NFL draft is a real passing game for quarterbacks

Four QBs are taken in the fourth round after three are selected in the first three rounds. No team came to the draft desperate at the position.

NEW YORK — Say this for the 2013 quarterback class: They've learned how to slide.

Four of them were selected in the fourth round Saturday, two of whom — USC's Matt Barkley and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib — were widely believed to be first-round candidates.

"I'm a little bit surprised at how long I lasted," said Nassib, who in some mock drafts went eighth to Buffalo, but who actually went 110th to the New York Giants. "Everyone was just hyping me up, I guess."

Philadelphia traded up to make Barkley the first pick of the day, and Nassib was grabbed 12 spots later. Twice, the Oakland Raiders were leapfrogged, denied a chance to take either quarterback to back up the just-acquired Matt Flynn.

The Raiders finally got that quarterback, taking Tyler Wilson of Arkansas at the 15th spot in the fourth round, followed by Pittsburgh taking Oklahoma's Landry Jones three picks later.

So, just like 2011 and '12, this draft had a four-quarterback round. But those years, it was the first round when those passers were taken. This year, one quarterback was taken in each of the first three rounds.

The biggest blow to this quarterback class came earlier this month, when a veteran quarterback shuffle around the league lifted the pressure off teams in need. Flynn was acquired by Oakland, Carson Palmer landed in Arizona, and Kevin Kolb signed with Buffalo. Nobody came into this draft desperate for a quarterback.

In the end, that creates a good situation for these rookies. Most will have a chance to compete for the starting job, but all can learn behind more seasoned players. They won't get nearly as much money, nor will they have as much roster security, but they're also in a less pressurized environment and potentially have a better chance of succeeding.

People always point to Tom Brady's being selected in the sixth round, and going on to win three Super Bowls and assemble a future Hall of Fame career. But he's also Halley's Comet — rarely seen. Since Brady was drafted in 2000, 91 quarterbacks have been selected in the fourth round or later. Of those, the most prominent were Matt Cassel, David Garrard and Kyle Orton. It's a tough business.

As for Nassib, who will back up Eli Manning, he of 135 consecutive starts, the Giants hope the Syracuse standout holds a clipboard for a long time.

Said General Manager Jerry Reese of Nassib: "If he doesn't ever play, that would be great."

Cheese wheels

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA's all-time leading rusher, was drafted by Green Bay in the fourth round. There, he'll join Bruins teammate Datone Jones, a defensive lineman picked 26th by the Packers.

Green Bay needed to upgrade its running game, and did so in a big way with the addition of Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in the second round, and the big-play Franklin, who had 27 runs of 15 yards or longer last season.

The Packers have gone a league-high 43 games without a 100-yard rusher, and if they can run the ball, that's a big plus for $110-million quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Gold and redshirt

Hard to imagine a better landing spot than San Francisco for South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, taken by the 49ers in the third round. He once was a potential top-10 pick whose career was interrupted by two major knee injuries.

In October, during a game against Tennessee, Lattimore suffered a gruesome three-ligament tear of his right knee. He underwent surgery and feared his career was over. In the days that followed, he received calls of encouragement from 49ers running back Frank Gore, Denver running back Willis McGahee and others who had overcome similar injuries.

"Those guys are all inspirations to me because of what they've been through and how they came through it," Lattimore said Saturday.

The 49ers had an NFL-high 13 picks with few roster openings and the luxury to roll the dice. Lattimore joins a team that's led by Gore, a six-time Pro Bowl back who knows what it takes to bounce back from injury. Gore turns 30 in May, and eventually will need to be replaced. Lattimore has ample time to get healthy, learn, and get his NFL career up to speed.

We are the world

There was definitely an international flavor to this draft, with a sprinkling of players from all over the globe.

Among the draft picks were Brigham Young defensive end Ziggy Ansah (No. 5 pick by Detroit) and Valdosta State guard Edmund Kugbila (Carolina, fourth round), both of Ghana; Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner (No. 24 by Indianapolis) of Germany; Southern Methodist defensive end Margus Hunt (Cincinnati, second round) of Estonia; Florida State tackle Menelik Watson (Oakland, second) of England; Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore (Oakland, third) of Liberia; and Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams (Seattle, fifth round) of Australia.

Bashing bookends

The Miami Dolphins are going to be hard on quarterbacks this season — including their own.

When the Dolphins traded up to the third spot in the first round, it looked as if they were moving into position to take Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson, who could replace the departed Jake Long. Instead, they looked to the other side of the ball and took Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan, almost lanky at 6 feet 7, 250 pounds.

What that did was give the Dolphins a vise-like pass rush at the edges, starring Jordan and Cameron Wake, similar to a couple of now-broken-up AFC tandems: Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil in Denver, and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis in Indianapolis.

"I've watched him for a while," Jordan said of Wake, "and I've seen the way he bends and the way he finishes at quarterbacks. That's something that I'm looking forward to improving in my game, and you know they brought me in here to do that and take care of the role on the other side."

The Dolphins will have a great pass rush, but will they be able to keep a great pass rush off Ryan Tannehill?


Want to play pro football? Find your way onto Louisiana State's defensive roster. An NFL-record eight LSU players were selected in the first five rounds, all of them defenders. That's four defensive lineman, two cornerbacks, a linebacker and a safety.

Calculated risks

A pair of NFC West teams are hoping to keep two talented but trouble-prone LSU cornerbacks in line.

A day after Arizona selected Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu in the third round, Seattle took fellow LSU corner Tharold Simon in the fifth.

Mathieu was kicked off his college team last summer for breaking rules, including failed drug tests. Simon was arrested in Eunice, La., on Thursday night for public intimidation, resisting an officer, and unnecessary noise.

According to television station KATC in Lafayette, La., Simon's car was blocking a street and he was asked to move it. In their report, police said he told the officer, "I own Eunice, and I'm going to buy these projects and you are going to be mine," before getting into his car.

Simon allegedly spun his wheels and backed up in an aggressive way, then cranked his car radio. Police said that when he was arrested, he told the officer that the mayor was "on my side" and that the officer would be fired for ticketing him.

Getting the boot?

One of the more interesting moves Saturday was Minnesota drafting UCLA punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round.

The Vikings already have a talented punter from UCLA in Chris Kluwe, whose outspoken stance on controversial issues — among them his support of gay marriage — has frequently put him in the spotlight. There is some initial speculation that Kluwe's public positions might have precipitated the latest move.

"I have no idea," Kluwe told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "They've never said anything to me about that. I just know there are things away from football that involves life as well."

Kluwe, in his ninth year, had a career-best net average of 39.9 yards last season. Locke, the first punter selected in this draft, averaged 43.3 yards a punt last season, with 34 of his 77 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

After learning the Vikings had drafted Locke, Kluwe posted tweets congratulating Locke, and — loosely quoting the movie "Dodgeball" — welcomed the competition.

He tweeted: "That's a bold move Cotton. Let's see how it plays."

He's 254

For the second consecutive year, the Indianapolis Colts had the final (and 254th) pick in the draft, nicknamed "Mr. Irrelevant." This year it was Justice Cunningham, a South Carolina tight end. Last year's final pick was Indianapolis quarterback Chandler Harnish.

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer