Nineteen prospects walked out of the green room and onto the stage at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago on Thursday night, smiles beaming and eyes full of excitement just moments after being picked in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Then there are the six players who didn’t get that chance. Myles Jack, A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Reggie Ragland, Chris Jones and Kevin Dodd remained in their seats as the first round concluded, their names yet to echo from Roger Goodell’s mouth over the speakers of the draft hall.
Where they will get picked once Day 2 of the draft starts Friday night may be a mystery. But according to one former player who experienced virtually the same thing, not being a first-rounder could have its silver lining.
Brady Quinn, now a college football and NFL analyst for Fox Sports, went through one of the more memorable slides in NFL draft history. He was billed before the 2007 draft as a possible top-10 pick — and possibly No. 1 overall pick — but an unexpected slide left him getting picked later than he had hoped.
“I didn’t go into it thinking I was going to one particular place,” Quinn said. “I hadn’t visited any teams outside of the top 10, so that led me to believe that most likely there was going to be an opportunity somewhere in the top 10.”
A few teams at the top of that draft needed quarterbacks. The Raiders, picking No. 1 overall, took LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The Browns took offensive lineman Joe Thomas third overall. The Dolphins, the final team in the top 10 that needed a Week 1 starter at quarterback, shocked Radio City Music Hall by taking wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. ninth.
From there, it snowballed.
“When that didn’t happen, I looked at the teams from 10 moving backward,” said Quinn, speaking with Newsday at the Empire State Building while on a break from promoting Purina’s Roll Over Hunger campaign. “And it was like, no one needs a quarterback, so at this point, it’s going to be until a team trades up.”
It worked out just like that. The Browns, seeing Quinn in freefall and still needing a quarterback, traded up to the 22nd overall pick and took him, sending their second-round pick later in that draft as well as a 2008 first-rounder to the Dallas Cowboys in the process.
Quinn pointed to the Broncos’ trade up for Paxton Lynch on Thursday night as a similar situation where a falling quarterback was saved by a trade.
“Elway started making calls, I want to say around 17, and they couldn’t work out a deal until 26 with the Seattle Seahawks,” he said. “So it’s all about finding the right deal, the right person to make the trade, the right value, a certain player and all that.”
Quinn said prospects need to avoid the chatter and speculation from pundits before the draft so as to not get their hopes up for potentially false reasoning.
“No one knows what teams actually think and what they’re going to do,” Quinn said. “In fact, a lot of the teams will put things out there that are false half the time, because they don’t want other teams to know what decisions they’re going to make. They don’t want other teams to know what players they covet or want to go after so they don’t trade up ahead of them to get that player.”
Which takes us to the six players still in the green room. All were common inclusions in most mock drafts, but they all fell for one reason or another.
Jack, an otherworldly athlete, confirmed earlier this week that he may need microfracture surgery on his injured knee in a few years. Robinson and Reed were great run-stuffers in college, but some analysts wondered if they were merely two-down linemen in the NFL. Ragland was a leader in the middle of Alabama’s defense, but there were questions about his speed. Jones was considered inconsistent. Dodd only had one year of starting experience and often was overshadowed by more talented teammates.
But despite missing the prestige of being called a first-round pick, Quinn said there’s a long-term benefit for those six players when it’s time to get paid in a few years.
“It’s all a starting point,” he said. “Theoretically, it helps them get to a second contract faster, because now you’re not tied into possibly a five-year deal. Now you’re tied into a four-year deal. So it might actually play out better for them in the long run, being able to have one less year to get to that second contract and make more money, if you think about it that way.”