Twelve SEC players went as first round selections in the 2013 NFL Draft. All head coaches and GMs that took them were very excited about them, so let's hear it from the horse's mouth.
2. Luke Joeckel, Jacksonville
He didn't end up going first overall, as the Chiefs opted to go for the less-polished-but-more-potential guy in Eric Fisher. Still, it's hard to be too upset going second overall. The Jags are redoing everything right now, with a new staff, new logo, and new uniforms. They're going to use Joeckel at right tackle to start off, hoping to hold off the great pass rushers in their division. Quotes:
[GM David] Caldwell said drafting Joeckel was not difficult, and he said this was not a matter of taking the player with the lowest risk. In the end, Caldwell got a rare opportunity – one he hopes he’ll never have again.
He got to take the player he wanted most. He got to take the player he thought was the best player in the draft. ...
"For us to get him is truly outstanding," [head coach Gus] Bradley said.
6. Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland
None of the mock drafts I looked at had him going this high, so it is a bit of a surprise to see Mingo go this early. It's also unfortunate for him that he's going to the talent black hole of the Browns, where so many high draft picks have gone to disappear from the earth entirely. Quotes:
"You look at the competition; you look at the athletes, and I think it shows in the draft," coach Rob Chudzinski said. "You see a number of guys (selected) from Alabama and LSU. It’s competitive. You watch tape on it, and the speed and the power and the strength is as close to the NFL as you can find.
"He’s been battle-tested in the SEC, has played a lot, still has plenty of room for growth, but we really see him as an outstanding pass-rusher, and somebody that’s going to be able to bring that to our team."
9. Dee Milliner, NY Jets
Expectations are going to be high for this pick right off the bat. The team traded star corner Darrelle Revis in the offseason, and fair or not, some fans will expect Milliner to come right in and perform at a similar level. Jets fans aren't necessarily known for their patience and understanding, as you may have heard. Quotes:
The Milliner-for-Revis equation is flawed, said GM John Idzik, among others. For one thing, it may well be argued that Antonio Cromartie, not Dee Milliner, is replacing Revis in the Jets' back end. For another, said Idzik:
"I think it's unfair to Dee. We drafted him because of his talent, because we felt he was the best player on our board at the time. It was not position-specific. If you insinuate that, I think it devalues Dee a little bit. It's pure and simple — he was one of the best players on our board, period."
10. Chance Warmack, Tennessee
An Alabama man is going to play for Tennessee, but at least it's not the Tennessee that wears orange. It sounds like both sides are pretty happy with this pick. Quotes:
"We’re obviously very happy to have drafted Chance Warmack with the 10th pick in the first round," Titans general manager said. "He’s a player we had a great consensus on and all liked and put a lot of work into this offseason. … Chance was our guy all along." ...
He had made no secret during the interview process that he’d like to play for a head coach (Mike Munchak) and position coach (Bruce Matthews) that were drafted with top 10 picks as guards and had Hall of Fame careers.
"It’s a dream come true," Warmack said. "I was definitely thinking, ‘What would it be like if I actually did play for Tennessee,’ and here we are."
11. D.J. Fluker, San Diego
The run on Crimson Tide players went three strong with this selection. The Chargers have been working to rebuild their offensive line this offseason, and the team sees Fluker as the answer at right tackle. Quotes:
"It feels great (to be a Charger)," Fluker said. "It feels great to have a brand new home."
General Manager Tom Telesco is equally thrilled to have him on the squad.
"(In addition to) his size, he comes from a winning program and he’s going to bring a mentality that we can add to our offensive line, a physicality, a toughness we think can help both the run and pass game," he said. "He’s a guy we think can be a cornerstone on our offensive line for a long time."
13. Sheldon Richardson, NY Jets
No one expected Richardson to be the first defensive tackle to come off of the board, but it was a night with a few surprises. All it takes for a prospect to leap over some guys projected to go earlier is for one team to fall in love with him, and it sounds like it was the case here. Quotes:
"We were excited in the room to see both of those guys fall to us. They were no-brainers," NYJ director of college scouting Jeff Bauer told me late tonight. "Our fans will see both of them are going to be very, very good players for years to come."
"[Richardson]’s special athletic. For a kid that weighs 294 pounds, to be able to see how he can change direction, chase the ball down and he plays hard," Bauer said. "You don’t see that combination very often and in the SEC, he causes havoc. He’ll make a play on the sideline from his defensive tackle position, he’ll make it in the backfield."
17. Jarvis Jones, Pittsburgh
This pick is the kind that keeps the Steelers from ever falling off too much all that often. If his health holds up, Jones should be an elite player to terrorize backfield players for years to come. And Pittsburgh got him at 17. That's how it's done, folks. Quotes:
"We didn’t even talk to Jarvis at the Combine, because we didn’t think there was any chance that he’d get to us," said [GM Kevin] Colbert about what he saw as the chance of being able to make him the 17th overall pick. "When he ran the 4.9, the first thing I did was go over and see (Jones’) agent and set up a (predraft) visit because I knew then that we had a chance."
Coach Mike Tomlin [said,] "This was an easy evaluation from that standpoint. He plays in a very similar scheme, he’s asked to do things in a manner in which he’ll be asked to do it here in Pittsburgh. Very little guesswork in that regard made it a fun evaluation and made it a comfortable evaluation. He excelled in what they asked him to do, and he’ll be asked to do similar things here."
17. Eric Reid, San Francisco
The reigning NFC champs traded up to get the safety out of LSU, a guy who Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh tried to recruit to Stanford a few years ago. He'll have to win a competition to see the field, but the fact that the team traded up to get him means he'll definitely get a fair shot at a starting spot. Quotes:
"He’s a hard-hitting tackler and can play the deep part of the field really well," Harbaugh said of his new safety, the fifth LSU prospect to be drafted by the 49ers since 1970. ...
"The whole body of work has been outstanding," the 49ers coach went on to say. "He played big in big games."
"He’s a prototype safety in terms of size," [GM Trent] Baalke said. "He’s got the height, weight and speed we were looking for."
23. Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota
Floyd was the biggest faller, after most mock drafts had him in the top ten and all that I saw had him going no lower than 14th. I can't say I'm totally surprised; I always thought he was a first round guy, not a top-5 or top-10 guy. Anyway, the blessing of falling is that you typically end up on a better team. Quotes:
"I went through a thousand scenarios at that 23rd and 25th pick and I can tell you honestly he was not in one of those scenarios," [GM Rick] Spielman said. "So for him to fall down to our lap, there were some conversations as he fell to potentially even move up. But as the names kept falling off the board, we had more than enough options to just sit there and let everything fall to us. And when Sharrif fell to us, it was something that was very unexpected."
29. Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota
The Vikings began the day with two first round picks, and they traded for a third in order to jump up and snag Patterson. The team is thin at receiver after trading Percy Harvin this offseason, so he'll have a chance to play a lot right away if he can make the transition quickly. Quotes:
"We were very, very aggressive to go do that because I know what he can do as a receiver, but especially what he can do as a potential punt and kickoff returner," Spielman said. "Because he is magic in that area as well." ...
"It means a lot to me," Patterson said. "From not expecting to be on the Vikings, it was great to see all that they gave up to get me. I feel like I can be a great player for them."
30. Alec Ogletree, St. Louis
After trading down from 22 to 30 to compensate for trading up to get Tavon Austin earlier, the Rams picked up Ogletree late in the first round. It's a good spot for him, as he'll have a chance to start at weak side linebacker right away if he can hack it. Quotes:
[Head coach Jeff Fisher said,] "We are very, very excited. We got two explosive, talented young players that are going to help us right away." ...
When Fisher watched him on film, he was reminded of a former linebacker he once drafted with the 30th pick in the first round in Tennessee in 2000, Keith Bulluck.
"There are a lot of similarities when you watch them on tape," Fisher said. "A lot of similarities. Long arms, quickness, slippery, can take on, tackle sideline to sideline, very explosive player. It’s a by product of his safety background."
32. Matt Elam, Baltimore
The first round closed with the Super Bowl champs picking up the hard-hitting safety from Florida. Both of the Ravens' starting safeties left town this offseason, so Elam might see the field quite a bit. Quotes:
"I’ve never been so excited, it was fun watching him play," [GM Ozzie] Newsome said.
"It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a player on tape and play after play you just go, ‘Wow, oh wow.’ The way he played on tape is the way you have to play in the AFC North."
"He definitely has a chance to do that," [head coach John] Harbaugh said of Elam becoming a rookie starter. "He’ll have to earn it. We have one veteran safety in there and some young guys that will be competing for it as well. But we always play the best guy, and that’s the guy that’s playing the best. Matt Elam will be right in the middle of that fight."
Note: the first version of this post left off Eric Reid because me and blogging at 6:00 am don't mix. Thanks to @MisterTito and emailer J Brennan for pointing out the error.