Rams take Oklahoma QB Bradford with top draft pick

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford led a pack of Sooners at the top of the NFL Draft on Thursday when he was named first overall pick by the St Louis Rams at Radio City Music Hall.

Bradford had been widely tipped to be taken first by the Rams, who had the first overall pick thanks to their woeful 1-15 record last season.

Two of the next three picks were Bradford's college team mates, with Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh breaking up the monopoly when he was taken second by the Detroit Lions.

Teams select in reverse order of their final standings to promote competitive balance in the NFL.

Oklahoma Sooners defensive tackle Gerald McCoy went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the third pick and offensive tackle Trent Williams was taken fourth by the Washington Redskins.

"That's crazy," Bradford told reporters about Oklahoma players making up three of the first four picks in the draft. "I absolutely love those guys."

Bradford threw 50 touchdown passes in the 2008 season and won the Heisman Trophy as top U.S. collegiate player.

His 2009 season was ruined by a separated shoulder in the first game but he showed scouts he was back to his best in pre-draft workouts and the Rams were obviously convinced.

Suh's selection by Detroit ensured a lucrative contract from which to draw his $2.6 million donation to improve Nebraska's conditioning facility and fund a scholarship to the school where he earned a degree in engineering.

Last year, Detroit guaranteed quarterback Matthew Stafford, the top overall choice, $40 million in a long-term deal.

CHEROKEE NATION

Bradford, like most draftees, celebrated with his family on the big Music Hall stage after his name was called. Bradford's family background is distinctive as his great-great-grandmother Susie Walkingstick was a full-blooded Cherokee, making him an official citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

McCoy saluted his deceased mother by wearing her initials on his suit. "I dedicated this day to her," he said. "I just felt like I made her proud."

Defensive players and offensive lineman dominated the early picks, named on 17 of the first 20 selections in a rollicking opening round that saw a dozen draft position trades.

A surprise choice on the offensive side came when Denver dealt three lower-round picks for Baltimore's first-round pick, 25th overall, to claim Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who some scouts doubt will make an easy transition to the NFL.

Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen was passed over in the first round.

The opening round of the seven-round draft was held in prime time with three tiers of balconies in New York's art-deco movie palace packed with fans of the 32 NFL teams cheering and jeering the selections.

The second and third rounds of the draft will be held on Friday, with rounds four through seven conducted Saturday.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)