Why a record eight teams without first-round picks are not worried

Why a record eight teams without first-round picks are not worried

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Raiders fans show their NFL colors in Las Vegas, where the draft will be held this season. (John Locher / Associated Press)

Call them the Idle Eight.

A record one-quarter of the NFL’s 32 teams will be spectators Thursday when the league stages the opening round of its annual draft, the first in Las Vegas.

Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco and the Rams will be watching from the sidelines, assuming they don’t try to trade back into the round.

Six of those traded their first-round picks to acquire quarterbacks, including the Rams, who haven’t selected in the opening round since 2016, when they packaged picks to move up to take Jared Goff first overall.

The Rams in particular have reaped the benefits of trading picks for proven talent, winning the Super Bowl with seasoned acquisition Matthew Stafford at the helm.

Not surprisingly, in the copycat NFL, the Rams will have a lot of fellow teams auditing this opening round.

A look at this year’s teams without a first-round pick:

CHICAGO BEARS

Why no first-round pick? The Bears traded that pick last year to move up for quarterback Justin Fields.

When was the last time they didn’t have a first-round pick? They didn’t have a first-rounder last year, either, but picked up solid tight end Cole Kmet in the second.

Their first pick this year? The Bears select 39th, in the second round.

Notable players selected 39th? Green Bay took guard Jerry Kramer there in 1958, Buffalo grabbed linebacker Darryl Talley 39th in 1983 and Pittsburgh took Kendrell Bell in 2001. More recently, that’s where the New York Jets took Geno Smith in 2013 and the Bears took tackle Teven Jenkins last year.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields looks to pass the ball against the Detroit Lions in October.

Chicago Bears gave up their 2022 first-round draft pick in order to select Justin Fields last year. (Kamil Krzaczynski / Associated Press)

No picks in the first, but are the Bears happy to have two in the second and one in the third? “I’m excited about it,” general manager Ryan Poles told reporters. “It puts us in range of really good players. And at the same time, that also allows us to maneuver a little bit.”

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Why no first-round pick? The Browns won’t have a first-round pick this year — or until 2025 — as a result of their trade for Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Texans own the 13th pick, which would have belonged to Cleveland.

When was the last time they didn’t have a first-rounder? Five years ago, they sat out the first round because of the trade for receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Their first pick this year? The Browns have the 44th pick, in the second round.

Who are some notable players who went 44th? Chicago took running back Matt Forte there in 2008, four years after Indianapolis got safety Bob Sanders there. Miami used the 44th pick in consecutive years on defensive backs Sam Madison (1997) and Patrick Surtain (1998). Pittsburgh got two excellent players in that spot: linebacker Chad Brown (1993) and Hall of Fame center Dermonti Dawson (1988).

Will the Browns try to trade back into the first round? “I would never rule out anything. I would say, just candidly, I think it’s unlikely,” general manager Andrew Berry told reporters recently. “But I don’t want to say anything in absolutes because you just never know how situations. … Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have expected us to move up last year, so you have to be flexible for the situation.”

DENVER BRONCOS

Why no first-round pick? The Broncos sent their selection in the opening round to Seattle as part of the trade for quarterback Russell Wilson.

When was the last time they didn’t have a first-round pick? It has happened eight times in franchise history, most recently in 2012.

Their first pick this year? The Broncos have the 64th pick, in the second round, a selection they acquired in trading Von Miller to the Rams.

Notable players selected 64th? Seattle took receiver D.K. Metcalf with the 64th pick (2019), Green Bay selected receiver Randall Cobb (2011) and Arizona landed defensive end Darnell Dockett (2004).

How will the Broncos cope with sitting on their hands in the first round? “It’s tough to wait that long. … I know I’m going to get jumpy,” GM George Paton told reporters. “… But then when I walk over to this presser and see our quarterback throwing to those receivers, I feel pretty good about it.”

Washington Commanders m new quarterback Carson Wentz gives thumbs-up during his introductory news conference.

The Colts traded for Carson Wentz before last season and then dealt him to the Washington Commanders before the next. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Why no first-round pick? The Colts gave up their first-round pick as part of their deal last year to acquire quarterback Carson Wentz from Philadelphia.

When was the last time they sat out the opening round? Two years ago, the Colts traded their first-round pick to San Francisco for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

Their first pick this year? No. 42, in the second round. That was part of the deal for shipping Wentz to Washington.

Notable players selected 42nd? The biggest star taken in that spot was tight end Rob Gronkowski, selected by New England in 2010. Four years ago, Miami got a pretty good tight end there in Mike Gesicki. Denver used the 42nd selection on quarterback Drew Lock.

Will the Colts draft for need or value? “That’s the age-old question,” GM Chris Ballard told reporters recently. “You just have to make sure you’re not passing on a great player. If it’s even then we’ll take the need. But I think you’ve always got to have enough faith and confidence when you lay your head on the pillow that we’re going to find answers between now and the start of the season.”

The fountains of Bellagio erupt along the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas was supposed to be the the site of the NFL draft in 2020, but the pandemic changed matters so the city had to wait two years. (John Locher / Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Why no first-round pick? The Raiders traded their first- and second-round picks to Green Bay for receiver Davante Adams.

When was the last time they didn’t have a first-round pick? It has been 10 years since the Raiders sat out the opening round. In 2012, their first pick was the 95th overall selection, guard Tony Bergstrom.

Their first pick this year? No. 86, in the third round.

Notable players selected 86th? Buffalo drafted future Hall of Fame receiver Andre Reed with the 86th pick in 1985. That was three years after New Orleans used that selection on kicker Morten Andersen, who also wound up in Canton. And one more Hall of Famer: the Rams took tackle Jackie Slater there in 1976.

Is it all about building your team through the draft? “You need to be able to look at the whole year as an opportunity to improve your team,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “It’s not just small windows in March or April. There’s opportunities in pro free agency. There’s opportunities in the draft. There’s opportunities after the draft. Players that didn’t get drafted, there’s opportunities that are going to present themselves later on in the spring, the summer, all the way through the course of the season and the trade deadline.”

RAMS

Why no first-round pick? As part of the Matthew Stafford trade with Detroit, the Rams sent the Lions their first-round picks this year and next.

When was the last time they didn’t have a first-round pick? It’s more instructive to say when they last had a first-round pick. That was 2016 when Los Angeles took Jared Goff first overall.

Their first pick this year? No. 104, the second-to-last pick in the third round.

Notable players selected 104th? Pittsburgh took defensive end Dwight White there in 1971, and USC linebacker Kaluka Maiava went to Cleveland in 2009. More recently, San Francisco took C.J. Beathard, Cincinnati drafted quarterback Ryan Finley (2019), and the Rams selected defensive back Terrell Burgess (2020).

How long can the Rams’ philosophy of trading picks for veteran players last? “Maybe that’s not for everybody and maybe it’s not sustainable,” team executive Kevin Demoff told reporters. “Maybe it doesn’t work long term — we seem to figure that out every year — but it’s working right now.”

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill runs up field after catching a pass against the Buffalo Bills.

The Dolphins figure they would not have been able to draft anyone as talented as Tyreek Hill, who they acquired from the Chiefs. (Orlin Wagner / Associated Press)

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Why no first-round pick? The Dolphins gave up their selections in the first and second rounds as part of the blockbuster trade for Tyreek Hill, Kansas City’s turf-melting terror.

When was the last time they sat out the first round? It hasn’t happened since 2003, when the Ricky Williams trade sidelined them.

Their first pick this year? No. 102, in the third round. That’s after every franchise except the Rams has made at least one selection.

Who were notable 102nd picks? Washington took quarterback Kirk Cousins there in 2012. Pittsburgh used the 102nd pick on future Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas in 1955 but released him before the season without seeing him take snaps in practice. In 1962, the Boston Patriots used that pick on Notre Dame linebacker Nick Buoniconti, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career with the Dolphins.

So what are the Dolphins going to do during the first round this year? General manager Chris Grier: “One of the guys said, `We’ll just watch Tyreek highlights in the draft room to make us feel good.’ ”

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Why no first-round pick? The 49ers traded their first-round picks this year and next to Miami in order to trade up for quarterback Trey Lance in last year’s draft.

When was the last time they didn’t have a first-round pick? This is the first time since 1996 that the 49ers sat out of the first round.

Their first pick this year? No. 61, in the second round.

Notable players selected 61st? Lots of talented players went in that spot, among them Rams safety Taylor Rapp (2019), tight end Martellus Bennett by Dallas (2008) and late Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson (2005).

How are the 49ers dealing with being first-round spectators for the first time in 26 years? “Everyone talks, ‘We don’t have a first-round pick,’ and we’re not used to that,” general manager John Lynch told reporters. “But I think when people ask me what’s the signature of this draft, it’s the depth of it. So it’s a good year to have it.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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