CHICAGO (Reuters) - Jameis Winston was taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the first pick of the National Football League Draft on Thursday and was followed by fellow quarterback Marcus Mariota in a Heisman 1-2.
Winston won the 2013 Heisman Trophy as top U.S. collegiate player, and Mariota, taken by the Tennessee Titans with the second pick, was the 2014 winner, marking the first time Heisman recipients went 1-2 in the NFL Draft.
The draft itself also struck an historic note as it was staged in Chicago’s Auditorium Theater, shifting the proceedings away from New York City for the first time since 1964.
The 21-year-old Winston, who became the youngest winner of the coveted college award at 19, one month before leading Florida State to a national championship, was the consensus top choice.
Winston, who joins a Bucs team that selected first by dint of a league-worst 2-14 record, was widely seen as the most pro-ready quarterback available after thriving in a pro-style offense at Florida State.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound, strong-armed Winston has all the tools for NFL success and the Bucs showed their confidence in him by overlooking a list of off-field incidents, including a sexual assault allegation and a shoplifting citation, as Tampa Bay background checks convinced them he could be counted on.
Winston skipped the draft proceedings to watch on television back home in Bessemer, Alabama, with family and friends and donned a red Tampa Bay cap in honor of his new team.
Tennessee followed by grabbing University of Oregon’s Mariota, who watched from even farther away, in Honolulu.
Mariota, a mobile quarterback who ran a college-style spread offense, led Oregon to 36 wins in three seasons and steered the team to January’s national championship game.
With the third pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. of the Florida Gators.
”Since I was 10 I started watching the draft on TV and I told myself I want to be on that stage,“ the pass-rushing Fowler said. ”My hard work paid off and I have a lot of great things to do.
“They know who I am,” the Florida native said about expectations in Jacksonville. “Florida know who I am.”
The Oakland Raiders took wide receiver Amari Cooper of Alabama with the fourth pick, and the Washington Redskins followed by taking offensive tackle Brandon Scherff of Iowa.
Two running backs were taken in the first round, bucking a recent trend, as Todd Gurley of Georgia was taken with the 10th pick by the St. Louis Rams, and Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin went to the San Diego Chargers with the 15th choice.
Adding some international flavor, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, taken 12th by the Cleveland Browns, wore a lava-lava sarong and an ula fala ceremonial necklace to honor his Samoan heritage.
Nigerian-born wide receiver Nelson Agholor of USC went with the 20th pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Jamaican-born guard Laken Tomlinson from Duke was taken at 28 by the Detroit Lions.
Rounds two and three will be held on Friday, with the last four rounds of the draft to be conducted on Saturday.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue/Peter Rutherford