Observations from the 2013 NFL draft

THREE REASONS WHY

Three offensive tackles went in the first four picks for the first time in history:

1. The NFL is a passer's league more than ever, and there's a premium on protecting the $100 million quarterbacks from pass-rushing defensive ends, linebackers and blitzing defensive backs. They're throwing the ball more at the college and even high school levels, and that prepares these tackles to be ready sooner for the demands of the NFL.

2. The proliferation of the read-option game requires tackles to be more athletic than their slower-footed predecessors. These tackles don't just form a human blocking wall for passers. They have to get downfield ahead of the mobile quarterbacks and block at the second level. Eric Fisher has a basketball background; Lane Johnson played quarterback in junior college before making the transition to tackle.

3. It was one of those years when there wasn't a quarterback worthy of the first 15 picks in the draft like last season when the debate was between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, followed by Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden. Nor were there other skill-position players that rated that high. Running backs and wide receivers can be found later in the draft; franchise tackles are rare.

DO TELL THE TRUTH

How disappointed was Luke Joeckel at not being taken by the Chiefs with the first overall pick?

A little.

"I'm a competitor, and ... we all want to be that No. 1 pick," Joeckel told Jacksonville reporters. "This whole thing, going two, is just going to drive me more. It's going to help me work harder, especially with another offensive tackle going in front of me ... because I'll always want to be the best. I'm happy to be in Jacksonville. I understand now that even being the No. 2 pick doesn't even matter, I still have to prove myself."

Who was the most interesting player taken in the first round?

Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who was taken by Detroit, was born and raised in Ghana, enrolled at BYU on an athletic scholarship and participated in track before trying out for the football team in 2010. He made nine career starts - all in 2012 - but was Most Outstanding Player at Senior Bowl.

How concerned were the Panthers about Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who was detected with a heart problem at the combine before he was cleared by the team's exam?

The Panthers have experience drafting players with heart issues. They took Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander in the fourth round last year after Alexander was sent home from the combine after doctors thought they found a hole in his heart. The Panthers checked into it, and it turned out to be a misdiagnosis.

EXTRA POINTS

Best move

St. Louis' trading up and taking Tavon Austin gives St. Louis a dynamic player for a team that ranked 25th in scoring and has just three players who have caught an NFL pass.

Worst move

Miami had more pressing needs than a pass rusher when it traded up to the third pick and took Dion Jordan. The Dolphins just gave Cameron Wake a four-year, $49 million contract extension ($20 million guaranteed) after his 15-sack Pro Bowl season last year.

Biggest surprise

Buffalo's new coach, Doug Marrone, passed Ryan Nassib, his quarterback at Syracuse, and took Florida State's EJ Manuel, who was projected to be a second-round pick.

Biggest risk

Oakland (so what else is new?), which signed free agents Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, may have reached a bit in taking Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden with the 12th pick. Hayden suffered a life-threatening injury during a November practice and underwent emergency for a torn blood vessel in his heart area.


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