5 surprises from the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft

CHICAGO—With the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft in the books, here are my five biggest surprises from opening night. — I have maintained that Leonard Williams is the best overall player in this draft class regardless of position. He was a joy to watch at USC, and he wasn’t even fully healthy at times during his stint with the Trojans. I was surprised that the defensive lineman fell out of the Top 5, landing with the New York Jets at No. 6. I thought Washington would snag him at No. 5, but the Redskins took Iowa guard/tackle Brandon Scherff instead. New ‘Skins offensive line coach Bill Callahan came over from Dallas, which relied on a studly and remade O-Line last season on its march to the playoffs. So Scherff will fit in very well in D.C. I would imagine that fans of the Jets would have a hard time booing the Williams selection had this event been held once again in New York. The Jets now have a defensive line that boasts Williams, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. — If Williams is my top overall player, Georgia’s Todd Gurley is my No. 2 in this class — although he has the obvious health concern. But there is no question that St. Louis is set to inherit a beastly running back in Gurley, who shocked a lot of observers by making his way into the Top 10 not only as a RB in a passing league but as a rehabbing RB. The Rams did not go the O-Lineman route at No. 10 possibly because Scherff and Ereck Flowers were gone, so they could always go up front with their next pick. Gurley was the first running back chosen in the first round since 2012, and he should be a special player if healthy. Sure, there’s concern because of the knee injury. But if he comes back 100 percent, the Rams should have their feature back in time. — We assumed that Randy Gregory was going to slip down the first-round draft board, but it is hard to believe that the Nebraska product was not a Day 1 selection. Sure, it has been a rough offseason for the outside linebacker since his failed drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine. But he was once considered the top pass rusher on the draft board and an almost sure first-round selection. We now have to wonder how far he will fall. Certainly, whichever team rolls the dice on Gregory will be getting a heck of a player if he keeps his nose clean off of the field. — It’s almost impossible to predict any draft-day trades even when there’s so much supposed smoke around certain teams. There was not much wheeling and dealing on the draft’s first night, as Tennessee remained at No. 2 and selected Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, while Cleveland and New Orleans did not make a move despite having multiple first-round selections. San Diego did move up two spots to take prolific Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, though, while Denver moved up five slots to take Missouri pass-rush specialist Shane Ray. Will we see some early deals being completed Friday evening as teams have readjusted their draft boards? Expect several mini deals as the draft progresses as is the case every year. — How did Washington lose six games last season? The Huskies had three defenders selected in the first round on Thursday night, with Carolina pulling off the biggest surprise by taking freak athlete Shaq Thompson at No. 25 overall. Thompson excelled both as a defender and as a running back during his time in Seattle, but he is still raw. However, his ceiling is sky-high, which likely helped get him into the first round. He was the third Huskies player to be picked in the first 32 selections along with D-Lineman Danny Shelton and cornerback Marcus Peters, whose stock was in question because of character concerns. Kansas City took Peters at No. 18, which was a surprise on its own. By the way, Oregon fans may be excited to know that graduate transfer quarterback Vernon Adams led an Eastern Washington team to 52 points against that Huskies squad last fall. Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

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