One by one, the names kept coming off the board. And still no Johnny Manziel.
Not in the top five. Not in the top 10. Or the top 15. Not even the top 20.
Latest NFL stories
The free fall was the nightmare scenario for the Texas A&M star, whose on-field bravado and off-field swagger turned him into the attention-grabber of this draft.
On Wednesday, Manziel spoke confidently of being the first quarterback selected. But he turned into this year's version of Brady Quinn, the Notre Dame quarterback who fell like a stone in the 2007 draft. Oddly enough, both wound up with the Browns. On the same pick, no less.
Cleveland traded up from 26th to get the 22nd overall pick from the Eagles and selected Manziel, eliciting roars Thursday night from a packed house at Radio City Music Hall. Seven years earlier, the reaction was similar when the Browns traded up to 22nd overall to get Quinn.
Manziel offered a vintage reaction when he finally came out on stage to share hugs with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Holding his hands up high and rubbing his fingers together, he made the same gesture as he did after throwing a touchdown pass in last year's opener after being "suspended" for the first half because the NCAA decided he had received money for autographs, which is against the governing body's rules.
In the end, though, he was grateful to be drafted, even if it was lower than he expected.
"I felt going into this everything would work itself out," he said. "It's a dream come true to be a first-round NFL draft pick. It's incredible. It's great for me to end up [in Cleveland], a team that has fans that are as passionate as I am on the field. Those guys are very passionate about a team that hasn't had an incredible amount of success. For me, that means a lot, and it means a lot for this team to trade up.''
There was speculation that the Cowboys might take Manziel with the 16th pick, but Dallas chose Notre Dame tackle/guard Zack Martin. What might have happened if the Cowboys had picked Manziel? "I don't know if the world could have handled that, honestly," he cracked.
He added, "This is something I've thought about since I was a kid -- 12 years old watching the NFL draft. For me, there's no disappointment. I was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. For me, that almost blows my mind. It's such an honor. It's such a dream come true. It's truly incredible.''
The Browns can only hope things work out better with Johnny Football than they did with Quinn, a major disappointment in Cleveland. Manziel certainly will make things interesting for the Browns, who have endured a chaotic offseason, most of it by their own doing.
Owner Jimmy Haslam fired coach Rob Chudzinski after one season. Then the Browns made a run at 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh before settling on former Jets and Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Haslam also got rid of team president Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi and hired Ray Farmer as lead football executive.
Farmer looked like the big winner of Round 1, swinging trades with the Bills and Eagles and grabbing Manziel at 22 and highly rated cornerback Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State at No. 8. The Browns obtained the 26th pick by trading underachieving running back Trent Richardson to the Colts early last season.
The real shocker of the first round came with the third pick when the Jaguars, who had been linked to Manziel, selected Central Florida's Blake Bortles. The 6-5 Bortles, whose classic pocket-passing style is in stark contrast to Manziel's sometimes reckless running approach, appealed more to the rebuilding Jags.
Bortles threw for 3,581 yards, 25 touchdowns and only nine interceptions last season.
"He's a down-to-earth guy, a self-made guy, a blue-collar guy, and he wants to be the best he can be,'' Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. "He just needs a little bit of time.''
The Texans made South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney the first overall pick, ending weeks of suspense that included talk that they would trade the pick or select Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.
The Rams, at No. 2, took Auburn tackle Greg Robinson, whose pass-blocking reminds some scouts of Rams great Orlando Pace. The Bills traded up from No. 9 to the Browns' fifth pick to select Clemson's Sammy Watkins, considered one of the finest receivers in recent years.
Mack went fifth to the Raiders, who love the outside linebacker's speed and tackling. The Falcons, at No. 6, took Manziel's left tackle, Jake Matthews, son of Hall of Fame tackle Bruce Matthews and cousin of Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.