It turns out Marqise Lee's descent down NFL draft boards was not a smokescreen. It turns out Derek Carr's ascent into the first-round conversation, however, was. The first round of the 2014 NFL draft taught a lot of things about perception and reality—and not all of them positive for a group of supposed top prospects.
The first 32 picks went by as Lee, Carr, Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt and other high-profile names saw their first-round dreams go by the wayside. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater quite nearly did the same, but the Minnesota Vikings swooped in to grab him No. 32 overall. The waits were also excruciating for guys like Johnny Manziel and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, potential top-10 picks who lasted into the 20s.
But nothing tops the excruciating unknowingness that's coming for the likes of Lee and Carr over the next 24 hours. Nine of the record 30 players who made the trip to New York City for the draft were left sitting and waiting for another day.
For Lee in particular, the drop is surprising. The former USC standout was considered a borderline top-10 lock heading into his junior season before a knee injury wrecked his Biletnikoff Award defense and sent his stock into a tailspin. Even at the beginning of the draft process, Lee was mentioned in the same relative breath as Mike Evans, who went No. 7 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Instead, five wideouts went off the board—none of whom were named Marqise Lee. Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk noted whichever team winds up selecting Lee should walk away happy:
Not all is lost, though. ESPN's Darren Rovell points out that Lee took out a loss of value insurance policy, which protects his financial future against injury. Lee might wind up with first-round money even if he's not a first-round pick:
As for Carr, his drop wasn't entirely unexpected. The board had to fall in a perfect way for him to get taken early. Given that Manziel and Bridgewater were thankful just to be taken, "perfect" was far from the way to describe this draft. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated noted a potential full-circle moment for the Texans, who own the No. 33 pick and selected Derek's brother David No. 1 overall in 2002:
Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde points out David's failure in the NFL might have prevented Derek from being taken Thursday:
One might think Carr dropping into the second round would make him a solid value pick. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead disagrees—strongly:
The casualties also included the entire crop of running backs. For the second straight year, no ball-carrier was taken in the first round. Considering 2013 was the first time that happened in league history, it is safe to say we have a trend. Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal made a tongue-in-cheek point of how the position has fallen:
Don't worry. We didn't forget about defense. Tuitt combined for 22 sacks his final two years at Notre Dame and projects as one of the draft's best 3-4 defensive ends. Sports Illustrated's Peter King points out he could very well be in consideration for Houston at No. 33, though taking two straight defensive players seems like a stretch:
Also not taken in Round 1? Tuitt's defensive linemate, Louis Nix. JJ Stankevitz of CSN thinks Nix will be one of the best players available Friday night:
Defensive line as a whole took a few notable hits. Florida State's Timmy Jernigan, Missouri's Kony Ealy and Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman were all contenders for the first round who fell through. Dan Pompei highlights Jernigan's reported failed drug test at the combine as a chief reason for his fall:
If the names listed make one thing clear, it's that the second round should be almost as intriguing as the first. Stars like Manziel and Jadeveon Clowney are off the board, but this class is so laden with talent that it wouldn't be a surprise if as many second-rounders became long-term starters as guys taken Thursday.
Will any of these players last until Round 3? All bets are off.
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