Then came the wake-up call: trade after trade after trade, affecting 14 of the 31 first-round picks.
At one point, five of seven selections had been bartered. A little while later, it was another five of six.
Jake Long just sat back and smiled -- right from the outset.
The Michigan tackle already had signed with the Miami Dolphins as the top overall choice. He inked a five-year contract worth $57.75 million, $30 million of it guaranteed.
"I was a little more relaxed just knowing where I was going and just being here to make it official," Long said. "That solidified it all. It was just breathtaking to walk out there and shake the commissioner's hand and hold up that jersey. It was a dream come true."
Chris Long of Virginia, Matt Ryan of Boston College, Darren McFadden of Arkansas, Glenn Dorsey of national champion LSU and Vernon Gholston of Ohio State didn't have to wait long to walk under the floodlights, either. It was the first time since the NFL began inviting multiple prospects in 1993 and they all went at the very beginning of the proceedings.
So unlike last year, when Notre Dame's Brady Quinn had to wait hours to be chosen.
"It's great to see the green room empty," said defensive end Long, who went second to St. Louis.
"It's a blessing to be here, they only ask six guys to come," DE/LB Gholston added. "Funny how it worked out, teams made good selections."
After St. Louis took the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long, Ryan, who could solve the quarterback problems in Atlanta, went to the Falcons.
Following a long-standing tradition, Oakland went for the gamebreaker in running back McFadden, prompting the fans to boo loudly. Many wanted the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up to fall to the New York Jets at No. 6.
All-American defensive tackle Dorsey was taken fifth overall by the Chiefs. Dorsey patted his heart as he held up a No. 1 Chiefs red jersey that was so small he, frankly, could never fit into it.
"There was a lot of emotion," he said. "I told myself I was not going to cry, but you get the tears start coming and you can't control that."
The Jets wound up with Gholston of Ohio State, who must now learn to play in the 3-4 alignment the team prefers.
"I'm looking forward to going up against Jake Long twice a year," he said of what will be a revival of their Big Ten rivalry.
At the seventh overall spot, the bartering began, and never really stopped. Eight of the next 15 picks were involved in trades.
New Orleans moved up to No. 7 to get defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis of Southern California, who was recruited to the school by the Saints' new defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron. New Orleans gave up the No. 10 overall spot to New England, and its third-round slot, and got a fifth-rounder along with the chance to take Ellis.
Then Jacksonville moved up from 26th overall to eighth, where it grabbed Florida DE Derrick Harvey. The Jaguars gave the Ravens four picks to get to that spot.
Everything moved at a good pace after the NFL cut the first round from 15 minutes per pick to 10. The first round took 3 hours, 30 minutes, a significant improvement over the five-hour marathons of previous years.
The Dolphins used only a few seconds to hand in their card. The Rams and Falcons didn't take much longer, but the Raiders used almost their entire time, as did Kansas City.
Jake Long became the first top overall pick from Michigan since Tom Harmon in 1941. He was accompanied by several family members onstage as he donned a Dolphins hat.
Then came another Long, who proudly held up a Rams jersey and pointed to the fans in the upper deck of the hall. Chris Long is the second straight defensive lineman selected in the opening round by St. Louis, following Nebraska's Adam Carriker last year.
"I knew I was in the running, but all the guys here were great players and they could have chosen anyone," Chris Long said. "It came down to needs."
Ryan has an open course to starting in Atlanta, with Michael Vick in jail on dogfighting charges, and only journeymen Chris Redman and Joey Harrington to compete with.
"I have to go down and gain the respect of my teammates, do everything I can do to get on the field next year," Ryan said.
Asked about replacing Vick in Atlanta and whether he expected to play or watch as a rookie, Ryan added: "I'll go down there to do all I can to be successful, try to not be distracted, try to win. ... There's not a right or wrong way to do it. I want to get there and learn the offense so I have a chance to play."
McFadden joins a crowded backfield in Oakland, where Justin Fargas recently signed a new contract and Dominic Rhodes and LaMont Jordan are on the roster.
"The time I talked to the Raiders coaching staff, they tell me they're missing a playmaker from their offense," McFadden said. "I feel I can add to that with my big-play ability."
Dorsey will be a building block for the Chiefs, who are revamping their roster this offseason. Gholston could do the same for the Jets, who have lacked a true pass-rushing threat since trading away John Abraham.
Cincinnati took USC linebacker Keith Rivers ninth, then the Patriots selected another linebacker, Jerod Mayo of Tennessee. Buffalo went for Troy CB Leodis McKelvin and Denver took Boise State tackle Ryan Clady.
Carolina, looking for a complement to DeAngelo Williams, selected Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart, then dealt with Philadelphia to get Pitt tackle Jeff Otah in the 19th position. The Panthers gave up next year's first-rounder in that trade.
Chicago took Vanderbilt tackle Chris Williams for its spotty offensive line. Chris Long's teammate, guard/tackle Branden Albert, went 15th to Kansas City after the Chiefs traded up with Detroit. Two slots later, tackle Gosder Cherilus of Boston College went to the Lions, prompting some in the audience to chant "FIRE MILLEN" in reference to Lions president Matt Millen.
The first player from the former Division I-AA went 16th when Arizona selected CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of Tennessee State. At No. 18, another small college guy was taken when Baltimore traded up to get quarterback Joe Flacco of Delaware with a pick Houston had owned.
After cornerback Aqib Talib, who reportedly tested positive for marijuana while at Kansas, was taken by Tampa Bay, the Falcons moved up to 21st overall. They chose Southern California tackle Sam Baker, son of Arena Football League commissioner David Baker, to help protect Ryan.
Dallas, which came into Saturday with two first-round picks, used No. 22 for McFadden's backfield mate at Arkansas, Felix Jones, who also can return kicks. That began a run on runners, with Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall going to Pittsburgh and speedy Chris Johnson of East Carolina taken by Tennessee at 24.
The Cowboys then traded up three spots with Seattle to get cornerback Mike Jenkins of South Florida, regarded by some as the best defensive back in the draft.
In all, 14 of the 31 first-round selections -- New England forfeited its own spot because of the Spygate scandal, but had a pick acquired last year from San Francisco -- were involved in trades. The Jets finished off the swapping by moving into Green Bay's No. 30 slot for Purdue tight end Dustin Keller, bringing a chorus of boos.
The Super Bowl champion Giants took Kenny Phillips of Miami with the final pick of the opening round. Phillips was the only safety selected in the round.
For the first time since 1990 and only the second time since 1967, there were no wide receivers taken in the first round.
Several renowned college players went in the second round, which began with Miami taking Clemson DE Phillip Merling. Houston's Donnie Avery was next, the first wideout chosen, by St. Louis.
On consecutive picks toward the end of Round 2, Baltimore grabbed Rutgers star running back Ray Rice, Green Bay selected Louisville QB Brian Brohm, and Miami got Michigan QB Chad Henne.