Commentary

Clausen, Broncos come up short

Originally Published: April 22, 2010
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell couldn't have had a better premiere for the league's first prime-time draft.

The NFL was a winner by having a Thursday night draft that featured seven trades, numerous surprise selections and big-name drama that came when Tim Tebow went to the Denver Broncos. Wide receiver Dez Bryant going to the Dallas Cowboys also created plenty of excitement. In what was considered a quality draft, the NFL couldn't lose. The pace of the first round was reasonably fast, completed in 3 hours, 28 minutes -- much quicker than a Red Sox-Yankees game.

Even Joe West, the umpire who criticized those Yankees-Red Sox games, might approve.

But there were major losers and significant winners. Let's examine.

Losers

1. Jimmy Clausen: The Notre Dame QB was clearly one of the biggest losers in recent drafts. As bad as it was for Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn to drop into the 20s in the first round in previous drafts, Clausen's slipping into the second round will go down as one of the more surprising drops ever. Even worse for Clausen was the fact Tim Tebow went ahead of him when the Broncos picked the Florida QB with the 25th pick in the first round. Clausen was considered the second-best quarterback coming into the draft. To lose out to Tebow, who had to tweak his delivery to enhance his standing, is further embarrassment. For Clausen, things could get worse. Could the Cleveland Browns take Colt McCoy over him? Will the Buffalo Bills bypass him? Clausen clearly didn't leave Notre Dame with a year of eligibility remaining to not go in the first round. This was a disaster.

2. What is Josh McDaniels doing? Tebow might be the most interesting selection of Day 1, but why Denver? After going 2-8 down the stretch in 2009, a bad start to the 2010 season (and a losing season) could put McDaniels' job in jeopardy. McDaniels inherited an offense in Denver that didn't need a lot of change. QB Jay Cutler was coming off a 4,500-yard season in 2008, and Brandon Marshall was a 100-catch receiver. Like Quinn, whom McDaniels picked up for virtually nothing, Tebow is a developmental quarterback. The question facing the Broncos' organization is whether McDaniels can earn enough time to succeed with developmental quarterbacks. Current Denver starter Kyle Orton may just have this year left at quarterback under these circumstances. McDaniels put together an old defense in his first year on the job, and it faded down the stretch. He's had to redo his defensive line and make upgrades at linebacker during this offseason. I'm not sure the Broncos have the luxury of developing Tebow under these circumstances.

3. Taylor Mays: A year ago, many considered the USC safety a top-10 prospect. Scouts apparently ignored his great speed by not selecting him in the first round. Even worse, new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who groomed Mays at USC, selected Texas safety Earl Thomas with the 14th pick in the first round. At the scouting combine, Mays ran a sub-4.4 40 and looked like one of the best athletes in the draft. He went to the Senior Bowl and the criticism began. Scouts said he didn't make enough interceptions or enough plays during his final couple of years in school. Would things have been different if he left USC a year early? Mays must wait to find an NFL home in the second round.

Winners

1. Seattle: Carroll can thank the Kansas City Chiefs for making his first Seahawks draft successful. Carroll desperately needed a left tackle to replace Walter Jones, who is expected to retire. For weeks, the Seahawks thought that Trent Williams would fall to them. By mid-afternoon Thursday, it became widely known that the Redskins were going to take Williams. For 10 minutes, Carroll had to sweat out the possibility of the Chiefs taking Russell Okung at No. 5. Instead, they took safety Eric Berry, giving the Seahawks Okung, a left tackle to stabilize their offensive line. They got a bonus at No. 14 when they had the choice of selecting Thomas, the Texas safety, or Derrick Morgan, a defensive end. Though an end is normally more valuable, the Seahawks were desperate for a safety. They had only two on the active roster, and Thomas could be a future Pro Bowler at the position. In fact, some believe he might be better than Berry.

2. Tennessee: Things could not have gone better for the Titans. After losing Kyle Vanden Bosch via free agency, they needed a pass-rushing defensive end. Not in their wildest dreams could they envision Derrick Morgan falling to them with the 16th pick in the first round. Coach Jeff Fisher and defensive line coach Jim Washburn are great at molding defensive linemen. In Morgan, they get a talent who might be considered a top-10 pick in a normal year. There were some thoughts they would take Jason Pierre-Paul, but as expected, he went to the New York Giants. Morgan could become a double-digit sack player for the Titans.

3. Green Bay: The Packers were in a bad spot with the 23rd pick in the first round. Getting Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga was a huge gift. The way the draft was shaping up, it was not out of the question for four tackles to go in the top nine. The Bills decided pretty early that they weren't going to take Bulaga with the ninth pick in the draft. The surprise was that the 49ers selected Anthony Davis, a tackle, and Mike Iupati, a guard, letting Bulaga fall to the Packers. Even if he is only a right tackle for them, Bulaga will help. The Packers have two old tackles: Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. Good players fell to the playoff teams. The rich just got richer.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer