TAMPA — USF defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul didn't get an invitation to attend the draft in person in New York on Thursday night. Instead, he got a much bigger invitation when he was picked by the Giants with the 15th overall pick, becoming the highest-drafted player in USF history.
"We feel he has the highest upside of any player in the draft," Giants general manager Jerry Reese told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday night.
Pierre-Paul is only the second first-round pick for the Bulls. Cornerback Mike Jenkins went to the Cowboys at No. 25 in 2008. The pick concludes a whirlwind year for Pierre-Paul, who was in junior college last spring and made a big impact in his only year at USF, earning first-team all-Big East honors.
"We're happy and excited for him," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "I've had the opportunity to spend time with him, and I've been really impressed with him as a young man. … I think it's a great day for South Florida football."
The first state player drafted was Florida cornerback Joe Haden, who went seventh to the Browns, the highest ever for a Gators cornerback and third highest for a Florida defensive player.
"I am just trying to soak it all up," Haden said. "It's crazy; just a dream come true. I feel like this is a blessing."
The Browns had told Haden there was a strong chance he would be their top choice.
"Smart, tough, hardworking, competitive, somebody who's selfless, somebody who the game is important to," Browns coach Eric Mangini told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He did a great job the day he visited. You could feel the intensity, feel the passion, how much he cared about playing football and continue to improve. It was real. I don't think there was anybody that met him that didn't feel that way."
Gators center Maurkice Pouncey went 18th to the Steelers.
"I'm really pleased for him," Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said. "He's really just a great role model for Florida, for his family and for football."
The Lakeland native is the first UF offensive lineman taken in the first round since 2001, when Kenyatta Walker was picked by the Bucs. With quarterback Tim Tebow going 25th to the Broncos, Florida had three first-rounders for the second time. In 1989, it was Trace Armstrong, David Williams and Louis Oliver.
"When we were recruiting them, we sat in their living rooms. And we talked about graduating, winning championships and going to the NFL,'' Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "It's something special to see that happen."
Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson was picked with the final pick of the first round, 32nd to the Saints. He's FSU's first first-round pick since Lawrence Timmons (Steelers) in 2007.
"We like his ball skills. He's been very productive at Florida State," coach Sean Payton said
Miami had no first-rounders for the second straight year.
Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report.