NEW YORK - Throughout the college football season, the glory goes to the quarterbacks, the running backs and receivers.
At the NFL draft, the guys who do the tackling, blocking and defending got their due.
Before two of college football’s cover boys from 2009 — Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Stanford running back Toby Gerhart — were drafted Friday in the middle of the second round of the NFL draft, six more linemen (four defensive and two offensive) came off the board.
That followed a first round in which a total of seven players who man the marquee offensive positions were selected in comparison to six offensive linemen, nine defensive linemen and seven defensive backs.
Clausen’s fall from being touted as a high first-rounder to being selected on the second day of the first three-day draft by the Carolina Panthers with pick No. 48 was one of the top storylines.
But his tumble might have as much or more to do with the way NFL teams are drafting these days than with any great flaw in Clausen’s game.
In fact, Clausen, the most ballyhooed recruit to sign with Notre Dame during Charlie Weis’ tumultuous five seasons with the Fighting Irish, just might be the best quarterback on the Panthers’ roster right now.
“I wanted to go as early as I could, but this is a great situation for me and I can’t wait to go to Carolina,” Clausen said.
Last season three quarterbacks were taken in the first round. The year before it was two. In 2007, the last highly touted Notre Dame quarterback, Brady Quinn, slipped to the 22nd pick in the first round and was one of only two quarterbacks taken in that round.
So why is everybody so scared of quarterbacks?
And it’s not like the Browns benefited from having Quinn land in their laps.
Plus, quarterbacks are costly. They usually get paid more than other players picked in similar spots in the first two rounds.
Pay more to potentially get much less? No thanks, many NFL teams say.
So don’t take it personally, Jimmy.
Same goes for Texas star Colt McCoy, who became just the fourth quarterback taken when Cleveland grabbed him in the third round with pick No. 85.
As for Gerhart, the bruising tailback came in second in the Heisman Trophy race and helped make Stanford football relevant again in 2009.
But he had to wait until the Minnesota Vikings picked him 51st overall to be drafted. Still, only four running backs went ahead of him and two of them, C.J. Spiller (ninth overall to Buffalo) and Dexter McCluster (36th overall to Kansas City), are multidimensional players who can be used in a variety of ways.
The bigger issue is that in today’s NFL running backs are seen as replaceable parts. Most teams split carries between two. And the shelf-life of a big-time running back seems to be about the same as a loaf of bread. Remember when LaDainian Tomlinson was the best player in the NFL?
And that explains why defensive linemen and defensive backs fly off the shelves during the draft. Coaches have to figure out some way to stop the aerial onslaught.
Why all the offensive linemen? Well, you’ve got to protect that high-priced, 4,000-yard passer.
As the St. Louis Rams showed with Sam Bradford, teams looking for a face of the franchise, a player that can change the course of a team’s history, are going to eye up those flashy quarterbacks.
But this draft also proved that the market for touchdown-makers is down and it’s a good time to be the guy who does the dirty work.
PFT: Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith said the draft process taught him an important lesson on taking criticism.
Y! Sports: Redskins fans found what appeared to be the wedding registry for Robert Griffin III and fiancee Rebecca Liddicoat, and they helped out their star QB.
Draft winners, losers
April 23, 2010: PFT Daily: Mike Florio and Gregg Rosenthal think the Jaguars and Chargers made odd moves during the first round.
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