NFL flexes entertainment muscle at draft with wild, eventful first round
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The NFL showed off Thursday night.
From the New York Giants hosting an event at MetLife Stadium to Snoop Dogg performing at the Los Angeles Chargers’ pre-draft party at SoFi Stadium, the NFL once again headlined a night filled with plenty of other sports viewing options.
Three NBA playoff matchups, 13 MLB games and nine NHL contests were no match for opening night of the 2022 NFL draft.
There were draft parties from coast to coast, with all eyes on Las Vegas for an eventful and unexpected first round.
The first five picks were all defensive players for the first time since 1991. Six wide receivers and just one quarterback went in the first round. And Georgia had a record-setting five defensive players taken in Round 1.
“That’s what makes the draft great. We all look at it a little bit differently,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said. “We all have different lists of players. There are 32 teams and we don’t all rank (the players) the same way. Just like when you look at all of the mock drafts that are done, they’re not all the same, right? Because we all look at players differently. It’s just opinions.”
The Chargers selected guard Zion Johnson out of Boston College with the 17th overall pick. Ruckus partygoers seated at the west end of SoFi Stadium responded with loud cheers of approval as team representatives took the stage to celebrate their newest Charger.
The Chargers were the only NFL team in California with a first-round pick this year and one of the 13 clubs who had just a single draft choice in the opening round. Nine teams had multiple first-round picks, the most since 1967.
But what made Thursday most unusual was the flurry of trades. There were nine draft-day deals and all nine happened after the first 10 picks. The trades exemplified this wild NFL offseason with teams aggressively attempting to improve.
“I think what you’re seeing in the NFL is you’re seeing that innovation, that different way of thinking, maybe, than the way it’s always been done. I think people are trying to get creative with their strategic process,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “I think it’s really, really good for the league because people are trying to be at the forefront of building their teams. There are a lot of different ways to do it and I think that tonight was a really good example of it.”
Fifteen teams were involved in Thursday’s trades. The Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and Tennesee Titans pulled off the most surprising deals.
Arizona grabbed attention trading the No. 23 pick for Baltimore wide receiver Marquise Brown.
After the trade, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim revealed quarterback Kyler Murray expressed his satisfaction by texting him fireball emojis.
The Cardinals’ surprise move was then quickly usurped by the Eagles acquiring veteran wide receiver A.J. Brown from the Titans for the No. 18 pick.
“There are moments to make trades. Trades are hard to make in this league,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “Timing plays a big factor in trades.”
And during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday, the timing was just right.
Follow USA TODAY Sports+ NFL Insider Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.