1) The dramatic journey of Johnny Cleveland
The wait for Johnny Football was long, and the insanity played out brilliantly on NFL Network. It was better than any reality show on television.
I wrote this week that Johnny Football makes complete sense for Cleveland, which is a fantastic match for his play and personality. Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan knows how to build his scheme around his signal-caller; think of what he did in Washington with a unique running quarterback in Robert Griffin III. Manziel and his scrambling ability will fit right in. A stone's throw from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Texas A&M product is going to be a rock star.
When you draft Manziel, you draft an attitude. And, if you haven't noticed, the Browns need attitude. They've been so comically bad for so long -- but Manziel won't care. He'll take the field against Cleveland's AFC North foes in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati believing he can win. And he can. I'm sure the first-round slide bruised Manziel's ego, but he's in the ideal spot to be successful right away in 2014.
As I wrote in February, while it was easy to laugh at Cleveland for undergoing a major front-office overhaul relatively late in the offseason, the team did vastly improve at general manager and head coach with the hirings of Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine, respectively. I felt then that the Browns could win more games than the Steelers in 2014, and I feel even more confident after the Manziel pick.
2) Early-evening fireworks
There's nothing like a good win-win draft-day trade.
Cleveland gets an A++ for its efforts Thursday -- both for the Manziel move and for what transpired earlier.
The Browns traded the fourth overall pick to the Bills for the ninth spot -- plus Buffalo's first- and fourth-round picks in 2015. Then they traded No. 9 (along with a fifth-round choice) to the Vikings for No. 8, where they nabbed the best corner in the draft: Justin Gilbert. Think about the top-notch corners Pettine had when he was the New York Jets' defensive coordinator, players like Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. And now Pettine has Gilbert and the great Joe Haden in Cleveland. I'm all in on the Browns, who are in prime position to add a running back like Carlos Hyde on Day 2.
As for the Bills, they used the fourth overall pick to grab receiver Sammy Watkins, who is, in my opinion, the best offensive player in this draft -- an instant home-run hitter. I love this move for coach Doug Marrone and Buffalo. If second-year pro EJ Manuel can stay healthy and even out his play at quarterback, this squad is going to be dangerous.
3) Logic prevails in the Big D
It was awesome to watch the drama unfold on NFL Network as the Dallas Cowboys' turn came around at No. 16 -- with Johnny Football still there for the taking. Twitter was set ablaze. The anticipation was fantastic.
And then logic won.
Dallas focused on the field and ignored the buzz in the name of building a true team. Bravo.
4) The Jacksonville Jaguars select ... wait, what?
I don't understand what the Jaguars did, drafting UCF signal-caller Blake Bortles third overall. I don't get it. I disagree with it completely. Or, as an NFL general manager texted me after the pick: "Third overall? I didn't think he was a top-three quarterback!"
I love the combination of coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell in Jacksonville; I wrote a column earlier this offseason raving about their approach. However, a defensive-minded coach like Bradley must have a dominant defense, and the Jags' unit still has holes. Linebacker Khalil Mack -- whom the Raiders selected two picks later, at No. 5 overall -- would've been perfect for Bradley's system.
What Jacksonville did defies logic.
There was no undeniable franchise quarterback in this draft. There was no sure thing, no Andrew Luck. But even if the Jags really liked Bortles, they could've traded down.
How to watch the NFL draft
5) A QB run on the horizon for Day 2?
You knew the Vikings were going to draft a quarterback at some point, and they did. I'm happy for Bridgewater, who was never going to be a top-10 pick; the idea that he would be was, sadly for him, a media creation. Does Bridgewater have an NFL arm? Folks I've talked to in the league question it.
In fact, many executives I spoke with during the draft process had Derek Carr as the higher-rated prospect. And I agree with them. I'm stunned Carr didn't go in Round 1. I think he's the best QB in the draft. And if (when) Oakland picks him Friday night, that's a steal.
6) Saints and Cards swap -- and both come out on top
This is no surprise, considering two of the best general managers in the NFL run these teams.
In March, Saints GM Mickey Loomis traded an aging Darren Sproles to the Eagles. On Thursday, Loomis made another move, sending New Orleans' first- and third-round picks (Nos. 27 and 91) to the Cardinals for No. 20, where he found his ideal big-play threat in receiver Brandin Cooks. One general manager told me: "He's DeSean Jackson on the field." NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah likened Cooks to T.Y. Hilton on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports." Whichever comparison you prefer, Cooks should be the kind of electric, sizzling playmaker who can help the Saints' high-powered attack hum.
7) Get ready for a running back stampede
No running backs were picked in the first round, which was hardly a surprise. On Friday, however, I expect a slew of ball-carriers to come off the board.
I think the notion that the NFL is a "passing league" is a bit absurd. Look at the San Francisco 49ers and Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks, the two best teams in the NFL. They're built on defense, clutch quarterback play -- and being able to run the ball. The Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII in the same way.
8) Lions inexplicably ignore one side of the ball
9) Texans get it right
I wrote early in April that the decision the Texans faced with the No. 1 overall pick was easy. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is a freak, the best player in the draft. At this point, all I can do is wish good luck to the opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks who will have to deal with Clowney and J.J. Watt.
Between Clowney and new coach Bill O'Brien, Houston made some major upgrades this offseason. The Texans are back in the playoff hunt.