Thinking about Percy Harvin, the Vikings should use Patterson in a similar way in 2013.
He should get a crack at the team's starting return man job for both units (kick and punt), as well as challenging Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright for time while learning the finer parts of the position from new WR Greg Jennings.
Christian Ponder hasn't shown us the ability to stretch the field with his arm just yet, but maybe a guy like Patterson—who should thrive in both the screen and play-action game as a rookie—can open up this offense enough to make teams pay for stacking the box with nine guys trying to stop RB Adrian Peterson.
In a wild first round of skill players, Patterson is the one with the most upside, but he's also the one with the most bust potential, in my opinion. With a high price tag to trade back up, Patterson will get a chance to develop for a season before he'll be expected to contribute full-time in 2014.
We'll see if he, and the rest of the five first-rounders of the skill position variety, are up to the challenge.