A chorus of boos, a gaggle of quarterbacks (including a major surprise) and a flurry of trades.
Climbing the ladder
The biggest early surprise was Minnesota's selection of FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, a three-year starter projected as a late first-round choice, at No. 12. Minnesota is searching for a quarterback now that Brett Favre has (finally) retired. Ponder won't have to carry the entire load thanks to a running game led by Adrian Peterson. "I think I'll be really prepared," he said. Milder surprises: Missouri DE Aldon Smith going No. 7 to San Francisco and Washington QB Jake Locker going to Tennessee at No. 8.
The big story
While there are major questions about the quarterbacks in this draft, it didn't stop teams from getting pass-happy early. Three quarterbacks were taken among the top 10 — for the first time since 1999, when the first three picks were quarterbacks Tim Couch (Cleveland), Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia) and Akili Smith (Cincinnati). Thursday, Auburn's Cam Newton went first overall to Carolina followed by Washington's Jake Locker (No. 8, Titans) and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert (No. 10, Jaguars). Then the Vikings surprised many by taking Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th pick, marking the first time since 2004 that as many as four quarterbacks were taken in the first round. The famed 1983 draft, which included Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, holds the record for first-round quarterbacks with six.
FALCONS: Traded a first- (27th overall), second- (59th) and fourth-round (124th) pick this year and a first- and fourth-round pick in 2012 to the Browns for a first-round pick (sixth), which they used to select Alabama receiver Julio Jones.
JAGUARS: Traded a first- (16th) and second-round (49th) pick to the Redskins for a first-round pick (10th), which they used to select Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, setting up a learning situation behind veteran David Garrard.
BROWNS: Traded the first-round pick (27th) they got from the Falcons and a third-round pick (No. 70) to the Chiefs for a first-round pick (21st) pick, which they used to take Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
RAVENS: Passed on the No. 26 pick, apparently involved in trade talks with the Bears. But when time expired, the Chiefs jumped in and took Pitt receiver Jon Baldwin. The Ravens then selected Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith.
Saints: Traded a second-round pick (56th) and a first-round pick in 2012 to the Patriots for a first-round pick (28th), which they used to take Alabama running back Mark Ingram.
First round breakdown:
By position: DL — 12, OL — 8; QB — 4; WR — 3; DB — 3, RB — 1, LB — 1
By conference: SEC — 10, Big 12 — 8; Big 10 — 6; ACC — 3; Pac-10 — 3, Big East — 1, Mid-American — 1
Falling off the cliff
Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers was projected as a top-five pick early in the draft process, and was still No. 6 on Mel Kiper's board on draft day. But he just couldn't shake concerns about a knee injury and fell all the way out of the first round. Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara was another player ranked high on some charts but fell to the Giants at No. 19.
NFC South picks
Carolina (No. 1): Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. Gives the Panthers, who had the worst offense in the league last season, a franchise quarterback to compete with division peers Drew Brees (Saints), Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Josh Freeman (Bucs). Means last year's pick of quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the second round is officially a bust.
Atlanta (No. 6): Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. The Falcons traded five picks (three this year, two in 2012, including their first-round pick) to the Browns to jump up 21 spots and take Jones, left. It gives Matt Ryan a great receiving combo in Jones and Roddy White. Bucs secondary, be warned.
New Orleans (No. 24, No. 28): Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal; Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. The Saints decided to go defense first. Many projected Jordan to go higher. Jordan, who is not particularly fast but uses power and technique to pressure the pocket, will help corral the division's trio of young, mobile quarterbacks. The Saints later worked a trade with the Patriots, acquiring the 28th pick and selecting Ingram, the Heisman Trophy winner in 2009.