Sam Bradford was the sure thing, but Tim Tebow wound up being the stunner.
As expected, the St. Louis Rams selected Oklahoma quarterback Bradford with the No. 1 pick in last night's NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall. But what few saw coming was the Denver Broncos picking Tebow with the No. 25 selection over Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Texas' Colt McCoy, who both went undrafted in the first round.
The Florida quarterback won two BCS national titles in 2007 and 2009, but many prognosticators questioned whether Tebow's skills behind center would translate in the NFL. But although critics have questioned his passing ability, Tebow's believers have said his leadership and versatility are too good to pass on.
Now it's the Broncos' challenge to figure out how to juggle Brady Quinn (for whom they traded in the offseason), starter Kyle Orton and Tebow.
"I enjoyed the working process and all the critics and the negativity," Tebow said. "It only pushed me that much more and only made me work that much harder. I can honestly say that I think that made me better."
One quarterback whose name didn't make waves Thursdaywas the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger. Rumors had swirled that he might be traded after he received a six-game suspension after a woman accused him of sexual assault in a Milledgeville, Ga., bar last month. But the Steelers instead selected Florida center Maurkice Pounce at No. 18.
The Big 12 was expected to dominate the early portion of the first round, given the talent pool the conference churned out this past season. But neither Bradford nor the rest of the draftees expected three Oklahoma players to be taken with the first four picks.
Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was selected No. 2 overall by Detroit and former Sooner Gerald McCoy, also a defensive tackle, and Trent Williams, an offensive tackle, were chosen third and fourth, respectively, by Tampa Bay and Washington. It was the first time in the modern-day draft that the first four selections were from the same conference.
"That's pretty cool because I know that the Big 12 caught a lot of [flak] lately," Bradford said. "People for some reason didn't think we played much football in the Big 12 and they sure didn't think we played much defense, and now we have two defensive tackles going in the top 3."
Suh expressed some disappointment at not being the first pick but said he's looking forward to going to Detroit. "I'm definitely happy with the situation," he said. "They have some great fans. As you can see, they were vying for me to come there and they got their wish. And I'm not going to disappoint them."
McCoy echoed the sentiment. "I have to go out there and show them I'm worth the No. 3 pick," he said, referring to the Buccaneers.
An emotional McCoy stepped to the podium with thoughts of his mother, Patricia - who passed away almost three years ago from a brain aneurysm - on his mind.
"The fire and the drive I have came from my mother," said McCoy, who wore his mother's initials, PDM, on his suit.
"When I tried to quit my freshman year, she's the one that said: 'We don't quit in this family. And if you quit, I'll kill you.' And it paid off. I'm here now."
For the first time, the nationally televised event was turned into a three-day affair airing in prime time. The second and third rounds will be held Friday and rounds four through seven will be held tomorrow.