Rumor season is in full swing as the 2014 NFL draft is on the approach, but don't think it ends once Mr. Irrelevant comes off the board.
While much of the hearsay around the league right now concerns impending rookies, there will still be notable free agents available and names on the trade block that will receive much of the attention as the draft gives way to offseason workouts and the preseason.
For now, here's a look at the most recent talk around the NFL. It's draft and quarterback heavy as is always the case, with a dash of trade rumblings for good measure.
Jimmy Garoppolo Set to Create Shock Waves on Draft Day?
There always seems to be that one player who blows away observers on draft day, thanks to how highly the league feels about him.
It sounds as if Jimmy Garoppolo could be that guy this year.
Per CBS Sports' Dane Brugler, there are those who have keen eyes set on the Eastern Carolina product:
Working the phones this morning to get the current pulse of this QB draft class. Jimmy Garoppolo is quietly a very coveted player #NFLDraft— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 9, 2014
It's natural to compare Garoppolo to fellow Panther Tony Romo, as he, too, posted gaudy statistics (5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns in '13) and makes up for a lack of athleticism with a high football I.Q. and great timing in the confines of an offense.
That offense is something detractors, such as NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, are quick to point out, however:
Taking another look at QB Jimmy Garoppolo... He is a good player, but he lived on quicks, bubbles and pop passes in EIU's spread offense.— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) April 10, 2014
Still, this is something NFL teams can work around right away if need be. It's not as if schemes like the West Coast in Cincinnati aren't built to protect somewhat limited passers. For his part, Garoppolo has remained grounded throughout the process, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune:
“I am excited about the (NFL) draft but I am trying not to look too far ahead,” he said. “We still have a while to go (May 8-10). I am trying to take it one step at a time and my agent (Don Yee) has done a great job with me to just keep the focus on one day at a time.”
Garoppolo won't come off the board in the top 10, but late in the first round makes sense. Whether that's a team trading down or up, or even Cleveland with the second of its two first-round picks, it's apparent Garoppolo's positive traits have him quietly in the first round come draft day.
AJ McCarron Getting Plenty of Attention
More so than most high-profile prospects, it's hard to get a read on AJ McCarron's fate.
He ranks as the eighth overall quarterback at CBS Sports and is often criticized as the beneficiary of a loaded Alabama roster. Others praise McCarron for his pro-ready game.
So which is it?
Based on how much attention the NFL is giving McCarron, it's getting easier to predict. Per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns are going through the paces with the somewhat controversial signal-caller:
Alabama QB A.J. McCarron is not only conducting a private workout for the #Browns today, he'll visit Cleveland next week, per lg source.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) April 16, 2014
It only makes sense that the Browns have serious interest, thanks to their obvious need and two picks in the first round, but conventional wisdom says McCarron won't come off the board in the first—right?
Just remember that the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars have shown interest as well, per NFL Network's Gil Brandt:
It's also worth noting that McCarron landing in the desert with the Arizona Cardinals is very realistic, as detailed by NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah:
A lot of personnel guys believe AJ McCarron makes sense in Arizona. I assumed 2nd rd.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 3, 2014
McCarron seems to have the attention of the league as a quarterback who limits turnovers and can be productive in the right offense while backed by a stout running game. That's certainly appealing, and even teams like New England seem to be in the fray for McCarron as a developmental backup.
His coming off the board in the second round seems a given.
LaMichael James on His Way Out of San Francisco?
But enough about the draft, how about some gritty trade chaos?
LaMichael James speculation has run rampant for, seemingly, the last calendar year as he has failed to gain any semblance of traction in San Francisco behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, which is only more glaring when one remembers the presence of Marcus Lattimore on the depth chart.
Now the musings have traction, as explained by Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee:
If the 49ers want to maneuver higher in next month's draft, they could offer another team multiple draft picks in return or they could offer a team picks and a player. That player? According to a league source, the 49ers have been shopping running back LaMichael James, a second-round pick in the 2012 draft.
Good luck with that. San Francisco won't get much in exchange for James as the front office looks to recoup value. It's not because James has little to offer. It has more to do with his lack of opportunities at the pro level in tandem with the fact teams around the league understand he's likely to hit the open market if no trade comes to fruition.
Why give up a draft pick for an unproven James in the deepest draft in years and pay him like a second-round pick?
Exactly. James is an elite returner who has potential as an offensive weapon. In the right offense—such as Kansas City or Philadelphia—he has plenty of value. But little production with the 49ers means he'll be a free agent at some point before landing with a new team.