NEW YORK – This was one rush quarterbacks embraced.
Starting with Matt Barkley, the fourth round of the NFL draft was the landing spot for quarterbacks who carried hopes of going much higher. Philadelphia traded up with Jacksonville to get the Southern California QB with the opening pick Saturday.
“I try not to get stressed about things I can’t control,” Barkley said when asked about his drop in the draft from likely first-rounder in 2012 to No. 98 overall. “I’m just glad I know where my home is and I can’t wait to hit the playbook.”
Yes, it was three rounds later than Barkley hoped for. Same thing for Ryan Nassib of Syracuse, Landry Jones of Oklahoma and Tyler Wilson of Arkansas, the other quarterbacks chosen in Round 4.
“We’re going to take the best value on the board,” coach Chip Kelly said, adding the Eagles rated Barkley in the top 50. “There’s a prime example. The best value on the board by far was Matt. He’s an extremely mature young man, intelligent, articulate. He has that ‘it’ factor.”
Perhaps. He seemed to have a lot more of it last year, but Barkley opted to return to school. He and the Trojans slumped, Barkley injured his shoulder, and his stock plummeted.
He will join quarterbacks Michael Vick and Nick Foles in Philadelphia.
The New York Giants, hardly in need of a quarterback with Eli Manning in his prime, still dealt with Arizona to move up for Nassib.
Oakland, which acquired Matt Flynn from Seattle in the offseason to be its starter, followed two picks later at No. 112 overall with Wilson. Three spots after that, Pittsburgh grabbed Jones, probably hoping to groom him behind Ben Roethlisberger.
“I just think it was time to start grooming a new player, freshen up the room if you will,” quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said.
“I get to learn from one of the best quarterbacks to play the game,” Jones added.
Before Saturday’s surge, quarterbacks were rare – one was chosen in each of the first three rounds: Florida State’s EJ Manuel by Buffalo in the first round; West Virginia’s Geno Smith by the Jets in the second; and North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon by Tampa Bay in the third.
In all, 11 QBs were selected, the same number as last year. But four went in the first round in 2012.
A former quarterback, Denard Robinson of Michigan, is headed to Jacksonville, which had one of the league’s worst offenses the last two years. Robinson will be switched to running back or receiver by the Jaguars. He set the NCAA record for career yards rushing (4,495) by a quarterback.
“A lot of people have put me at different positions,” he said. “Now it’s time to go to work.”
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who would have been a high pick if healthy but is coming off a second severe knee injury, went to the 49ers 131st overall. San Francisco can afford to “redshirt” Lattimore because it has a strong stable of runners, including Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.
“We really haven’t even talked about that, so I don’t have any clue,” Lattimore said about possibly sitting out 2013 to heal completely. “My main goal right now is to go in there and work hard, go in there and learn the offense, and if I’m ready to play, I’m going to play, and if I’m not, I’m not.”
Lattimore, who dislocated his left knee and tore three ligaments last season, said he spoke with Gore during his rehab.
“And now I’m with the 49ers, and it’s just a great, great situation for me,” Lattimore said.
Special teamers finally got the call when three kickers went in the fifth round: punters Jeff Locke of UCLA to Minnesota and Sam Martin of Appalachian State to Detroit, and place-kicker Caleb Sturgis of Florida to Miami.
National champion Alabama, which had four players chosen previously – three in the first round – had five more go on the final day: linebacker Nico Johnson to Kansas City with the pick after Barkley was taken; guard Barrett Jones, who can play all offensive line positions, to the Rams; DTs Jesse Williams to Seattle and Quinton Dial to San Francisco; and tight end Michael Williams.
Mr. Irrelevant, the 254th and final pick, was tight end Justice Cunningham of South Carolina by Indianapolis.
Normally division championships are celebrated with champagne showers in the locker room. The Spokane Indians settled for cheering and high fives on a crowded bus.
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