NEW YORK -- Three hours went by like three minutes on the first night of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Trades cranked up an already-intense atmosphere at Radio City Music Hall. Seven different teams moved up, with the ordinarily patient New England Patriots passing opponents twice -- beginning the night with pick Nos. 27 and 31 and ending up with the 21st and 25th selections.
On the other hand, two teams traded out of the first round altogether. Fans of the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens might be disappointed that their teams opted out of the first night of drafting, but these were smart moves.
The Ravens moved down just six spots (from 29 to 35) and gained an early fourth-round selection from the Minnesota Vikings in the process. They'll likely pick up a similar player -- if not the same -- early on Friday night than they would've if they stayed put.
Meanwhile, the Broncos first gained an extra fourth-rounder (No. 126) from New England by trading down from 25 to 31. And then, Denver sent both of these newly acquired picks (Nos. 31 and 126 overall) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for pick Nos. 36 and 101 overall. A move from late in the fourth round to early in the fourth might not sound like much, but there are usually some very good players on the board within the first 10 picks of Saturday morning's proceedings -- so the Broncos should benefit from that deal.
A few other teams made out like bandits during the first round, which lasted half as long as the six-plus hour 2007 marathon that caused the league to reduce the time limit between those top 32 picks from 15 to 10 minutes. Three franchises made what seem like questionable moves now ... but only time will tell if my initial feelings about their actions prove correct.
Winners right off the bat
â¢ Vikings trade down one spot, still get the player they wanted: General manager Rick Spielman found a willing trade partner in the Cleveland Browns, who sought running back Trent Richardson so fervently that they sent Minnesota picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds to secure the 2011 Doak Walker Award winner's services. Spielman later used a different fourth-rounder to move up into the late first and grab Harrison Smith -- the second-best safety in the draft. Having those extra picks from Cleveland allowed the Vikings to move up later without feeling they'd lost their chance to build depth. And of course, they got still a prospect they coveted all along in USC left tackle Matt Kalil. Cleveland teetered on the edge of giving up too much to move up for Richardson, but keeping all of their top 100 picks kept them from falling off that cliff.
â¢ Pittsburgh Steelers select OG David DeCastro at No. 24: Once again, GM Kevin Colbert sits back and waits for talent to fall into his lap -- and there's DeCastro ready for the call. The Steelers have needed more mobile guards for some time, and this All-American's ability to block on the move inside and outside makes him a fantastic get in the later stages of round one. Pittsburgh found a perennial Pro Bowler in Alan Faneca with the 26th pick in the 1998 draft, and DeCastro's a very similar player.
â¢ San Diego Chargers snag OLB/DE Melvin Ingram with the 18th pick: Ingram's a top-10 talent in this draft because of his playmaking ability, and he has experience rushing the passer from a stand-up position -- especially during his nine-sack junior season. With former mid-first-round pick Larry English not making as strong an impact as San Diego anticipated, Ingram's infusion of hustle, strength and agility are desperately needed on a team that averaged just two sacks a game last year (ranking 23rd in the league).
â¢ New England moves up twice, nabbing DE/OLB Chandler Jones (21), ILB Dont'a Hightower (25): Bill Belichick knew that the Patriots' front seven absolutely needed to be addressed early and often in this draft. Instead of hoping that two of the top players on their board would last until their initial picks at 27 and 31, they gave up late-third and mid-fourth-round picks to secure the promising Jones and versatile Hightower. Both can stay on the field no matter what formation the coaching staff calls up, harassing the quarterback and also playing the run very well. Look for New England to trade out of one of their two second-round selections to gain additional picks a bit later in the draft. (Because of various trades even before Thursday's heavy action, their last scheduled pick as of right now comes at No. 62.)
Losers for now, but time will tell
â¢ Dallas Cowboys give up second-rounder to move up for CB Morris Claiborne: In few cases does giving away a top-50 pick to move up in the first round result in a winning situation. In fact, here are some of the players in recent memory whom teams traded into the sixth overall pick to acquire: DT Ryan Sims (Kansas City, 2002), DT Johnathan Sullivan (New Orleans, 2003), TE Kellen Winslow II (Tampa Bay, 2004). And of course, Atlanta took WR Julio Jones sixth after a bold, draft-day trade last year. If Claiborne turns out to be a Pro Bowler, then I'll be proven wrong. But staying at No. 14 could have netted Dallas another talented cornerback in Dre Kirkpatrick, while still keeping the second-round pick that could've become another down-the-line starter at receiver or defensive end.
â¢ San Francisco 49ers surprise everyone with WR A.J. Jenkins at No. 30: Jenkins is a very good receiver who might start at the next level. The question here is whether his value justified the selection. In one of the deeper receiver drafts in recent memory, finding a potentially dominant guard like Amini Silatolu to fill out San Francisco's line or a pass rusher might have been more beneficial at that spot. Jenkins does have 4.4 speed, but his size is only average (6-1, 190). Rueben Randle and Stephen Hill likely received higher grades from most teams, and third-round prospects Marvin Jones, Nick Toon and DeVier Posey may wind up having similar careers to Jenkins.
â¢ Tennessee Titans take WR Kendall Wright with the 20th pick: Many people think Wright projects as a big-time playmaker at the next level. But ask yourself this: How many 5-10 vertical threats not named Steve Smith or DeSean Jackson are there in the NFL? Like the Niners, Tennessee could've found a steal in the third or fourth round at receiver. The Titans had even more options than San Francisco at that pick, as they had a chance to select a possible Pro Bowl center in DeCastro -- I believe he could make the switch from guard to the pivot -- or a pass rusher like Jones or Whitney Mercilus.
Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @ChadReuter