Commentary

Round 1 winners, losers

Rude draft welcome for Roger Goodell; Browns arm themselves with picks

Originally Published: April 28, 2011
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Day 1 of the NFL draft was full of surprises.

No one figured that four quarterbacks would go in the first round, and the biggest surprise was that Christian Ponder went to the Vikings at No. 12. The Ravens shook up the latter part of the first round by letting their 15 minutes elapse but still coming back and getting cornerback Jimmy Smith of Colorado. The Chiefs made a couple of trades but added a wide receiver, Jonathan Baldwin.

The first round zipped by in three hours and 30 minutes, but there were plenty of winners. Of course, there were losers too.

Losers

1. Roger Goodell: As commissioner, you have to accept the praise. On Thursday night, he had to endure the boos from fans at the draft who aren't happy about the NFL's current labor problems. At the beginning of the draft, Goodell had to go to the podium and politely calm down attending fans who chanted, "We want football!'' At times, the scene was painful. Goodell had to stand by the podium and look like a father trying to quiet kids who were making too much noise in the house. Goodell has been a popular commissioner among fans, but until the labor problems are resolved, he will remain a target for criticism. It goes with the job.

2. Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett: In a draft that featured a record 12 defensive linemen drafted in the first round, Bowers, once considered to be the best of the group, had to be stunned not to hear his name called. Worries about the long-term health of a surgically repaired knee scared teams off. Down the line, teams must figure he'll need a microfracture surgery. No one expected four quarterbacks to go in the first 12 picks, but Mallett's character and maturity questions left him sitting through the first round. The story going into the second day is whether he will go in the second round. Mallett is a top-15 prospect, but he suffered a huge loss seeing the other quarterbacks go so far ahead of him.

3. The NFC West outside of St. Louis: Listen, we're not debating the values of cornerback Patrick Peterson going to Arizona or linebacker Aldon Smith going to San Francisco. Peterson could be the next Charles Woodson. The 49ers desperately need pass-rushing help. The Seahawks stunned everyone by taking offensive tackle James Carpenter. But the knock on the division is that none of its teams took a quarterback in the first round. I know the 49ers are going to re-sign Alex Smith and the Cardinals might add Marc Bulger. But in a quarterback-driven league, to see three NFC West teams in desperate need of quarterbacks pass on the position is still stunning. At the moment, Sam Bradford of the Rams is the division's only legit starter.

Winners

1. Cleveland Browns: Earlier in the day, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said that team management was going to get him some offensive help. Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones would have been the perfect choice with the sixth pick in the first round. But sometimes teams can make offers you can't refuse, and that's what Atlanta did. Browns boss Mike Holmgren traded the No. 6 pick (Jones) to Atlanta, dropping down 21 picks in the first round but gaining a second-rounder, a fourth-rounder and two picks next year -- in the first and fourth rounds. Sure, it would have been nice to add a big, fast threat for McCoy and the offense. But the Falcons feel they might be one offensive player from a trip to the Super Bowl, while the Browns have to rebuild an entire roster. The Browns had to take that offer.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars finally get a break. For years, they were looking for the heir to David Garrard's starting job at quarterback. Thanks in part to the 49ers' not taking a quarterback and the Titans' taking Jake Locker with the eighth pick, the Jaguars accomplished something that they might not have done until the 2012 draft -- they got their quarterback, Blaine Gabbert. Once Gabbert fell to the 10th pick, the Jaguars traded up with the Redskins to get him. The cost was a second-round pick. Had they tried to move up from the second round to get a quarterback, they might have had to sacrifice a first-rounder in 2012. Drafting at No. 16 originally, the Jags weren't in a good spot to get one of the top-rated quarterbacks. Getting Gabbert was like hitting the lottery, particularly in a division that has elite quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub.

3. New Orleans Saints: Face it, the NFC South is turning into an arms race. The Panthers added quarterback Cam Newton. The Falcons got Julio Jones for Matt Ryan. The Bucs' Josh Freeman is considered one of the league's next elite quarterbacks. But the Saints stayed ahead of the curve by drafting a pass-rushing defensive end, Cameron Jordan, and a running back, Mark Ingram. Sure, it cost a first-round pick next year to add Ingram, but this division is becoming more competitive each year. No team in the division is as deep as the Saints for running backs. They have Reggie Bush, Ingram, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas. Getting Ingram almost reminds you of the time the Saints took Deuce McAllister when Ricky Williams was on the roster. The Jordan pick was just lucky. The Saints were drafting 24th and got an impact sacker, which was their biggest need.

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