Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib and USC's Matt Barkley had been… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
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."
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.
The Miami Dolphins are going to be hard on quarterbacks this season — including their own.