• Never before has the 25th pick of the NFL Draft ever held such weight and meaning, but leave it to Tim Tebow to run his favored quarterback sneak and make it to the first-round stage after all.
Denver's bold gambit was the headline move of a trade-filled round Thursday night, and for both good or bad, the pick of Tebow might just go a long way toward defining the still-young tenure of Denver head coach Josh McDaniels.
Then again, this is an NFL rookie head coach who had the moxie to last year trade away his Pro Bowl starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, before he ever played a snap for him. And let's not forget about last week's Brandon Marshall deal, which merely sent away Denver's top receiver, himself a multiple Pro Bowl pick.
You can't say McDaniels lacks the courage of his convictions. The man has stones, as they say.
Denver was clearly the biggest wheeler and dealer on a very busy night of action on the phone lines, and when all of the Broncos' moves were done, they yielded a very promising young receiver in Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas at No. 22, and the selection that got everyone talking in Florida's Tebow, whose NFL potential as a quarterback inspired only slightly less debate than health care reform.
Hindsight being 20-20 and all that, Denver would seem to be an ideal spot for Tebow to serve his NFL apprenticeship. For one, the Broncos already have two quarterbacks in Kyle Orton and the newly acquired Brady Quinn (who might be the night's real loser, come to think of it). That should give Tebow time to work on his game without even being asked to serve as an NFL backup as a rookie, let alone a starter.
And secondly, McDaniels taking Tebow makes all kind of sense given the friendship and coaching approach that has long been shared by Florida head coach Urban Meyer -- Tebow's biggest fan -- and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. McDaniels, of course, learned every bit of his football under Belichick and served as New England's offensive coordinator before getting hired by Denver in 2009. He models himself after Belichick to such a degree that -- still to this day -- when Belichick sprains his ankle, McDaniels limps, too.
As almost everyone has said for months now, Tebow is a work in progress at quarterback. But McDaniels obviously believed in the ultimate success of that construction job more than any other NFL head coach, and he just backed it up with his team's money and his own reputation.
It's a gutsy call by the Broncos, and McDaniels just raised the stakes of the move considerably by calling Tebow's name in the first round, quite a bit higher than many expected. It's a gamble that had better work out at some point in the future for Denver, or McDaniels the brave-hearted might well be remembered as Josh the fool-hardy.
• Raise your hand if you had Tebow going in the first round and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen being the quarterback who sat all night by a phone that refused to ring. I'm sure there are teams that will tell you now it was going to happen, but Clausen's slide continued longer than most experts predicted.
He'll go early in Round 2 in all likelihood, maybe even to Minnesota, which owns the second pick of the round on Friday night, but it turns out all that pre-draft chatter about Clausen's leadership and accountability issues were very much a factor in his scouting process.
I don't think Clausen did himself any favors by going on that Jon Gruden quarterback camp show on ESPN last week. You know the one. It's where he answered one of Gruden's questions during some film study by throwing a Notre Dame receiver under the bus when reviewing tape of a Clausen interception.
• That 24th overall pick was like the plague. It went from Philadelphia to Denver to New England to Dallas in the span of about an hour. And in the end, the Cowboys used it to take the most enigmatic player in this draft -- Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant.
The psychology of this pick was pretty easy to read: Never again, said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Never again. Hesitant to take a big-time receiver with character issues back in April 1998, the Cowboys passed on Marshall's Randy Moss and then watched the Vikings star torment them for years to come (even reprising the revenge theme with New England in 2007).
This time, Jones was determined to right that wrong by getting proactive and going after Bryant, if he came anywhere near Dallas's original No. 27 slot. Jones swapped firsts with New England (27th for 24th) and threw in a third-round pick (90th overall) for the chance to go up and get Bryant. They had to, because No. 25 Baltimore was ready and willing to catch the falling star if New England didn't take him itself.
Jones is a happy man today, but the Cowboys might well need a babysitter in addition to a receivers coach for the maturity-challenged Bryant. But if he's anywhere near the steal that Moss was for Minnesota in 1998, Jerry will gladly foot the bill.
• I know one guy who didn't like the Cowboys pick of Bryant one bit: Dallas receiver Roy Williams. The ex-Detroit Lion, who came to the Cowboys at the price of a king's ransom at the trading deadline 2008, is looking more and more like the odd man out in Dallas all the time.
• One of the best moves of the draft, in my eyes, was San Diego basically turning its third-string quarterback into a lead running back.
Well, because the Chargers had that No. 40 pick in their pocket from the Charlie Whitehurst trade with Seattle last month, it allowed them to trade with Miami and move up to the No. 12 slot for Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews, the rusher they wanted and probably had no shot at getting at No. 28.
San Diego sent Miami its No. 28 pick in the first round, plus that second-rounder (40th), a fourth-rounder (126th) and a player (linebacker Tim Dobbins), and got back the 12th pick, a fourth-rounder (110th) and a sixth-round selection (173rd) from the Dolphins. But the key to the deal was the Chargers having that high second-rounder.
Not a bad return for a quarterback who has yet to throw a regular-season pass in the NFL. Why did the Chargers feel they had to move up that far for Mathews? According to one league source, San Diego was convinced the No. 15 Giants were all over Mathews and ready to pounce. You can argue the Chargers might have given up too much to climb the 16 spots, but I say it's a luxury the stunning Whitehurst trade afforded them.
• From what I've gleaned in recent weeks regarding him, Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu has a chance to be a stud in this league. But I guarantee you nobody -- and I mean nobody -- other than Jacksonville had him rated as a potential top 10 pick.
Alualu was seen as a guy who might crack the lower reaches of the first round, but even members of his camp never dreamed they'd be in line for top-10 money.
The Jaguars wanted to trade down first and foremost, but they loved Rolando McClain and C.J. Spiller, two players who went right in front of them at No. 8 (Oakland) and No. 9 (Buffalo). Jacksonville was seen as a team that might take the somewhat risky Jason Pierre-Paul at No. 10, but instead they passed on him and Georgia Tech's solid defensive end Derrick Morgan and took a defensive lineman who had toiled virtually off the radar the entire pre-draft scouting season.
And while we're at it, what is it about defensive tackles named Tyson who wind up going much higher in the draft than first expected? The Chiefs took LSU's Tyson Jackson No. 3 overall last year, a surprising move that didn't really become a known possibility until the days just before the draft.
• In a twist few foresaw, we can't fault the Raiders for shaky judgment this time. No Darrius Heyward-Bey. No Darren McFadden. No Fabian Washington. Rolando McClain was highly coveted by three or four teams, and the Alabama middle linebacker upgrades the Oakland defense immediately, unlike the impact that recent Raiders rookies have made.
Al Davis must be grinning like a Cheshire cat.
The groan that went up in Radio City Music Hall when the Raiders' pick was announced was easy to identify. It was heartbroken Giants fans who believed that McClain was the answer to their team's greatest defensive need. Jacksonville and Denver joined New York in coveting McClain.
Maybe it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, given Oakland's miseries in the last seven seasons, but I have it on good authority that McClain isn't exactly thrilled to be donning the silver and black. He didn't anticipate the Raiders' interest, and was braced for landing in either Jacksonville, Denver or New York.
And to that I say, can you blame him?
• Looks like Marshawn Lynch's disappointing and incident-filled tenure in Buffalo is all but over, with the Bills surprising everyone and taking Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. Buffalo can keep both Fred Jackson and Spiller busy in a backfield tandem, but we already knew the Bills were trying to move Lynch, and not generating much interest. Now they might just opt to cut him loose and let him land wherever he might land.
It seems like a luxury pick to me to take another running back when your offensive line was in tatters last season, and you're still searching for a quarterback who can win for you. Then again, Buffalo didn't put together the AFC's longest active playoff drought (10 years and counting), a decade-long streak of missing the playoffs, by hitting first-round home runs.
• Well, Bryan Bulaga did indeed take a header down the first round, as many of us were hearing in the past 10 days or so. But the Iowa offensive tackle had a pretty soft landing in my book, falling into Green Bay's lap at No. 23. Other than the monetary hit that Bulaga took from falling out of the top 10 -- easy for me to say, right? -- going to the Packers could be a perfect career move.
Green Bay doesn't need help immediately from Bulaga and can let him work himself into the lineup at guard, eventually transitioning to tackle once either Mark Tauscher or Chad Clifton moves on.
• Sam Bradford's best memories from 2010? They just unfolded here in New York City, with 50 million echoes to come sometime by July or so. As for his football season, it might not go quite as well.
• Can I just go on record and say I don't believe the Steelers were seriously considering a trade of the suspended Ben Roethlisberger? Were they trying to make him believe they were, in an effort to make absolutely sure they had his undivided attention at this point? You bet. And threatening a trade to the Raiders is the best way possible known to man to do that. Message sent, and I'm assuming message received.
• I got Mike Mayock's final mock draft in my mailbox at 7:33 p.m. ET. I think the NFL Network draft analyst is great, but that's cutting it a bit close, isn't it? Was he waiting to make sure there really was a first round Thursday night?