One of them entered Thursday night on a freefall. The other was the biggest question mark of the NFL Draft.
At the end of the night, a pair of teams looking to break through into the NFL’s upper echelon pulled off multiple trades and gave Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel homes by the conclusion of Round 1.
Bridgewater, the Louisville QB who for so long was viewed the class of the 2014 QBs only to see a poor Pro Day send his sock plummeting, is a Viking, after the champion Seahawks shipped the final pick of the first round to Minnesota.
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Ten picks before that, Manziel saw his freefall — he entered the Draft viewed by most as a top-10 talent (perhaps top five) — end, but not before an agonizing few hours that are sure to live on in Draft lore. And when the dust had settled, Manziel was a Cleveland Brown, but only after the franchise pulled off its third trade of the night.
Here’s a look at all of the wheeling and dealing that went down in Round 1:
The night’s fist deal came when the Buffalo Bills traded with the Browns to select Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins with the fourth pick.
The Bills moved up five spots in the deal with the Browns on Thursday. In exchange, Buffalo gave up their No. 9 pick in this year’s draft, along with their first- and fourth-round picks in next year’s draft.
”We thought it was a calculated risk, and a risk we were willing to take,” said Bills general manager Doug Whaley, who took over after Buddy Nix stepped down a year ago. ”The high cost of not making the playoffs is something we weighed, and we thought this guy was going to get us to the playoffs.”
The Bills are coming off their third consecutive six-win season. They’ve also gone 14 seasons without a playoff berth — the NFL’s longest active drought.
After moving down, the Browns then moved up a spot, Cleveland swapping picks with Minnesota, also surrendering a fifth-rounder (No. 145 overall) before taking CB Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State, who can play on the opposite side of Pro Bowler Joe Haden.
”He’s long. He’s fast. He’s explosive. He’s a playmaker,” Browns GM Ray Farmer said. ”He plays like a Brown. He’s got great arm length. He’s got the speed. He’s got the ball skills. I know some people have questioned his tackling. We cover like Browns, tackling was good, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be great. We understand exactly who he is, what he is. We think he can make plays for us. He’s going to play relentless. He’s going to play at the line of scrimmage and press people. He’s able to do things we need him to do.”
The 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert had seven interceptions last season, returning two for touchdowns.
”I pretty much can do it all,” Gilbert said. ”I’m an all-around cornerback.”
Apparently, the Saints grew tired of seeing the Browns make all the moves, as New Orleans made the next deal, moving up from No. 27 to No. 20 to select Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
In addition to the 27th overall pick, the Saints also sent their third-round pick, the 91st overall, to the Arizona Cardinals.
Cooks caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013, when he won the Biletnikoff award as the top receiver in the nation. Now, he 5-foot-10, 190-pound Cooks joins one of the NFL’s elite passing attacks.
With Drew Brees at quarterback, the Saints ranked second in the NFL in passing last year, but this offseason have released receiver Lance Moore and traded running back Darren Sproles, who was also a receiving threat.
Then came the big move. After watching Manziel slide from what many pundits believed would be a top-5 — certainly top-10 — slot, the Browns sent their other first-round pick, No. 26 overall, along with the No. 83 overall pick (in the third round), to Philadelphia to take the Heisman winner from Texas A&M at No. 22.
After passing Manziel earlier in the night with the trades and selection of Gilbert, the Browns apparently could wait no longer. Naturally, once Johnny Football hears his name called, he walked on to Radio Music City Hall’s stage doing his signature ”money” gesture.
Manziel will certainly sell tickets in Cleveland, but the Browns need him to win and there are questions about the 5-foot-11 QB’s durability.
Manziel is expected to compete with Brian Hoyer, who is coming off knee surgery.