The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles made Australian Jordan Mailata the 233rd overall pick in the NFL draft on Saturday, hoping the towering 20-year-old can successfully transition from rugby league to American football.
“It’s been an absolute brainstorm of an experience,” Mailata told NFL Draft Live after being selected in the seventh round of the annual intake of new talent.
Mailata, who previously suited up for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the National rugby League, had admitted earlier to NFL.com that he wasn’t expecting to be drafted.
Jordan Mailata will destroy you. pic.twitter.com/GFQMRr0Ia7— Philly Sports (@MadeForPhilly) April 28, 2018
But his imposing physical attributes likely convinced the Eagles to take a chance that Mailata, listed as an offensive tackle, could earn a place on their roster.
He’s six feet, eight inches tall (2.03 metres) and 346 pounds (157 kilograms) – and wowed scouts at his pro day demonstration by running the 40-yard dash in 5.12 seconds.
In recent months, Mailata has been training and studying the intricacies of the game at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, trying to fast-track his pursuit of his NFL dream.
The Eagles traded up from their 250th pick to the number 233 spot to take Mailata with their final selection of the proceedings.
“I’ll never forget this day for the rest of my life,” said Mailata, who arrived on Saturday in Dallas – where the draft began amid massive fanfare at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Thursday.
“There were a lot of emotions today … especially when it came down to the last 30 picks, but it’s been a great experience as a whole,” he said.
Mailata said he first began mulling an attempt to break into the NFL in November.
“Definitely wasn’t something I took lightly,” he said. “It took me about two months to make my mind up. The fans here are very passionate and very outspoken here, and hopefully I can earn their respect.”
Jarryd Hayne left a lucrative NRL contract to pursue a career in the NFL in 2015, but experienced only fleeting success in his lone campaign with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Eagles have taken a look at rugby talent before, signing Canadian Sevens player Adam Zaruba as an undrafted free agent in July of 2017.
He was waived in September, but the Eagles have since re-signed him to a reserve/futures contract – a move that indicates they still feel he has NFL potential.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield was the first pick Thursday in the 2018 NFL draft, the annual selection of college players that helps teams in America’s most popular sport replenish their rosters.
The Cleveland Browns chose Mayfield to kick off the first round of the draft which is considered one of the deepest in recent history for quarterbacks as four of the top 10 players taken were QBs.
The 23-year-old Mayfield is expected to eventually become the playmaking cornerstone for the Browns who also have Tyrod Taylor and Drew Stanton at the quarterback spot.
“With Baker Mayfield, we have a guy who loves the game of football, who is an ultra-competitor, is revered by his teammates and anybody who has ever been around him,” Browns GM John Dorsey said.
“He’s a guy that has earned everything he has ever had since high school to college and now up here. He is a winner, he’s competitive.”
The US colleges are the biggest supplier of players to the NFL and the entry draft is the most common player recruitment tool for the league.
The Browns had been expected to take a quarterback with the top pick but heading into the draft there was no consensus on who the No. 1 pick should be.
Cleveland also had the fourth pick in the draft and chose to take cornerback Denzel Ward of Ohio State.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley went second overall to the New York Giants and University of Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold was selected third by the New York Jets.
— NFL (@NFL) April 27, 2018
North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb rounded out the top five picks, going to the Denver Broncos.
The Buffalo Bills traded up from the 12th spot to No. 7 to select embattled quarterback Josh Allen who got in hot water earlier Thursday for some racially charged social media tweets he made as a teenaged high school student. Allen apologized on Thursday.
The confident and charismatic Mayfield did not attend the draft at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington, Texas, choosing instead to watch it on TV at his family home in Austin, Texas.
Mayfield will be tasked with turning around the Browns team that finished 0-16 last season.
He had a superb college career at the University of Oklahoma but also got some unwanted attention off the field, including being arrested in 2017 in Arkansas on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. He reached a plea deal in June and paid a series of fines.
He threw for 14,607 career yards and had 131 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. Last season he passed for 4,627 yards and 43 touchdowns.
Cleveland holds the longest active post-season drought, dating back to 2002. The Browns are known for having a revolving door on their quarterback position. Since 1999 they have had a league-leading 28 different starting quarterbacks.
The Giants wasted no time picking Barkley in the No. 2 position.
Barkley is considered the complete running back package, possessing a combination of speed, strength and solid character.
“This kid makes our quarterback better,” New York GM Dave Gettleman said. “He makes our wide receivers better. He makes our O-line better.
He makes our defence better because we’ll have a much stronger ability to hold the ball. He is a great kid.”
The Jets like to think they got a steal with quarterback Darnold in the third spot.
Several scouts had Darnold listed as the top pick overall so when Cleveland and the Giants passed on him the Jets pounced.
“I’m taking it head on,” Darnold said. “I’m a pretty confident guy and I’m really comfortable in my own skin, so I’m going to go in there, do my thing and do what the coaches ask me to do – and do that at the highest level.”
Putting together an NFL mock draft isn’t that much different from filling out a March Madness bracket – you’re inevitably going to be wrong. And often.
But it wouldn’t be draft season without a mock, so we did our best to predict who will go where when Roger Goodell announces the picks on Thursday night (04:00 GST Friday morning).
Make sure to check out the top storylines as well to be fully prepared for the festivities.
1. Cleveland Browns – Josh Allen, quarterback, Wyoming
It’s almost a certainty that the Browns will take a quarterback with one of their top picks and indications have been it will be Allen, who has all the physical tools to succeed.
2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State
They could go quarterback, but the Giants may believe Eli Manning has something left in the tank. The top running back on the board would give Manning even more firepower to work with.
3. New York Jets – Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC
Arguably the best quarterback prospect in the class, Darnold is a prototypical pocket passer who can make all the throws. The Jets will finally have a quarterback of the future to build around.
4. Cleveland Browns – Bradley Chubb, defensive end, N.C. State
After securing a quarterback with the first pick, why not grab the best pass rusher in the draft and pair him with last year’s top pick, Myles Garrett, to form a deadly duo on the edge?
5. Denver Broncos – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Denver could trade this pick to a team desperate to move up for a quarterback, but if they stay here then Rosen makes a lot of sense to back-up Case Keenum now before taking over.
6. Indianapolis Colts – Roquan Smith, linebacker, Georgia
Another potential trade partner, the Colts are set at quarterback with Luck, so they may move down to gather assets. Otherwise, Smith would be an ideal pick to bolster a lacklustre linebacking unit.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Denzel Ward, cornerback, Ohio State
The defensive back has speed and size to be a mainstay in Tampa Bay’s secondary for years to come. And with the quarterback and receiver talent in the NFC South, the Buccaneers will need it.
8. Chicago Bears – Quenton Nelson, offensive guard, Notre Dame
Nelson has a link to new Bears line coach Harry Hiestand, who coached him at Notre Dame. If the guard is still available when Chicago picks, it would be a surprise if his name isn’t called.
9. San Francisco 49ers – Tremaine Edmunds, linebacker, Virginia Tech
Last year’s second-round pick, Reuben Foster, may not even be on the team due to his legal woes, but even so the 49ers are in need of a linebacker and Edmunds is worth developing.
10. Oakland Raiders – Minkah Fitzpatrick, safety, Alabama
A do-it-all defensive back is just what the Raiders need. Jon Gruden can use the versatile Fitzpatrick all around the field, from safety to cornerback to the slot and even in the box.
11. Miami Dolphins – Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma
Ryan Tannehill isn’t worth giving up on just yet, but by grabbing Mayfield, the Dolphins would be able to patiently groom a quarterback to be the eventual successor, maybe in a year or two.
12. Buffalo Bills – Mason Rudolph, quarterback, Oklahoma State
Everyone expects Buffalo to move up into top-five range to select one of the top quarterbacks, but there’s every chance they stay put and wait for a less-heralded guy to fall in their lap, like Rudolph.
13. Washington – Vita Vea, defensive tackle, Washington
This far into the draft, the interior lineman is a good value pick for Washington, who will slot him into the rotation right away and use him, at the very least, on early downs.
14. Green Bay Packers – Josh Jackson, cornerback, Iowa
Jackson didn’t jump off the page at the combine, but the rangy cornerback made plays on a consistent basis at Iowa and the Packers are in need of someone to strengthen their secondary.
15. Arizona Cardinals – Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville
If they don’t trade up and Jackson is still on the board at 15, Arizona will have a hard time passing up the dynamic quarterback, whose athleticism next to David Johnson would be lethal.
16. Baltimore Ravens – D.J. Moore, wide receiver, Maryland
The Ravens have already improved their wide receiver group this offseason, but they’re still in need of more talented pass catchers and Moore gets the slight edge on Calvin Ridley here.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Mike McGlinchey, offensive tackle, Notre Dame
McGlinchey could go much sooner than this, or fall into the back of the first round. But he would fill a need for the Chargers who haven’t had the most efficient running game of late.
18. Seattle Seahawks – Marcus Davenport, defensive end, Texas-San Antonio
This isn’t the same ferocious Seahawks defence from years past, so someone like Davenport would replenish some of the edge and pass rushing that exited with Michael Bennett’s departure.
19. Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Alabama
Dez Bryant is gone, leaving a sizeable hole in the passing game. In Ridley, the Cowboys would get a downfield target for Dak Prescott who can quickly turn into a number one receiver.
20. Detroit Lions – Harold Landry, defensive end, Boston College
What better type of player to fit Matt Patricia’s defence than the versatile Landry? The Boston College product can line up as both an edge rusher and at outside linebacker, giving Patricia options.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – James Daniels, centre, Iowa
It’s no secret Cincinnati will target offensive linemen as they’re in the midst of giving the position a facelift. Daniels is the top centre in the draft and should be a solid building block.
22. Buffalo Bills – Will Hernandez, offensive guard, UTEP
After losing Eric Wood, Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn this offseason, Buffalo’s offensive line is in serious need of a tune-up. Enter Hernandez, who can be a mauler in the running game right away.
23. New England Patriots – Rashaan Evans, linebacker, Alabama
Bill Belichick could go a number of ways in the draft and none would be all that surprising. This may be the most conventional move, but a smart one nonetheless as they need young talent at linebacker.
24. Carolina Panthers – Jaire Alexander, cornerback, Louisville
They could trade up to secure one of the top wide receivers, but if that doesn’t work out, cornerback is next on the list and with Alexander, they’ll get a speedy and athletic playmaker.
25. Tennessee Titans – Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State
If Landry or Evans don’t fall to Tennessee, Vander Esch should be an appealing option to new coach Mike Vrabel, who was a three-down linebacker himself during his heyday.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Taven Bryan, defensive tackle, Florida
Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe left in free agency, which opens the door for Bryan to come in, fill a positional need and contribute right away as a factor in passing situations.
27. New Orleans Saints – Mike Gesicki, tight end, Penn State
If there’s one place on the offence where the Saints need help, it’s at tight end, which has been wildly inconsistent since the days of Jimmy Graham. Gesicki can bring back some of that athleticism.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Hughes, cornerback, Central Florida
He’s not the fastest cornerback, but Hughes holds up well in coverage and continues to creep up draft boards. Pittsburgh could use another fresh face in the back end of their defence.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Courtland Sutton, wide receiver, SMU
Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns left a lot of receptions behind, which is why the Jaguars should strongly consider Sutton, who can give them a big body on the outside and in the red zone.
30. Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn, offensive guard, Georgia
The Vikings may not have any glaring weaknesses, but they can certainly improve their guard group and Wynn has all the tools to be a physical presence in the ground game.
31. New England Patriots – Kolton Miller, offensive tackle, UCLA
The Patriots would be fortunate to see Miller fall into their laps and would likely jump at the opportunity to fortify their line and provide Tom Brady with more protection.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – Connor Williams, offensive tackle, Texas
The Super Bowl champions could snag Williams to pad their offensive line and provide insurance for the aging Jason Peters. Or they could easily trade this pick. Either way, it’s good to be the king.