1. All the lying
One scout called this time of year in the NFL "The Bulls--- Season." And there is lots of it. So, so much. The lying about prospects. The lying by prospects, their agents, teams, scouts and coaches.
A good example of this happened recently due to a garbage story on NJ.com in which an NFC personnel man called Jadeveon Clowney "spoiled" and "lazy," among other things.
I've covered more than 20 drafts, and there's always at least one story like this. Some scout saying some negative thing about some prospect.
Sometimes that belief is sincere. I've used anonymous personnel quotes. In fact, just recently, a scout told me the decision by Clowney to skip team private workouts was "gutless." That's the word he used. Gutless.
Now, I think calling Clowney's decision gutless is stupid, but that, to me, is within the parameters of legitimate criticism. After all, the scout wasn't calling Clowney gutless. (Clowney's agent Bus Cook told USA Today that Clowney might do one more workout, for one team, with no heavy lifting. Thus, basically, Clowney isn't working out.)
But there are certain things that cross the line, and calling Clowney lazy is one of them. Particularly for the reason these quotes were given.
The line is fine. I get that. But spoiled and lazy are personal attacks. And that is the crux of The Bulls--- Season. The more personal and believable, the better chance the crap will be repeated in the media.
The lazy and spoiled comments were likely said in order to knock down Clowney's stock. Most fans don't realize this is extremely common. It happens numerous times each draft. The idea is to say negative things in the media about a prospect and hope some sucker team actually falls for the hokum, and occasionally, some dumb team does.
The history of this is long. Scouts interviewed for this story gave some notable examples. (I think they were telling the truth.) Dan Marino was hurt by a low Wonderlic score, but it was rumors of drug use that truly decimated Marino's draft stock. Those rumors, one longtime scout has always believed, were started by teams toward the bottom of the draft, hoping that Marino would fall. That's exactly what happened. Marino has always denied the rumors.
True or not, those rumors were propagated to injure Marino's stock so a team that had no chance to get him would have a shot.
Scouts give other examples, like Warren Sapp and Randy Moss. Sometimes, the whispers are more subtle. Jimmy Clausen was said to be an egomaniac. Nick Fairley's heart was questioned. DeSean Jackson's maturity was (that turned out to be accurate). Aaron Rodgers was called too cerebral.
There are always whispers. There is always bullsh--.
Sometimes, the bullsh-- flows uphill. Mike Mamula's 1995 combine workout remains one of the best examples of someone using the combine for maximum benefit.
Mamula performed wonderfully at the combine, yet there absolutely were teams convinced he would be a bust, and spread word that his combine meant he'd be one of the best defensive players to come out of that draft. They wanted competitors to waste a high pick on him. The Eagles did just that, picking him seventh overall. I remember teams absolutely laughing that Philadelphia selected him that high. He would turn out to be a bust, a cautionary tale.
One of the best examples of draft misinformation came within the past few years. One general manager told me that a young quarterback coming out of college several years ago smoked a lot of pot. I just happened to know people close to the player who said he was the straightest arrow they knew. I never wrote about the pot because I knew the rumor was garbage. It was. That player is now one of the best active QBs and could one day be the face of the league.
So when you read all of the draft rumors, just remember what season it is.
2. Clowney will set precedent
One reason I believe that teams are saying some of the unnecessarily nasty things about Clowney is that he is doing things his own way. The decision not to do any more private workouts--or severely limit the one remaining workout he might do--is smart for him but tells the powerful NFL to screw off.
This will also possibly spawn more players in future draft years doing the same. Agents and players are finally seeing two important things about the draft process.
First, players at the top like Clowney have incredible power. They are needed commodities, and if they decide not to work out, well, what the hell is a team going to do? Not draft him for refusing to attend a personal workout for a team? That would never happen.
Second, these types of workouts are total garbage. They mean nothing and players know there is no upside. In fact, there's only a downside. They can get injured.
So Clowney won't be the last to make this decision. Not by a longshot.
3. Almost a guarantee that Patriots will move in the draft
Or try really hard to.
The entire NFL is fascinated with Bill Belichick and everything he does and says. Once again, they are watching him and the general consensus is that he will be extremely active in the draft. They currently hold the 29th overall pick.
What I continue to hear from team officials is that despite the Patriots working out a number of quarterbacks, they truly feel like that Tom Brady only has a few years left. So what the Patriots really want is a major receiving threat for him so they can take that last shot or two at the Super Bowl.
Belichick apparently feels that is one of the main missing ingredients from their team. That makes total sense. Even though Brady is so damn good he makes up for a lot of deficiencies, quarterbacks, even great ones, simply function better when they have a scary receiving threat.
The Patriots themselves are an example of this. When they had Randy Moss, and the one year he decided to actually, you know, concentrate, they went to the Super Bowl. Belichick knows they need this again because the franchise has relied too heavily on Brady to save the day.
Now, part of what makes Belichick interesting to follow is that he rarely does as expected. But what seems to be certain is that he will try to move in the draft, likely upward, and everyone will be watching him.
4. Combine drug failures
One NFC scout says this past combine saw some of the lowest failures for drug tests he's ever seen in the decades he's been working the combine. He would not give exact numbers. The low number could be an outlier. But it could also be because finally, players are listening to their agents and everyone else, and not smoking dope in the weeks before the combine.
That seems like such a simple notion. Some drugs can stay in the system for weeks. Therefore, if you want to play in the NFL, don't use those damn drugs.
NFL teams refer to combine drug tests as an intelligence test. Because a player knows months in advance, if not longer, that there will be a drug test at the combine. Therefore if he fails a test, he is extremely addicted or extremely dumb. Neither is a good option as far as the team is concerned.
So maybe the apparent low number means players are getting it.
5. Tim Tebow bashing
6. Rob Gronkowski won't be back for awhile
It was reported this week that that New England tight end Rob Gronkowski is moving along just fine in his recovery from a torn ACL and MCL. That's all well and good, but a source close to him told me that the star player will "take his time and then take more time."
Gronkowski has battled numerous injuries, and last year, when he took his sweet time coming back from injury (who can blame him?) he was assailed by teammates in a series of anonymous quotes questioning his heart.
I'm told he might even take more time, and be more patient, than ever before. I'm not exactly sure when we'll see Gronkowski. I do know he'll be back when he's good and ready, and I'm not sure how anyone can fault that.
But I'm sure someone will.
7. The Browns and Derek Carr
They love him. They really love him. The feeling with many in football is that Cleveland will take Carr with its 26th pick. Other quarterbacks are rising quickly, but he might be rising the fastest. He has charmed almost every team he's met with and his arm and accuracy are underrated. And no one seems to be scared of the fact he's related to epic draft bust David Carr, a notion that was definitely in play just a few months ago.
8. Jets LOL
Really, New York Jets. Really? You don't have thicker skin than this? You guarantee Super Bowls, but you're afraid of a little movie? This is the franchise of Namath. Once bold and fearless. Once a franchise that participated in the Hard Knocks series. Now…really, Jets? Really?
9. Donald Trump
NFL team exec to me: "Owners would rather have Donald Duck buy the Bills than Donald Trump."
More on this story in the coming weeks and months but the general feeling is Trump didn't exactly crush it when he was with the USFL. Far from it. That fact has the potential to bury him.
10. Path to Super Bowl: draft or free agency?
An interesting look at how teams were built. Generally, the best ones do a balance of everything. Now we need to see how the terrible teams try to build a winner. It's undoubtedly the opposite.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.
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