By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The selection of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton as first pick of the NFL Draft was close to a sure thing, but the rest of Thursday's first round selections included surprises and hiccups.
Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner as the top U.S. college player, went to the Carolina Panthers as expected and was followed by three other quarterbacks among the top dozen picks, and 12 defensive linemen among the 32 selections.
The Ravens had an embarrassing moment late in the round, and the Giants readied a royal reception for a cornerback who unexpectedly fell to them.
The Chiefs claimed wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin from Pittsburgh, before the Ravens recovered to select Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith at the 27th slot.
One of the first surprises was the next quarterback taken after Newton, when the Tennessee Titans selected Jake Locker of Washington over the signal caller widely regarded as the next best choice, Blaine Gabbert.
The Missouri quarterback was snapped up by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 10th pick after the team moved up the draft order through a trade with the Redskins.
Another surprise came two picks later, when the Minnesota Vikings moved to shore up their quarterback situation in the wake of Brett Favre's retirement by selecting Christian Ponder of Florida State, who ranked behind several other pass-throwing prospects on many experts' lists.
A big trade by the Atlanta Falcons also created a stir at the draft extravaganza staged at Radio City Music Hall.
The Falcons, 13-3 last season and looking for another offensive playmaker to put them over the top and into a Super Bowl, emptied the vault to trade up to the sixth pick owned by the Cleveland Browns.
Atlanta traded their 27th pick of the first round, a second and fourth-round pick, and their first and fourth-round choices in 2012 to claim wide receiver Julio Jones of Alabama.
The rush to take quarterbacks by teams in need led to some high-profile players slipping down the list.
The New York Giants, who had been looking to bolster their offensive line, were stunned to find cornerback Prince Amukamara of Nebraska still available for them to snatch up at number 19.
"We were really surprised that he was there when we picked," said Giants general manager Jerry Reese. "We thought he would get picked a lot higher than that. But it happens like that sometimes in the draft. Guys can fall right in your lap."
The Giants hope the defensive back, who grew up in Arizona and is descended from Nigerian royalty, can reign among the NFL's top corners.
"My dad comes from a royal family, where his grandfather was a chief of a village in Nigeria and every son is actually a prince," said Amukamara, whose five sisters are named Princess, Precious, Promise, Peace and Passionate.
(Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)