Or maybe they just forgot about the 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive end for a while because he wasn’t at Radio City Music Hall in New York for the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Quinn opted instead to watch the draft on television with friends and family in Summerville, S.C.
But for one or all those reasons, the once sure-fire, top-10 NFL Draft pick had to wait until an hour and 28 minutes had passed in Thursday’s first round before being selected by the St. Louis Rams with the 14th overall pick.
Now, going 14th in the NFL Draft isn’t exactly like being the last one taken for a pickup game. Quinn will become a multi-millionaire very soon because he was chosen that high, if the NFL and its players union ever come to terms on a collective bargaining agreement.
But it was a significant drop from last July when Quinn was being touted as a top three draft pick before he’d even played a down of his junior season at UNC.
Quinn, a pass-rushing phenom, certainly lost some respect among NFL personnel due to his role in the scandal that spoiled what could have been a breakout year for North Carolina’s football program. But the NFL has proven over and over again that it could care less about a player’s character as long as he helps them win games and make money.
So what hurt Quinn?
ESPN draft analysta apparently believed some teams were scared of by the tumor Quinn still carries around in his brain. One analyst remarked during the network’s draft broadcast three doctors from teams with the top 15 picks refused to clear him, even though the tumor is benign and he played two years with the Tar Heels after its discovery.
The Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins all courted Quinn prior to the draft. But all three passed on him Thursday.
Adding insult to injury for Quinn was the fact the Vikings actually used their selection at No. 12 to take Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder isn’t a bad talent, but he battled arm issues for much of his career with the Seminoles and wasn’t expected to be taken until late in the first round at best.
But all those surprises played right into the hands of the Rams, who may well have gotten the best bargain in the entire first round.
“We frankly didn’t think Quinn would still be there,” St. Louis general manager Billy Devaney said Thursday evening. “We spent a lot of time evaluating Robert. He was here a couple of weeks ago, one of the 19 or so we brought in. Everyone really liked him. He made a great impression with people in the building. We’re thrilled to have the guy.”
As well they should be.
The Rams not only got a bargain financially by getting Quinn at that point in the first round, they also landed the player with perhaps the most potential in the entire draft.
Quinn was 19 years old the last time he was seen on a football field. We could all tell he was gifted, even then.
But the best is yet to come. Quinn, now 20, is only going to get bigger, stronger and faster in the next two to three years. Many believe when that happens he’ll a player very much like the former NFL All-Pro whose agent he shares – Julius Peppers.
Where Quinn was taken in the draft won’t matter much then.