Johnny Manziel will be the biggest draft story around the country Friday morning because he's Johnny Manziel. But two other teams made similarly transformative moves to take their quarterbacks of the future Thursday night.
The Jacksonville Jaguars' new regime will rise and fall on the shoulders of Blake Bortles. In all the countless hours of pre-draft buzz and speculation, no one said a word about Bortles staying in Florida. Just three years removed from the Blaine Gabbert debacle, the Jaguars are going to ask another raw talent to carry an offensive roster that is still missing a lot of pieces. We have more faith in the Jaguars coaching staff this time around -- especially coach Gus Bradley -- to support Bortles with a strong defense.
The Minnesota Vikings didn't have to take such a big gamble. After getting thwarted in a bid to trade up for Johnny Manziel, the Vikings moved up eight spots to end the first round with Teddy Bridgewater. All they had to give up was a fourth-round pick. Unlike Bortles, Bridgewater will have some interesting pieces around him if he plays as a rookie. Adrian Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph is a nice collection of skill-position talent.
Perhaps the Vikings settled and should have just taken Manziel in the top 10. But we expect them to get outstanding value out of Bridgewater in that spot. Among all the rookie quarterbacks, he had the traits that so often carry over in the pros. He's accurate, reads defenses well and has excellent pocket movement when pressure is around him. There will be less of a media cry to start Bridgewater right away because he was taken so low; Bortles won't have the same luxury.
The drumbeat for Bridgewater, however, will start eventually. It does for all first-round quarterbacks. These are the picks that get general managers new contracts or gets them fired.
Here's what else we learned Thursday:
2. Speaking of putting careers on the line: Buffalo general manager Doug Whaley needs wide receiver Sammy Watkins to be special. The Bills gave up their first- and fourth-round picks of next year's draft to move up five spots and get the deep threat. EJ Manuel has a surplus of weapons around him now, but we're not convinced he's the guy to deliver.
3. Don't be surprised to see Stevie Johnson on the trade block now that Watkins is in Buffalo. That's a crowded, young receiver group.
4. The Vikings traded up to get Bridgewater, in part, because Houston was waiting at the top of Round 2. The Texans reportedly are interested in dealing for Ryan Mallett. We won't have to wait long to find out their quarterback plans Friday. If they pass on quarterback again, there's a good chance Mallett will be headed to Houston.
5. The Rams were lying behind the scenes about Johnny Manziel all along. It doesn't matter how much they liked Aaron Donald -- we like him too -- they would have taken Manziel at No. 13 if they truly had any interest. St. Louis had a lot of media folks believing they were in on Manziel, but it was a smokescreen all along. They passed on him twice. And no one wanted Manziel enough near the top of the draft to give up much for him.
6. With that said, we love what the Rams did. Greg Robinson can transform their running game. Donald gives the Rams a ridiculous defensive line with Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers and Donald. The NFC West is scary. Sam Bradford is getting at least one more real chance to prove why he was a No. 1 pick.
8. One team that wasn't sending out smokescreens: Arizona. They had a chance to draft Manziel and they passed. They had a chance to take Bridgewater at No. 27 after trading down, and they passed. It's Carson Palmer's world, and it's an impressive looking secondary in Arizona after they added underrated hitter Deone Bucannon.
9. The Saints haven't had the best history drafting wide receivers high under Sean Payton. They took the plunge again with Brandin Cooks. He essentially replaces Darren Sproles as a new "space" player for whom Payton can cook up plays. New Orleans needs to find some young core offensive pieces, so Cooks will be under pressure to perform right away.
This was a great night for people who root against mock drafts. It was a reminder that we usually know nothing heading into the first round. It is the kind of night that keeps us coming back, powerless to understand why we are so transfixed by a man reading names off notecards.