NFL Draft’s First Round Is Led by Linemen as Jets Grab Milliner

Offensive tackles were the top two picks in the National Football League draft for the second time in the Super Bowl era, the New York Jets picked up a potential replacement for Darrelle Revis and no running backs were taken in the opening round for the first time since 1963.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected Eric Fisher from Central Michigan University to start last night’s draft and the Jacksonville Jaguars followed by taking Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M. Nine offensive linemen were among the first 32 picks -- one short of the record 10 in 1968 -- with the New York Giants getting Justin Pugh from Syracuse University as a protector for quarterback Eli Manning with the 19th pick.

“That’s a lot of love for the big boys up front, which we usually don’t get,” said Fisher, who was the fourth offensive lineman in the past 45 years taken No. 1 overall, joining Jake Long (2008), Orlando Pace (1997) and Ron Yary (1968).

The Jets, with two first-round picks for the first time since 2008, took University of Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner at No. 9 overall. The selection, made four days after the Jets traded All-Pro cornerback Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was met with loud cheers from Jets fans at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The Jets also had the 13th pick and took University of Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who was one of nine defensive linemen drafted on day one.

Of the 32 first-round picks, 18 were offensive or defensive linemen.

“It’s become a passing league and they need guys to protect the quarterbacks and guys to get after them,” said University of Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan, who went third overall to the Miami Dolphins.

First Quarterback

E.J. Manuel of Florida State was the only quarterback drafted in the first round, taken 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback Geno Smith of West Virginia University was among four of the 23 prospects to accept invitations to attend the draft and go undrafted in the first round.

Also undrafted were the University of Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, as no running backs were taken in the first round for the first time in 50 years, and University of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, the runner-up for last year’s Heisman Trophy.

The draft continues tonight with the second and third rounds. Rounds 4-7 are scheduled for tomorrow.

Fisher joins a Chiefs team that tied the Jaguars with an NFL-worst 2-14 record last season, leading to the firing of coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli. This offseason, Kansas City hired ex-Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid and acquired quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 pick in 2005, in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers.

Top Two

Fisher and Joeckel are the first offensive linemen taken with the first two picks since Yary and Bob Johnson were picked consecutively by Minnesota and Cincinnati in 1968, less than two years after the first Super Bowl. After the Dolphins traded up to get Jordan -- Oregon’s first defensive player taken with a top-10 draft pick -- the Philadelphia Eagles took University of Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson fourth.

“It’s always nice when the O-line gets some respect,” Joeckel said. “Teams are realizing how important the position is because the guys, they look pretty scoring the touchdowns, but they get space to score those touchdowns from us.”

Defensive ends went with consecutive picks at five and six -- Brigham Young’s Ezekiel Ansah to the Detroit Lions and Louisiana State’s Barkevious Mingo to the Cleveland Browns.

The Arizona Cardinals took North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper next before the St. Louis Rams made a trade with the Buffalo Bills to take the draft’s first non-lineman, West Virginia University wide receiver Tavon Austin, who had 114 catches for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Crimson Tide

The Jets’ pick of Milliner was the first of three straight from the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tennessee Titans took guard Chance Warmack with the 10th pick and the Chargers followed by selecting tackle D.J. Fluker.

The Minnesota Vikings were the first team to have three first-round picks since the 2001 Rams and took Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd at No. 23, Florida State defensive back Xavier Rhodes at No. 25 and University of Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 29.

The Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens closed the first round after three hours, 33 minutes by taking Florida defensive back Matt Elam. He was the last of 12 players from Southeastern Conference schools taken in round one, the most of any college football league.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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