The Dallas Cowboys passed on filling a need a wide receiver during the first night of the NFL Draft and selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, a late bloomer who didn't play 11-man football in high school.
Vander Esch was the first pick for the Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft and the 19th pick overall.
Earlier this week, NBC 5's Newy Scruggs predicted the team would take Vander Esch in his mock draft. Esch will bolster the Cowboys corps of linebackers led by Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith.
The Cowboys have nine picks remaining in the draft including (Round/Pick) 2/50, 3/81, 4/116, 4/137, 5/171, 6/192, 6/193, 6/208 and 7/236.
Earlier in the evening, the Cleveland Browns selected OU quarterback Baker Mayfield as the first pick in the draft.
Mayfield, of Austin, began his college career in Lubbock with the Red Raiders before transferring to OU where he sat out a year before winning the starting job. The first Heisman Trophy winner taken No. 1 overall in the following draft since Cam Newton went to Carolina in 2010, Mayfield joins a team that went 0-16 in 2017.
The Browns were sold on his leadership skills and creativity inside the pocket and outside. Most prognosticators pegged another quarterback, perhaps Josh Allen, Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen, for the Browns. Instead, it's the Oklahoma star --the Sooners went 34-6 with him-- who overwhelmingly won the Heisman Trophy last season. He is the eighth winner of the award selected first in the NFL draft following that season since 1970.
The draft order for Round 1 is below:
1. Cleveland Browns (QB Baker Mayfield, OU)
2. New York Giants (RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State)
3. New York Jets from Indianapolis Colts (QB Sam Darnold, USC)
4. Cleveland Browns from Houston Texans (CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State)
5. Denver Broncos (DE Bradley Chubb, NC State)
6. Indianapolis Colts from New York Jets (OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame)
7. Buffalo Bills from Tampa Bay Buccaneers (QB Josh Allen, Wyoming)
8. Chicago Bears (LB Roquan Smith, Georgia)
9. San Francisco 49ers (T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame)
10. Arizona Cardinals from Oakland Raiders (QB Josh Rosen, UCLA)
11. Miami Dolphins (S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama)
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Buffalo Bills from Cincinnati Bengals (DT Vita Vea, Washington)
13. Washington Redskins (DT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama)
14. New Orleans Saints from Green Bay Packers (DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA)
15. Oakland Raiders from Arizona Cardinals (OT Colton Miller, UCLA)
16. Buffalo Bills from Baltimore Ravens (LB Tremaine Edmunds, VT)
17. Los Angeles Chargers (S Derwin James, Florida State)
18. Green Bay Packers from Seattle Seahawks (DB Jaire Alexander, Louisville)
19. Dallas Cowboys (LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State)
20. Detroit Lions (C Frank Ragnow, Arkansas)
21. Cincinnati Bengals from Buffalo Bills (C Billy Price, Ohio State)
22. Buffalo Bills from Kansas City Chiefs (LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama)
23. New England Patriots from Los Angeles Rams (T Isaiah Wynn, Georgia)
24. Carolina Panthers (WR DJ Moore, Maryland)
25. Tennessee Titans (TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina)
26. Atlanta Falcons (WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama)
27. Seattle Seahawks from Green Bay Packers from New Orleans Saints (RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State)
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (S Terrell Edmunds, VT)
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (DT Taven Bryan, Florida)
30. Minnesota Vikings (CB Mike Hughes, UCF)
31. New England Patriots (RB Sony Michel, Georgia)
32. Baltimore Ravens from Philadelphia Eagles (QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville)
The first tight end drafted was taken by one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history. The Baltimore Ravens and general manager Ozzie Newsome took Hayden Hurst from South Carolina with the 25th pick in the first round. The Ravens have twice traded back in the first round, first dealing No. 16 to Buffalo, then giving No. 22 to the Titans. This is the final draft for Newsome, who has failed to make a trade in only two drafts since 1996. He didn't make deals in 2001 and last year. Atlanta picked Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley at No. 26 to pair him with another former Alabama star, Julio Jones.
Tennessee traded up with Baltimore to make the 22nd pick and went with Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans, the third Crimson Tide player taken in the first round. New England made its first pick of the first round and plugged a hole on its offensive line, taking Georgia's Isaiah Wynn, who played both guard and tackle with the Bulldogs. Six offensive linemen were taken before the first wide receiver came off the board. The Carolina Panthers took Maryland's D.J. Moore at No. 24.
A mini-run on centers. Detroit took Frank Ragnow from Arkansas with the 20th pick to help protect Matthew Stafford. Ragnow can also play guard. Then the Cincinnati Bengals took Billy Price from Ohio State, another interior lineman who can also play guard at No. 21. The Bengals' offense struggled mightily last season because of a porous offensive line. Also, the Pittsburgh Steelers have traded enigmatic wide receiver Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders. The Steelers will receive Oakland's third-round pick in exchange for Bryant, who showed flashes of brilliance in three seasons with Pittsburgh but also regularly ran afoul of the league's substance abuse policy. Bryant caught 17 touchdowns in 36 games for the Steelers, but was suspended twice for drug violations. He missed four games in 2015 and all of the 2016 season. Bryant returned last spring but was quickly surpassed by JuJu Smith-Schuster on the depth chart. He asked for a trade in late September and was deactivated for a game after calling out Smith-Schuster in a post on social media. The 6-foot-4 Bryant has the size and speed to give Oakland quarterback Derek Carr a serious downfield threat. Bryant averaged 15.3 yards per reception with the Steelers.
The Dallas Cowboys pick sent the fans at AT&T Stadium into a frenzy of anticipation for the home team. The Cowboys passed on filling a need at wide receiver and selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, a late bloomer who didn't play 11-man football in high school. There still has not been a receiver selected. One pick earlier, Green Bay picked cornerback Jaire Alexander from Louisville to help their secondary. The Packers traded down to add more picks later. Alexander missed much of last season with injuries, but was a lock-down corner as a sophomore in 2016.
Oakland, selecting 15th after trading down from 10th, bolstered its offensive line with UCLA's Kolton Miller in the NFL draft. The 6-foot-9 tackle left the Bruins after his junior season and had strong workouts leading up to the draft.
The 16th selection also came after a trade. Buffalo, which previously moved into the seventh slot to get Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, again was dealing, swapping No. 22 overall and a third-rounder with Baltimore. Buffalo took Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who can play inside or outside and was considered by some the best at the position in this group. Safety Derwin James of Florida State also slipped a bit and wound up going 17th to the Chargers. James does his best work against the pass, but needs improvement against the run. He should find an immediate role in LA's secondary.
Eager to add to an improving defense, New Orleans traded up with Green Bay, moving from 27th to 14th to get UTSA edge rusher Marcus Davenport. Coming off a sensational 2017 draft in which the Saints added both the offensive and defensive rookies of the year in Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore, they took a strong, tall (6-foot-6) player who can play on the line or at linebacker. Davenport was particularly impressive at the Senior Bowl.
The Washington Redskins addressed their leaky run defense by taking Alabama defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne with pick No. 13. The 320-pound Payne was the anchor of Alabama's national championship defense last season, and the second Crimson Tide player taken in the first round. This is the 10th straight season Alabama has had a first-round pick. Only Miami at 14 from 1994-2008 has had one longer.
Tampa Bay has plugged a major hole in its defensive line with nose tackle Vita Vea. The Buccaneers had traded down from seventh to 12th -- Buffalo grabbed Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen in that deal -- and found a 6-foot-4, 345-pound man-mountain adept at stopping the run. At Washington, he often occupied or even overpowered more than one blocker. He'll team with Tampa's longtime defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy, in an attempt to improve a defense that ranked last in the league in 2017.
The Miami Dolphins had a top-10 talent fall to them at No. 11 and took Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. The versatile All-American played safety, cornerback and nickel back in three seasons with the Crimson Tide and was one of coach Nick Saban's favorite players.
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen slipped a bit, but the Arizona Cardinals jumped up to No. 10 to get him. Arizona traded with Oakland to get the 10th overall pick, moving up from No. 15. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer retired after the season. Arizona also signed former Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford, who missed most of last season with an injury.
The San Francisco 49ers bolstered their offensive line, picking tackle Mike McGlinchey from Notre Dame at No. 9. McGlinchey was the second Fighting Irish lineman to go in the top 10 after Quenton Nelson went to the Colts.
The Chicago Bears selected Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith with pick No. 8. Smith was an All-American and Butkus Award winner for the Bulldogs in 2017.
The Buffalo Bills traded up to No. 7 to take Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, a 6-foot-5, strong-armed passer. Allen had no major scholarship offers out of college and went to junior college before spending two seasons at Wyoming. He needs some seasoning and to work on accuracy, but he could sit behind AJ McCarron in Buffalo for a year or two.
The Colts grabbed the best blocker in the draft, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson at No. 6. The Colts had traded down from No. 3 with the New York Jets. Indianapolis took Nelson to help protect quarterback Andrew Luck, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.
Bradley Chubb of North Carolina State, seen as the best pass rusher in this draft, was selected fifth overall by Denver. Once Cleveland, with its second selection in the top four, went for Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, it left the dynamic Chubb for the Broncos. Chubb will bolster a defense that already has one star in linebacker Von Miller. Denver ranked third in overall defense last season, but GM John Elway couldn't pass on a game-changing end.
The Browns surprised the experts again, picking Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward No 4 overall. After passing over more classic quarterbacks to take Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield with the top pick, Cleveland skipped over North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, the top pass rusher in the draft, to grab the top cornerback.
The New York Jets, another of the NFL teams desperate for a franchise quarterback, chose Sam Darnold with the third pick Thursday night. The Jets had traded up from sixth overall with Indianapolis with the expressed mission of finding that quarterback. Southern California's Darnold, who had a superb 2016 season and was not quite so productive last year, was the choice. Darnold might sit a while and learn behind veteran Josh McCown. "There's nothing better than being on this state," Darnold said. "I think whatever the coaches what me to do, if they want me to sit, want me to play, I'll do my role. That's what I've done my whole life, not going to do any different."
The New York Giants selected Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the 2018 NFL draft. The All-American with speed, power, shiftiness and excellent hands is considered this year's best player. New York has had one of the NFL's worst running games in recent years, and Barkley is expected to boost an offense that has a veteran quarterback in Eli Manning and star receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. Barkley also is a sensational kick returner. "It's unreal, two of the biggest moments in my life in the same week," said Barkley, whose girlfriend gave birth to a girl earlier in the week.
Not surprisingly in the Cowboys' home, the pick generally was booed.
Baker Mayfield, until the past few days considered an outsider to be chosen at the top of the NFL draft, has been taken by the Cleveland Browns to begin Thursday night's selections. The first Heisman Trophy winner taken No. 1 overall in the following draft since Cam Newton went to Carolina in 2010, Mayfield joins a team that went 0-16 in 2017. The Browns were sold on his leadership skills and creativity inside the pocket and outside. Most prognosticators pegged another quarterback, perhaps Josh Allen, Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen, for the Browns. Instead, it's the Oklahoma star --the Sooners went 34-6 with him-- who overwhelmingly won the Heisman Trophy last season. He is the eighth winner of the award selected first in the NFL draft following that season since 1970.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be accompanied by two Hall of Fame quarterbacks who won multiple Super Bowl titles with the Dallas Cowboys, along with one of their former receivers, when he takes the stage to open the NFL draft. Quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, and former Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson are all former winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award that recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. Staubach led the Cowboys to Super Bowl titles during the 1971 and 1977 seasons, the latter of those years with Pearson leading the NFL in receiving yards. Aikman was the quarterback when Dallas won three Super Bowl titles in a span four seasons in the first half of the 1990s. This is the first time the NFL draft is being held in a stadium. Staubach, Pearson and Aikman played their home games with the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in Irving, the team's previous home that no longer stands. The Cowboys moved into $1.3 billion AT&T Stadium in Arlington nine years ago.
For one Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, the QB to concentrate on in this draft is Baker Mayfield. That's hardly a surprise when the speaker is Roger Staubach, the 1963 trophy winner who won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame . After all, his nickname was "Roger the Dodger." "There's something about Mayfield that's interesting," Staubach says. "He does some funky things, seems to be a leader, and they like him. He can move around and find people who come open. In the NFL, you have to do that." As Staubach did in one of the more storied careers. After playing for Navy, he spent four years in active duty, including a tour in Vietnam. After spending two weeks at the Cowboys' training camp in California the year before getting out of the service, he was told by coach Tom Landry that the team was eager to have him back the next season. From there, Staubach led the Cowboys to the top of pro football in an 11-year career in which he went 85-29 as a starter. Speaking Thursday to current and former military members at a draft event held by USAA, the official military appreciation sponsor of the NFL, Staubach offered some advice to the audience -- and to the players headed to the NFL. "The qualities you need to succeed in the military are the same as you need to succeed in sports, in the NFL," he says. "Integrity, hard work, teamwork. Those are all the attributes companies are looking for. Take advantage of the qualities you have. "You must work hard at it. Of course, for the NFL you must have the talent. But if you have the talent and don't work at it, someone with less talent will go past you. "The service taught me and all of us to learn about teamwork and hard work. It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to get spectacular results."
The NFL has renewed an exclusive partnership with Amazon Prime Video for digital streaming of Thursday night games during 2018 and 2019 seasons. Amazon will stream the 11 Thursday night games broadcast by FOX this season. Those games are also simulcast on NFL Network and distributed in Spanish on FOX Deportes. Through the streaming deal with Amazon, the broadcasts will be available to more than 100 million Amazon Prime members worldwide in more than 200 countries and territories. "Having over 100 million Amazon Prime members provides a massive platform to distribute Thursday Night Football digitally, not only to our fans in the United States but also around the world," said Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer for the NFL. With 10 Thursday night games and one on Christmas last year, Amazon built on the audience Twitter had in 2016 in the first year of streaming on Thursday nights. The average per-minute audience for the 11 games hit 310,000, a 17 percent increase from Twitter's numbers.
Bradley Chubb jokes that he's changed positions for this draft and is now a quarterback. In reality, the North Carolina State standout is probably the best defensive prospect in this draft. When you get past all the hype for QBs, much of the first round will be devoted to guys on that side of the ball. "Yeah, don't forget about us," he says with a smile. Chubb can do it all -- stop the run, pass rush, shoot gaps, block passes and kicks. Some believe he is a better player than Myles Garrett, who was the top overall pick last year by Cleveland. Chubb could wind up with the Browns, bookending the D-line with Garrett. Cleveland owns the fourth overall spot and after taking its quarterback at the top, could go his way. "That would be awesome," Chubb said. "I don't know Myles, but I do know he's a great player." As for sending some love the defenders' way, Chubb reasons it will be coming. "I feel like I got a spotlight now," he says as reporters gather around for his views on the proceedings. "There are so many great players who can go into an organization and change it. I hope to be one."
Don't look for many wide receivers to be selected high in this draft. Indeed, only Alabama's Calvin Ridley seems sure to go in the first round, and he comes from a run-oriented offense. Recent history shows that wideouts are not particularly wise choices until deeper into the proceedings. Consider that in the past three years, the likes of Phillip Dorsett, Breshad Perriman, Kevin White, Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, Corey Coleman, Mike Williams, Corey Davis and John Ross have gone in the opening round. Anybody seen or heard much from any of them so far in their NFL careers? After evaluating the receivers on his roster, Browns general manager John Dorsey said: "Then you have to let the other young guys fight out for their roster spot. Who's to say? We may get a receiver or two in this draft." Guaranteed it won't be with the first and fourth overall spots Cleveland owns.
Former Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen has apologized for a series of offensive tweets he sent while in high school. The potential No. 1 NFL draft pick apologized for the now-deleted tweets to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith less than 24 hours before the draft. Yahoo! Sports reported Allen sent the tweets in 2012 and 2013 and they contained racially insensitive language and offensive statements. Allen told Smith he was parroting rap lyrics and catchphrases from TV and pop culture. In his apology, Allen told Smith he was "young and dumb" at the time. According to ESPN, the tweets were removed from Allen's account when it was vetted in January. Wyoming coach Craig Bohl says Allen had "great relationships with his teammates and our fan base." The coach adds in his statement that while at Wyoming Allen "embraced diversity." Says Bohl: "We wish him all the best on his big night."
This isn't just the year of the quarterback in the NFL draft. It's the century of the QB. The previous time a quarterback wasn't selected in the first round of the NFL draft was 1996, when 41 other players were chosen before the Rams selected Michigan State's Tony Banks at No. 42. Banks went 35-43 in eight seasons as a journeyman with the Rams, Ravens, Redskins and Texans. He was by far the most accomplished of the six quarterbacks selected, two of whom never played in the league and another who never started in the NFL. Third-rounder Bobby Hoying of Ohio State went 3-9-1 in five seasons for Philadelphia and Oakland. The Broncos chose Jeff Lewis of Northern Arizona with the 100th overall pick, but this was during the Elway Era and Lewis made zero career starts in two seasons in Denver and two in Carolina. Another fourth-rounder was Florida State's Danny Kanell, who would post a 10-13-1 career mark over six seasons with the Giants, Falcons and Broncos. In the seventh round, the Ravens took John Stark of Trinity International and the Packers selected USC's Kyle Wachholtz, neither of whom ever played in the pros. So, that was a total of 48-65-2 for the inglorious QB class of 1996. There have been 56 quarterbacks selected in the first round since then, including five in 1999. That mark is expected to be matched or maybe broken tonight in Dallas.
The most inspirational story in this NFL draft, bar none, is Shaquem Griffin of UCF. A standout linebacker for the undefeated Knights, Griffin achieved all of his success despite having no left hand. He wears a prosthetic, yet Griffin stunned onlookers by bench-pressing 225 pounds a staggering 20 times at the combine, then ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds. Griffin is fast, hits hard and never stops coming. Will that make him a first-rounder? Probably not, given NFL teams' concerns with any sort of physical issues for a prospect. But Griffin, whose brother Shaquill was selected in the third round last year by Seattle, insists there are no drawbacks about him as a pro prospect. "I don't see it as a handicap and I have never looked at it that way," Griffin says. "I hope I am an inspiration for people, to see I can do whatever I want. I haven't seen anything I couldn't do. I'm never going to let someone put a label on me." NFL personnel people praise Griffin to the sky for his talent, work ethic and fortitude. What they don't say is how highly they will consider him on their draft board. Griffin doesn't like hearing that, though his cheerful demeanor allows him to laugh when told he could be sitting at this draft until Saturday before being selected. "I don't have a chip on my shoulder," Griffin says. "I have chips. I have a bag of chips. Everyone else can have a chip. I need more than that."
The Houston Texans will be bystanders deep into this draft; their first pick is in the third round, 68th overall. That doesn't mean they won't be paying attention Thursday night and during the second round Friday. Plus, the man in charge of personnel moves believes the Texans already have achieved a lot in the offseason. "Part of the process in this player evaluation is mixing the pro scouting element with the college draft process," says new general manager Brian Gaine. "As it relates to how we're going to solve some of the issues on our roster with personnel, we feel like some of the things we did in free agency are going to put us in position in the draft where you're not going to get forced to have to draft a player based on need. "The players that we acquired both on the offensive line and in the secondary give us position flexibility within the group, so at least now we feel like we're in position that if we draft players now, we're hopefully drafting the best available player in that regard. The best combination of a pick is when you take the best available player that also meets a team need." Among Houston's needs are the offensive line and tight end. Barring an unexpected run on tackles or tight ends, the Texans should find value when they finally get going. "There are certainly challenges involved with that in terms of getting blue chip talent and blue chip prospects," Gaines says, "but the focus that I have had and our staff has had here has been we are going to get a chance to get four players in the top 103 in this draft. "So, if things were standard and we had a first- and second-round pick, a third- and fourth-round pick, that would still give us four players in the top 103. "Now, although they might not be player 50 or 60, we're still going to get four players, we believe, in the top 103. So, we're very positive that we'll be able to get contributing players at any one of those picks in the third and the fourth round." Meanwhile, barring a trade, the Texans will watch.
This year's deep draft at quarterback lacks just one thing: a consensus top pick. None of the mock drafts heading into Thursday's actual NFL draft in Dallas seems to even put them in the same order. So, let's see what the quarterbacks themselves think. All of them say they're the best of the bunch except for USC's Sam Darnold, who suggests: "That's for other people to decide." Hogwash, say Wyoming's Josh Allen, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Louisville's Lamar Jackson. They all unabashedly tout themselves as the best option at QB in this draft. "I think I'm the best quarterback here," Rosen has said. "I think every person in this draft should have the exact same answer." Allen has said every quarterback has to believe he's the best because that confidence is the cornerstone of a successful pro career. "We're all different, we all have our pluses, our minuses," Allen says. "But if you don't have the mindset that you're the best quarterback in this draft, you're not going to fare well in this league." Mayfield has concurred, saying, "If you don't have that mindset then something's wrong." When it comes to ranking the quarterbacks, most people have Jackson well behind the so-called "Big Four," going somewhere in the middle of the first round. Jackson has just as much confidence as the others, suggesting he's better than all of them. "But I don't really care about what order we're in," Jackson has said. "They're all great quarterbacks, as well. So, I know they feel the same way."
As the traveling road show that the NFL draft has become settles in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the league has added a new fan touch: the Inner Circle. More than 1,600 fans -- at least 50 from every franchise -- will be in AT&T Stadium for the selections, and the festivities that go with them. Each team selected its "draft ambassadors," and the list of attendees ranges from locals who just happen to root for, say, the Eagles or Bills or Jets, to fans who will travel to North Texas (Falcons, Ravens). Many are season ticket holders. The Inner Circle will feature team rivalry zones and chances for fans to celebrate the club's selections with NFL players and former team standouts. On Thursday night, some of these fans will be visited by their newest team members after they are selected on stage.
Dave Gettleman has learned many lessons as an NFL executive. The new general manager of the New York Giants has one mantra in the draft room. He says teams must "stay with the value." They "can't get too cute" or hope for a player to be around in a later round. The Giants pick second Thursday night after the Cleveland Browns. The New York Jets go third, followed by the Browns and Denver Broncos. Plenty of top quarterbacks are available: USC's Sam Darnold, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, UCLA's Josh Rosen and Wyoming's Josh Allen. There's also Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb. Analyst and former NFL general manager Phil Savage says the Giants are in the "catbird seat" and can go in many directions, but he encourages them to consider Barkley.