Johnny Football became Johnny Freefall during Thursday night's first round of the 2014 NFL draft, but the Texas A&M quarterback finally found a new home.
The Cleveland Browns were involved in three trades and used their third one to select Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and a 2013 Heisman finalist. Most projections had Cleveland snatching Manziel with the fourth overall pick, but his name wasn't called until more than two hours later, when the Browns took him with the 22nd selection.
Cleveland moved up four spots in a trade with Philadelphia to pluck the most publicized player in the draft.
"I had been telling myself that it would all work out, and I really and truly believed that Cleveland was where I was supposed to end up," Manziel said on ESPN's telecast. "It feels right, and it feels where I was meant to be. I'm very excited. 'Dawg Pound,' here we come.
"I think I bring a winning attitude and a lot of emotion to the table, and I'm going to pour my heart out for this team and for this city. I believe it will all work out."
It did not work out for the last two quarterbacks the Browns drafted with the 22nd pick of the first round. Brady Quinn was selected in 2007 and has played in 24 NFL games the last seven seasons and just 10 since 2009, and Brandon Weeden was the 2012 pick and has thrown 26 interceptions to 23 touchdowns the past two years.
Thursday's draft opened with the Houston Texans doing the expected by selecting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The No. 1 recruit nationally in college football's 2011 signing class, Clowney became the first Gamecocks player picked No. 1 in the draft since Heisman Trophy winning tailback George Rogers in 1981.
"My life just changed," Clowney said in an interview on the Texans website. "I'm glad to be a part of the Houston Texans, and I'm ready to go to work. God gave me this gift, and I am going to use it to the best of my ability.
"I've got a lot to prove to people."
Auburn tackle Greg Robinson was picked second by the St. Louis Rams, and he was followed by Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles going third to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins fourth to the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack fifth to the Oakland Raiders. The Bills moved up from ninth in a trade with Cleveland and gave up 2015 first- and fourth-round picks to the Browns.
The Atlanta Falcons picked sixth and went with Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, the son of NFL Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews and a cousin of Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews.
"It's always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL," Matthews said on the ESPN telecast. "This is an amazing opportunity, and I want to make the most of it. I'm so proud to have this last name and the chance to represent my family, and I am proud to be with the Atlanta Falcons. This is awesome."
Tampa Bay selected seventh and went with Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans before Cleveland was involved with its second trade, switching spots with Minnesota and giving the Vikings a fifth-round pick Saturday. The Browns used the eighth pick to take Oklahoma State cornerback Jordan Gilbert, and the Vikings followed by taking UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.
The Detroit Lions picked 10th and went with North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, and then the Tennessee Titans selected 11th and went with Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan.
A year after the Southeastern Conference produced 12 first-round picks, the league had another strong draft presence with 11. LSU receiver Odell Beckham went 12th to the New York Giants, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley 17th to Baltimore, Tennessee tackle Ja'Wuan James 19th to Miami, Alabama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix 21st to Green Bay, Auburn defensive end Dee Ford 23rd to Kansas City and Florida defensive end Dominique Easley 29th to New England.
Alabama had two first-round selections, but the Crimson Tide went without a top-10 pick for the first time since 2008.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...