Big night for Big 12, Tebow

April 23, 2010

New York — In surprise, Denver swaps picks with Ravens, drafts Florida QB

— The NFL's first prime-time draft was a huge night for the Big 12 and an enormous one for Big 15.

The first is a conference — the Big 12 contributed nine first-rounders — and the other, No. 15, is Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, a stunning pick by the Denver Broncos.

While Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Texas' Colt McCoy stared at their cell phones, the Broncos traded back into the first round — giving up picks in the second, third and fourth — to get Tebow. His throwing motion is under construction, however, and some evaluators wonder whether the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner be able to make the tough transition from a spread offense to the pros.

The draft began in a far more predictable way. In a move forecast for weeks, the St.Louis Rams made Oklahoma's Sam Bradford the top pick, making him the first Sooner to go No. 1 since Billy Sims in 1980.

If you toss out Troy Aikman — who began at Oklahoma but finished at UCLA — an Oklahoma quarterback has not taken a snap in the pros since "Indian" Jack Jacobs in 1947.

Oklahoma is the first school in the history of the draft with three players selected in the top four picks. Sooners defensive tackle Gerald McCoy went third to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and offensive tackle Trent Williams went fourth to the Washington Redskins.

Counting Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (second to the Detroit Lions) and Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung (sixth to the Seattle Seahawks), five of the first six picks came from the Big 12.

"That's pretty cool because I know that the Big 12 caught a lot of slack lately," said Bradford, who stands to make upward of $50 million in guaranteed money as the top pick of the Rams. "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."

The only player in the top six from outside the Big 12 was Tennessee safety Eric Berry, who went fifth to the Kansas City Chiefs.

This draft was a break from tradition. The first twist came at No. 8, when the unpredictable Oakland Raiders took Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, who most people had predicted would go in the teens. That drew raucous boos from the Giants fans in the balcony section of the theater because they were hoping McClain would be around when their team picked in the middle of the round.

Then Buffalo took Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, another surprise considering the Bills have so many needs yet were solid at running back with Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. Next came the biggest shocker yet. Jacksonville used the 10th spot to grab Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, a player who didn't crack many first-round mocks but was highly regarded in many scouting departments.

It was not a banner night for Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who tumbled out of the top 20 and beyond. He was saddled with questions about his ability to lead.

The first receiver taken was not Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant, who some had rated the best at the position, but rather Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas, who went 22nd to Denver. Bryant was taken 24th by Dallas.

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