NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Defying NFL custom and at least temporarily creating a quarterback quandary, the Arizona Cardinals led off the NFL draft Thursday night by selecting Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner.
For the second time in a year, Arizona went QB, having moved up from 15th overall to 10th in 2018 to grab Josh Rosen. NFL teams simply don’t do that, but with a new coach in college-trained Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals made the bold move. At least until they likely move Rosen elsewhere in a trade.
“I feel we can be very dangerous,” Murray said. “He’s one of the best in the world at calling plays. I can’t wait to get up there with him. It’s been a long time coming and I hope he feels the same.”
Resplendent in a pink suit — nothing close to the Cardinals red he will be wearing in Arizona — Murray hugged several of his fellow draft prospects before doing the same with Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Murray, a first-round baseball pick by the Oakland A’s, becomes the 22nd Heisman Trophy winner to go first overall. He also is the second straight Sooners quarterback to pull it off: Baker Mayfield went to Cleveland in 2018.
“BACK TO BACK!!!!! CONGRATS K1!!!! Well deserved my brotha!!!” Mayfield tweeted.
As for bypassing baseball, Murray has no qualms about the decision.
“I love playing multiple sports. I grew up playing multiple sports,” he said. “I just think there’s no reason to limit yourself to one sport. I love to compete, so it wasn’t a big deal for me.”
After Murray, defense became the order of the night. Of the first dozen picks, eight were for that side of the ball, starting with Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa, who went to San Francisco as expected. The 49ers have used a first-round selection on four defensive linemen in the past five drafts.
Bosa is considered the top pass rusher in this group. His older brother, Joey, plays for the Chargers and was the 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Their father also played in the NFL.
“Good genes, man,” Bosa said with a laugh. “”It’s a new journey. I’m so excited to finally be back on a team. I can’t wait to get to work. This is all the work I’ve put in since I was 7 years old and it’s finally here.”
Bosa is the highest Ohio State draft pick since offensive tackle Orlando Pace went No. 1 to St. Louis in 1997. He missed all but three games last season with a core muscle injury, but already had exhibited the kind of playmaking that lifts players to loft status. Such as the second pick in the draft.
The Jets, widely speculated to trade the third pick, used it on Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, considered by some scouts the best player in this draft. Not even a starter before 2018, Williams won the Outland Trophy last season and is Alabama’s highest-drafted defensive player since linebacker Cornelius Bennett went No. 2 overall in 1987.
“It’s just amazing. I’m ready to work now,” Williams said. “I trained with (Jets veteran DL) Leonard Williams, I know Leonard Williams a lot, and to get in there with him, someone I already had a connection with and can learn from, we’re going to get work done.”
More defense with Clemson end Clelin Ferrell going to Oakland and LSU linebacker Devin White to Tampa Bay, both addressing huge needs.
Then came what some considered a surprise when the Giants, looking for Eli Manning’s eventual successor, took Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, the Senior Bowl MVP. Jones generally was not considered a first-round prospect when the college season ended.
But he’s been tutored at Duke by David Cutcliffe, who also coached Peyton and Eli Manning in college.
Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen followed to Jacksonville, then it was Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson to Detroit and Houston DT Ed Oliver to Buffalo.
Finally, in the 10th spot, a trade: Pittsburgh sending the 20th spot, the 53rd selection and a third-rounder next year to Denver. The Steelers, with Hall of Famer Joe Greene making the announcement, selected Michigan linebacker Devin Bush — a player apparently coveted by AFC North rival Cincinnati at No. 11.
With a linebacker they valued taken by their biggest rival, the Bengals went back to fixing their offensive line. They’ve been down this road before.
The Bengals took Alabama tackle Jonah Williams. Bush would have filled the biggest hole on what was the league’s worst defense last season, as the Bengals need a linebacker to replace Vontaze Burfict.
Instead, they took an offensive tackle in the first round for the second time in four years.
The biggest intrigue with Cincinnati was whether new head coach Zac Taylor would push for a quarterback in the first round to develop within his system. Andy Dalton has two years left on his deal, and owner Mike Brown speaks glowingly of the 31-year-old quarterback.
The Bengals passed on a quarterback — for now — to upgrade a line that’s been a work in progress.
Cincinnati thought they were set when they drafted tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher with their first two picks in 2015, but they didn’t pan out and the Bengals parted ways with them after last season.
They solidified the line by getting left tackle Cordy Glenn from Buffalo last year and signing right tackle Bobby Hart, who got an extension after last season. They also drafted center Billy Price from Ohio State with their first pick last year.
And now they’ve got another tackle to join the mix and get in line for a starting job.
Cincinnati still desperately needs a linebacker after releasing Burfict last month, a turning point for the franchise. Burfict had a subpar season that included another suspension and various injuries. He had no interceptions or sacks in seven games, prompting the Bengals to finally part ways.
The defense was so atrocious last season that head coach Marvin Lewis fired coordinator Teryl Austin midway through the season and assumed the duties himself. A 6-10 finish — Cincinnati’s third straight without a winning record — led to Lewis’ ouster after 16 seasons in Cincinnati.
Perhaps the most patient display of the first half of the opening round came from Washington, a franchise not necessarily known for that trait. They sat at 15 and got the quarterback, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, that many believed the Redskins will need to trade up for.
Haskins had been linked to the Redskins in recent days with owner Dan Snyder and President Bruce Allen reportedly enamored with him.
Haskins joins a crowded roster at QB with injured veteran Alex Smith, longtime backup Colt McCoy and trade acquisition Case Keenum. Smith is expected to miss the entire 2019 season after breaking his right leg in November.
In his redshirt sophomore season at Ohio State, Haskins threw for 4,831 yards, 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions and rushed for four scores. He led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title and a 13-1 season just outside of a spot in the college football playoff.
Haskins and family members watched the draft at a bowling alley and sports bar in Gaithersburg, Maryland, about 30 miles from the Redskins’ practice facility. The Redskins went with a quarterback in the first round for the first time since 2012, when they traded up to get Robert Griffin III with the second pick.
Seconds after Washington selected Haskins, Griffin tweeted: “You didn’t draft the young man for nothing. You did it because you believe in the young man. You did it because you need a Quarterback. Don’t give up on him prematurely. He is your investment. Give the kid time to prove himself. Congrats young gun!!! Enjoy every second of it!”