PHILADELPHIA – Mitchell Trubisky may have bestowed the first shock, but the prime, early first-round NFL draft buster was Corey Davis. Trubisky went No. 2 when he was routinely predicted to last no longer than six picks. But Davis went at No. 5 though often predicted to go 21st or later.
Draft watchers were startled over both.
The quarterback, Trubisky, and the receiver, Davis, were stupefied.
Trubisky said he had no hint that the Chicago Bears adored him and were willing to pay such a hefty price. The Bears only moved up one spot from No. 3 to No. 2 in the trade with the San Francisco 49ers, but they gave the 49ers high picks from this draft and the next one. The Bears feared another team was willing to do the same. They were not going to "sit on their hands,’’ Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. "It’s the most important position in sports,’’ he declared.
We know now -– the Jay Cutler experience for the Chicago Bears shook them to the core. Spooked them. They charged for Trubisky with conviction and aggressiveness, certain he is their franchise quarterback answer, confident that he can be great.
It was such an involved and serious move, Trubisky didn’t even get the traditional phone call before the Bears pick.
"They really wanted me, they believe in me,’’ Trubisky said. "I’m going to do everything I can to earn that respect.’’
Corey Davis from Western Michigan vaulted over a board full of players supposedly more supreme.
He did get his call from the Titans here in the green room at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But he had his jacket off, was visiting with his family, not expecting a thing when it came. It seemed like a dream. The fifth pick? Really?
"I’m not going to lie, I was surprised, Davis said. "But I know I’m worthy.’’
The Titans have no doubt. He is the right fit, Titans general manger Jon Robinson said. He’s smart. Can run after the catch. He’s consistent. He’s productive. A four-year college player, he gained 5,278 career receiving yards, the most in NCAA history.
Trubisky, a quarterback to eventually fix a broken offense and a franchise scar. Davis, a receiving staple for a lumbering Tennessee offense that yearns to become elite.
The spirited, partying crowd of more than 70,000 who hustled into this city’s first NFL draft since 1961 had heard that this draft was deep in defensive talent. That it is considered one of the strongest defensive drafts in more than a decade. NFL executives and scouts preached that. And through the complete seven rounds, that may be true.
But in this first round, NFL teams could not help themselves from fawning over big-play offensive players. The league is designed to score points and teams believe that offense is the pathway to playoff football and championships. They ache for franchise quarterbacks. Sure, they want to run the ball, but they want to throw it more. They want touchdowns. They want shootouts.
That takes firepower.
Eight of the first 12 picks were offensive players. The three quarterbacks selected in the first round were all acquired by teams that traded up to nab them. And three receivers were selected in the top 10 for the first time in 13 years.
Here was another theme for teams that already feature fixtures at quarterback: Hold on, more help is on the way.
Running back Leonard Fournette was chosen at No. 4 by Jacksonville in a clear move to complement their inconsistent quarterback, Blake Bortles. Davis is a gift for Tennessee’s young, promising quarterback Marcus Mariota. Receiver Mike Williams was selected at No. 7 to give veteran Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers a fancy target.
One of the draft’s worst kept secrets was that the Carolina Panthers for a long time had locked their eyes on running back Christian McCaffrey. Picked at No. 8, his versatility will provide a special spark for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Blazing receiver John Ross was one selection later and heads to the Cincinnati Bengals where quarterback Andy Dalton can now choose between Ross’s top-flight speed and star receiver A.J. Green.
Smooth tight end O.J. Howard at No. 19 will be a joy for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. And tight end Evan Engram selected at No. 23 is the fastest at his position in the draft, a matchup nightmare in the middle for defenses and a prayer answered for New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
NFL teams that consistently win feature balance between offense, defense, and special teams. Most teams in the league nowadays are willing to build the defense and the special teams patiently. But the offense? It’s get the quarterback fast and get him weapons in a blink.
Despite the first-round offensive splash, there was one defensive player here who was not toppled in style, glibness and buoyancy.
Is New York even big enough to contain the spunk of the Jets’ new safety, Jamal Adams?
He told everyone he was the best dressed player here and that he was one of the hardest hitting players. He comes from LSU with a New York attitude and explained that his mother is from Yonkers and that he has family in New Jersey. New York roots for a high confidence player.
Maybe Adams should find a way to play offense, too.