NFL Draft Buzz: Surveying Latest Rumors and Speculation Heading into Draft Week

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2013

NFL Draft Buzz: Surveying Latest Rumors and Speculation Heading into Draft Week

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    With the arrival of the 2013 NFL draft just days away, rumors and buzz are beginning to fly at a hectic pace. 

    We've got you covered. 

    Whether it's the latest updates on top prospects such as cornerback Dee Milliner, crazy rumors like the Buffalo Bills wanting quarterback Matt Barkley or speculation that a surprise team wants to trade up, we will detail it here in the following slides. 

    Not only will we detail the latest rumors and speculation, we'll attempt to analyze it all and determine if any of it actually has a chance of coming to fruition. 

    Let's take a look. 

     

    All pertinent signing info courtesy of NFL.com

Arizona Cardinals Targeting OT D.J. Fluker

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    This year's draft class is known for its exceptional depth along the offensive line. There's top tackles such as Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson. There's even a top guard in Chance Warmack. 

    A little way down the line according to most (CBS has him ranked as the No. 22 prospect) is Alabama's D.J. Fluker, a mauling right tackle prospect at 6'5" and 340 pounds. 

    Surprisingly, the Arizona Cardinals, owners of the No. 7 overall pick, seem to be very interested in Fluker, according to Tony Pauline of draftinsider.net:

    This afternoon I was informed by separate sources the Arizona Cardinals will consider DJ Fluker/T/Alabama with the 7th pick of the draft. At face value it seems a bit early for Fluker but his body type, power and football ability has NFL decision makers excited.

    Fluker is no doubt a great prospect, and the Cardinals certainly have a need along the offensive line. But do the Cardinals really think the top three tackles will go in the first six picks? 

    The answer is probably not, but if the Cardinals are in love with Fluker, that's all it takes to make him the No. 7 overall pick of the draft. 

Dee Milliner or Bust in Cleveland

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    Alabama's Dee Milliner is universally hailed as a top-10 selection in the upcoming draft (No. 6 overall, according to CBS). He is usually the pick for the Cleveland Browns in most mocks, like Bleacher Report's very own Michael Schottey did Thursday.

    Schottey and Co. appear to be hitting the proverbial nail on the head. 

    According to Tony Pauline over at draftinsider.net, the Browns want Milliner or the front office is going to attempt to trade down:

    Sources confided in me yesterday the Cleveland Browns have Dee Milliner/CB/Alabama as their round one target with the sixth pick. Otherwise they will look to trade down with the hopes of selecting Barkevious Mingo/OLB/LSU.

    It's an interesting report because the Browns could use an elite prospect such as Milliner to pair with Joe Haden at cornerback. 

    The backup plan doesn't seem bad either. 

    If the Browns can find a trade partner and move down, pairing LSU's Barkevious Mingo with recently signed Paul Kruger could produce a formidable pass rush. 

    Either way, it sounds like the Browns have two top targets in mind and are ready to let the board play out as it will. 

Atlanta Prepping Blockbuster Draft-Day Trade for Dee Milliner?

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    Dee Milliner is sort of a popular prospect. 

    The Atlanta Falcons currently posses the No. 30 overall pick but have been a hot topic in the rumors community as of late. According to SI's Peter King, the Falcons are looking to move up in the first round.

    Cornerback is an obvious need in Atlanta, with Asante Samuel representing the only one currently on the depth chart with starting-caliber abilities. As D. Orlando Ledbetter of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution put it, there's not much left on the roster after free agency:

    The Falcons are in the cornerback market after parting ways with three of their top five corners. They cut Dunta Robinson, who signed with the Chiefs, and they let Brent Grimes (Miami) and Christopher Owens (Cleveland) walk in free agency.

    Pulling off a major trade to jump all the way from No. 30 to potentially within the top 10 is going to take a massive amount. It's hard to imagine it working out, but if the Falcons covet Milliner badly enough, the front office will make it happen. 

Barkevious Mingo to the New York Jets Picking Up Steam

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    The New York Jets are in a full-blown rebuilding mode and hold the No. 9 overall pick. One possibility that continues to heat up for the Jets is LSU's Barkevious Mingo. 

    According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, a few sources around the league believe it's a natural fit that will happen, as he told a fan in response to a question (subscription required):

    And people around the league believe the Jets would love to get a chance at Mingo, if he still is on the board. But keep in mind that if the Jets trade Darrelle Revis, you'd have to think Dee Milliner also would be an option if he's available. Mingo and Milliner would be two logical picks for the Jets.

    Schefter is not alone in this thinking. His co-worker Todd McShay recently mocked Mingo to the Jets.

    As did NFL Network's Mike Mayock.

    Mingo is obviously a talented player and brings a lot to the table as a pass-rusher, which is one of many major areas of need on the Jets roster. 

    At this point, the Jets need to select the best player available. If Mingo is that guy on their board when the time comes, then he'll be the pick. 

Minnesota Vikings Currently the Favorite to Trade Up

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    Each year, there is always wild speculation as to which team, if any, will make the big splash and move up for a can't-miss prospect. 

    This year, that team so far appears to be the Minnesota Vikings. 

    NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports the Vikings are interested in packaging their two first-round picks to move up for a wide receiver.

    If the rumblings are true, Minnesota certainly has the ammunition to move up to about any spot in the draft it desires. 

    Rapoport mentions West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson as the inspiration behind any more, and for good reason—they rank No. 13 and 14, respectively, on CBS' big board

    It's obvious the Vikings want to grab a new receiver to pair with the recently acquired Greg Jennings, and the front office may be getting antsy about potentially missing out on both Austin and Patterson. 

Buffalo Bills Like USC QB Matt Barkley—A Lot

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    After cutting loose last year's starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and picking up free-agent castaway Kevin Kolb, an obvious need for the Buffalo Bills entering the draft is quarterback. 

    Not many thought general manager Buddy Nix's man would be USC quarterback Matt Barkley, but according to ESPN's Todd McShay on a conference call Friday, the Bills like him (h/t Dan Kadar via Twitter).

    This report meshes extremely well with recent comments from Nix, who claimed he does not think taking a quarterback at No. 8 overall is a reach this year, as documented by Tim Graham of The Buffalo News:

    This quarterback class is better than everybody thinks it is. It's better than the publicity they get.

    Five or six of those guys -- maybe seven -- do a lot of things good and do them good enough to win. This is not a standard answer. I've said this from the start, that two or three of these guys will be franchise quarterbacks. I believe that.

    Combine the report and the quotes, and it seems plausible the Bills could take Barkley at No. 8. 

    CBS only has him ranked as the No. 28 prospect overall, so Nix's damage-control quotes make a bit more sense now this early in the game. 

Jacksonville Jaguars Might Go Boring with an Offensive Tackle at No. 2

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    For months, speculation has run absolutely rampant about what the Jacksonville Jaguars will do with the No. 2 overall pick. 

    Will the team take an elite pass-rusher such as Dion Jordan? Maybe a defensive tackle like Star Lotulelei? Or maybe the most popular pick, which Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey agrees with, quarterback Geno Smith? 

    Nope. Jacksonville may just disappoint us all by taking an offensive tackle. 

    According to Ryan O'Halloran over at Jacksonville.com, the Jaguars may have offensive tackle Eric Fisher in their cross-hairs:

    But as Thursday night’s first round approaches, it remains possible the Jaguars will take an offensive tackle with the No. 2 pick and — at least this year — play him on the right side opposite Eugene Monroe.

    The hypothetical: Kansas City takes Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel with the top pick, leaving Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher — one of the pre-draft season’s top stars — for the Jaguars to scoop up. Both players visited Jacksonville earlier this month.


    Shoring up an offensive line for years to come with a top prospect could help someone such as Blaine Gabbert develop more effectively rather than just starting over at the position. 

    Look for this one to come true. 

Detroit Lions Very Impressed with Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o

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    You hear that? It's the sound of Detroit Lions fans everywhere collectively smacking their foreheads. 

    According to Anwar S. Richardson at Mlive.com, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is extremely impressed with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o:

    It was great. Very smart guy. Very smart football player. Very personable. Great personality. That was actually one of the schools I went to. When I was there, you couldn't find anybody to say anything negative about him.

    Just a great leader in their program and a great football player for them over the years. They have so much respect for him, and I do too after meeting with him. He's just a great young man.

    Te'o is one of the most polarizing figures in sports after the infamous fake girlfriend hoax. You either love him or hate him. 

    Apparently, the Lions love him. 

    Detroit is holding steady with the No. 5 overall pick, and it's doubtful the team uses it on Te'o (he hardly grades out as a first-round prospect, according to CBS). But it could mean Mayhew and Co. are flirting with the idea of trading down and taking him, or praying he falls into the second round. 

    Keep an eye on this one. 

Alec Ogletree to the St. Louis Rams?

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    The St. Louis Rams are in an enviable situation this year with two first-round picks thanks to last year's trade that landed Robert Griffin III with the Washington Redskins. 

    One of those picks could be used on Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree if recent reports are to be believed. 

    Jim Thomas of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch believes the Rams could target Ogletree with either of their first round picks despite concerns about his character:

    Ogletree may prove particularly tempting to the Rams if both the projected top two wide receivers are gone by No. 16: West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson.

    As much as they need help at the skill positions on offense, outside linebacker is the second-biggest need on defense for the Rams (with safety being the biggest).

    Ogletree played inside linebacker this past season for Georgia, but the Rams envision him as an athletic, speedy run-and-chase outside linebacker.

    Ogletree is a great athlete who is athletic enough to play outside like Thomas suggests. If both Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson are gone, it would make sense for the Rams to address one of their biggest needs. 

    The problem with Ogletree is his history of off-field issues and questionable motor, which has NFL Network's draft analyst Mike Mayock "scared to death" (h/t Philly.com). 

    Head coach Jeff Fisher is not afraid to draft problem players. See Janoris Jenkins last season for proof. Ogletree could very well end up in St. Louis. 

New Orleans Saints Targeting CB Xavier Rhodes?

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    The New Orleans Saints are currently undergoing a massive change with the switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. 

    Said change means new cornerbacks are needed on the roster. 

    According to Mike Triplett of NOLA.com, the Saints may be using their No. 15 overall pick to target Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes:

    That makes Florida State's Xavier Rhodes a very realistic option with the Saints' first-round pick. He's a big, physical corner at 6 feet 2, 210 pounds, and he's projected to go off the board somewhere between the 10th and 20th pick. Washington's Desmond Trufant is also a first-round possibility.

    Triplett points out that, even after signing cornerback Keenan Lewis in free agency to act as the No. 1 corner, the team still heavily pursued free agents such as Tracy Porter and Nnamdi Asomugha.

    Clearly Ryan and Co. want better starters than the two the team fielded last season in Patrick Robinson and Jabari Greer. 

    If that's the case, Rhodes could be the pick at No. 15. He's the second-best corner on most boards (such as CBS') behind Dee Milliner. After a miserable season defensively last year, Rhodes could start across from Lewis and potentially be a massive upgrade. 

     

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