After getting past the first four picks which featured three Oklahoma Sooners, round one of the 2010 NFL Draft had a distinctly orange & blue feel to it on Thursday night with three former Gators chosen in the first 32 picks.
CB Joe Haden was taken off of the board with the seventh pick, providing a possible starter for the Cleveland Browns who are very thin in the secondary. In 2009, Cleveland gave up over 244 yards per game passing, 4th-worst in the NFL. Haden, as expected, was the first cornerback taken.
Maurkice Pouncey wasn't the first interior offensive lineman taken in this year's draft-- Mike Iupati went at #17 to the 49ers, but Pouncey was selected one spot later at #18 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers, the 2009 Super Bowl Champions and usually known for their strong running game, struggled in the 2009-2010 season moving the ball on the ground. They ranked 19th in the NFL last year, managing only 112 yards per game rushing. Pouncey will join fellow former Gator OT Max Starks as they try to open holes on the offensive line for the Pittsburgh running backs.
Possibly the most surprising (and criticized) selection of the first round came when the Denver Broncos traded up to the 25th slot to take QB Tim Tebow. Tebow became the second QB taken, following Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, and ahead of Notre Dame's Casey Clausen, who many analysts projected being taken in the first 10 picks. Broncos' coach Josh McDaniels recently had Tebow work out in Denver, and fell in love with his potential and character. Tebow will be expected to develop behind current starter Kyle Orton and backup and former first rounder Brady Quinn, who was recently acquired from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a late draft pick.
While Tebow's selection may have been a few spots higher than warranted (I had thought he might go to New England at 27 or Minnesota at 30) the criticism of Tebow and the Broncos has been vitriolic. CBSSports columnist Pete Prisco, for example, called the selection, "far and away the worst pick in this draft," and that Tebow was "a fifth-round pick -- at best." Whether Tebow ever develops into a star or even a starter, for that matter, is debatable. But is he that bad of a selection? Of course not. I'm guessing that Prisco is just one of many sportswriters with an axe to grind. Considering how many consensus first round picks turn out to be busts (Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, Jamarcus Russell, etc), I don't think any selection warrants the amount of criticism that is sometimes heaped on so many of these athletes who have yet to show what they can do on the NFL level.
More Gators are expected to be taken in tonight's 2nd and 3rd round portion of the draft. Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez, Major Wright, and Riley Cooper will all be hoping to hear their name called tonight. Continuing live coverage of the NFL Draft starts tonight at 6pm on ESPN.