2014 NFL Draft: Latest Buzz & Speculation at the Onset of Free Agency
With free agency finally here, things are about to change quickly for some NFL teams, because who they grab in free agency will directly impact how they draft.
The ripple effect from free agency will even hit some of the top draft picks.
With that in mind, we've pulled together a few of the rumors around some of the bigger draft picks and some of the teams near the top of the draft to see what's buzzing around them before the free-for-all starts.
The Detroit Lions Might Trade Up for Clemson’s Sammy Watkins
Bleacher Report’s own Matt Miller has reported the Detroit Lions could be looking to trade up (see video above) for Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins in May’s draft.
This could change, depending on whether the team is really interested in James Jones, as reported by DraftInsider.net’s Tony Pauline.
After all, if they invest heavily in Jones, would they trade up for Watkins? That might be too rich for their blood.
If they pull the trigger though, Watkins is a guy worth doing it for.
Watkins is easily the best wide receiver in this draft and tops every list I’ve seen from Miller’s to my own. A tough receiver who can go vertical, beat press coverage as well as run past corners, trying to match up against him and Calvin Johnson would be an absolute nightmare.
The Lions may prefer a guy like Jones, who has experience on his side, but I can’t help but think Watkins is the better choice, if they can pull a deal off.
Of course, they have no time to wait as free agency kicks off.
So even if they get Jones, it may be that Watkins remains too good to pass up.
Jaguars Skipping QB at No. 3?
Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union has reported with Chad Henne re-signed, the Jacksonville Jaguars may not take a quarterback until at least the second round, maybe later.
With the allowance that anything can happen between now and the end of Day 3 of the NFL draft, I’m calling “shenanigans” on this one.
It’s not impossible to think they go another way, but a few things stand out to me.
First, if you’re hoping Henne can win you football games on a regular basis in the AFC South, well, good luck. The Indianapolis Colts will prove you wrong nine times out of ten, and you cannot expect the Houston Texans to repeat the awful 2013 they had. For that matter, the Tennessee Titans were better than the Jaguars last season.
Sure, next year’s crop of quarterbacks are allegedly better than this year's, but you don’t play to plan for next year, because there’s too much time between now and then. What if a prospect gets hurt, what if you don’t finish low enough to get one of the top guys, what if any number of things go wrong?
You don’t play for next year’s draft.
This is also contrary to a few things I’ve personally heard from people close to the team. As with everything, I take it with a grain of salt, but I’ve definitely heard they have their eyes on a quarterback.
As I said, there’s plenty of time to see something new happen, and of course, anything can and will as the draft approaches, but this sounds to me like smoke.
Do the Oakland Raiders Like Derek Carr over Johnny Manziel?
I’ve known Los Angeles Times writer Sam Farmer for a long time, certainly long enough to know that if he is talking, we’d best take note.
So his recent appearance on Team Stream Now, where he says coming out of the combine the Oakland Raiders liked Fresno State’s Derek Carr over Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is worth noting.
From what Farmer says in the video, it seems very much as if Carr interviewed better with the team than Manziel. While there were reports, such as Peter King of MMQB.com’s, which says Manziel did well in interviews, there are bound to be teams that weren’t sold.
As Farmer says, it’s entirely realistic to think the Raiders could take Carr. While I wouldn’t do that (I’m not that high on Carr), some teams will absolutely be scared off by Manziel’s off-field reputation, and Carr is a potential alternative who won’t be there in Round 2.
Here’s one thing to chew on, though.
According to SiriusXM radio producer Eddie Borsilli, the Raiders met with Manziel at the combine and owner Mark Davis was “very impressed” with Manziel.
I think more than anything the Raiders are just trying to keep their value on that No. 5 pick up. If a player they really want isn’t there, or a good offer comes, they’ll trade out.
It could very well be that neither guy is really someone they love.
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater Is Dropping out of the Top Ten
Former NFL Scout and 95.7 the Game radio host John Middlekauff said he wouldn’t be shocked to see Lousiville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater take a draft tumble.
Twitter is MUCH higher than NFL teams on Teddy Bridgewater. I won't be shocked to see him drop out of the top 10— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) February 23, 2014
Now, with the caveat that anything can happen, I’m not sure I buy this idea that all of Twitter is just blind to the myriad of flaws Bridgewater has.
First of all, we all know there’s more lying going on during this time of year than any other time of year, unless it’s election time.
So anything you hear like this, take it with a grain of salt.
Secondly, with no less than six teams who need a quarterback in that top ten, it’s hard to imagine any of the top three taking a tumble out of the top ten.
Do we really believe Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Oakland and Houston all pass on quarterbacks?
Now, we may see something amazing in free agency, but maybe that eliminates one of the teams—possibly two, tops. Then add in Manziel and Blake Bortles, removing two more.
That leaves three teams who would pass on Bridgewater. Aside from body type, what’s the knock on Bridgewater?
So while he won’t likely go first overall, and may not go in the top three, there’s no way (see the above caveat) he drops out of the top ten with so many needy teams in that pack of picks.
Some Teams Have Buffalo’s Khalil Mack over South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney
This past week, ESPN’s Chris Mortenson perpetrated NFL draft heresy.
A handful of evaluators have greater confidence re: Buffalo LB Khalil Mack than Jadeveon Clowney. Mack's skills, consistency & versatility— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 8, 2014
After you’ve picked up your monocle and your jaw, consider this isn’t all that far-fetched.
Like Manziel, Clowney showed up at the combine with an obvious game plan to flip the script on that question, but not doing every combine drill just gave his detractors more “evidence.”
NFL Network analysts Warren Sapp and Mike Mayock were frustrated by Clowney skipping drills, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Tom Pelissero relayed Bleacher Report’s Greg Gabriels thoughts on Clownery’s overall effort last season as well, and they weren’t all positive.
People are making excuses for him, saying that, ‘Oh, he was double-teamed. He was triple-teamed.’ Do you think every offense in the National Football League didn’t set their game plan to stop Lawrence Taylor? Yet they never did it.
While there is almost no way Clowney drops out of the top ten, forget the top five, it’s not inconceivable there are teams who believe in the steadier (albeit with less upside) Khalil Mack.
Is that a mistake? Maybe. But it’s unlikely any of those teams will have a shot at him anyway.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him @andrew_garda on Twitter.