NEW YORK - For two picks, there was no drama at the top of the NFL's marquee offseason event Thursday night. Everyone knew that quarterback Andrew Luck would be the first pick, by the Colts, and that Robert Griffin III would go next, to the Redskins.
The NFL draft turned into a whirlwind of trades and maneuvering that upended months of fevered speculation. The moves included the Cowboys leaping up to grab the top cornerback in the draft, further strengthening the competitive NFC East after Washington grabbed the franchise quarterback they have long lacked.
But the moves, including four trades in the first 12 picks - five if you count the Redskins' long-ago trade to move up to No. 2 - set the stage for the Eagles to also act aggressively. As players such as safety Mark Barron and Dontari Poe went earlier than many expected, the Eagles were in position to move up and land defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who was still available at 12.
The Birds were among several aggressive teams Thursday night.
Dallas pulled the biggest surprise by leaping up from 14 to grab LSU's Morris Claiborne at number six overall. The Cowboys had the 23d-ranked pass defense in the NFL last season. Now, as they try to compete with Eli Manning, the Eagles speedy receivers and Griffin, Dallas has a cornerback it believes can be a cornerstone for its defense.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan must look at what his brother Rex has in New York with Darrelle Revis and hope that Claiborne can provide the rare and valuable commodity of a shutdown cover man.
Dallas paid a steep price, giving up its second-round pick to move up.
The trades also included Jacksonville moving up from number seven to get top-rated wide receiver Justin Blackmon at No. 5 and Cleveland giving up three late-round picks to move up from four to three to ensure that they could get running back Trent Richardson.
Minnesota, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, and Seattle were among the teams that moved back to acquire more picks.
The Rams once held the No. 2 overall pick, but slid back twice to accumulate added selections for their rebuilding effort and at 14 chose defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
Once the smoke from Thursday clears, though, the draft will be remembered as the one in which two rare talents at quarterback went one and two. The back-to-back selections of Luck, considered the best quarterback prospect in a generation, and Griffin, a charismatic, dynamic Heisman Trophy winner, sets the stage for a fascinating drama. If Luck and Griffin each live up to their immense expectations, the two could battle for NFL supremacy for years to come.
"Hopefully we can be the greatest link of all time," Griffin said.
Griffin won the Heisman Trophy that many believed was sure to go to Luck. But the Stanford product got the honor of being the NFL's first overall pick.
"I couldn't be more excited," Luck said.
Each quarterback will be expected to revive struggling franchises.
The Colts finished 2-14 last year and purged many veterans this offseason. Luck has enormous shoulder pads to fill. He'll be expected to lift the Colts in much the same way as his predecessor, Peyton Manning, once did.
"Those shoes to fill are huge. I'm not going to go crazy trying to do everything that Peyton did," said Luck, who added that the elder Manning was his favorite quarterback growing up. "If one day I can be mentioned alongside Peyton in quarterback history, it would be a football dream come true."
Griffin, meanwhile, will be counted on to elevate a once-proud but now-flagging franchise that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2007 and hasn't won a postseason game since 2005.
"He's having to replace a legend, I'm having to carry on the weight of a city and the fact that they haven't had a franchise quarterback in a long time," Griffin said.
Griffin even got a taste of what he will face when he goes on the road in NFC East. Standing before a New York crowd filled with strong Giants and Eagles contingents, the boos rained down.
Contact Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, email@example.com or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari.