NFL Rumors: Latest Draft and Trade Talk from Around the League
It’s the time of the NFL calendar that some call “lying season,” as rumors of teams’ draft targets and potential targets pop up in great numbers.
While some of those rumors could come to fruition when the draft is held May 8-10, others might be leaks from teams that are deliberately intended to mislead other squads.
The following slides examine some of the smoke that has recently emerged in regards to what is expected to transpire in this year’s NFL draft. Will the smoke lead to fire? All of the following buzz can be perceived as realistic but also leaves reason for skepticism.
Teddy Bridgewater Continuing to Fall Down Draft Boards?
Once widely projected to be the first quarterback selected in this year’s NFL draft, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is now being rumored to drop considerably in the draft, possibly even out of Round 1.
"Six different franchises, including those three in the top 10, have said they believe that Bridgewater is going to fall much lower than expected on draft day and could easily drop out of the first round because teams aren't grading him as a first-round pick," Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com wrote last week.
Campbell also noted that three teams with top-10 draft selections said they have graded Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles and Fresno State’s Derek Carr ahead of Bridgewater.
Campbell is not the only NFL analyst suggesting Bridgewater might not be a top-32 selection.
95.7 The Game radio host John Middlekauff, a former NFL scout, said league sources have indicated Bridgewater could fall to Round 2. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, a former NFL general manager, said in a SiriusXM radio interview last week (via Bryan Fischer of NFL.com), that Bridgewater is viewed in “league circles” as a “late first, early second-round pick.”
Despite all these rumors to the contrary, Bridgewater could still be a very high selection on draft day. His best shot of going near the top of the board might come with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold the No. 3 overall selection and have scheduled two visits with Bridgewater, according to ESPN.com’s Tania Ganguli.
Bridgewater’s stock has perhaps been the most interesting mystery of this year’s draft class thus far, and it’s likely a situation that will continue to lack clarity until the draft begins May 8.
Cleveland Browns Deciding Between Johnny Manziel, Sammy Watkins?
The Cleveland Browns’ priority in this year’s draft should be improving their passing game. With a quarterback roster that consists of only Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney, they could look to draft a signal-caller with the No. 4 overall pick, but they could also be in the market for another receiving playmaker.
According to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, sources have indicated that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and head coach Mike Pettine covet Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, while position coaches and scouts prefer Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Both players have special skill sets that could warrant a top-five draft pick and could add much-needed dynamism to Cleveland’s offense.
Manziel has done his part to persuade Cleveland's front office. Per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the 2012 Heisman winner is determined to bring his winning ways to the Browns if they select him:
If something happens, and it's the Cleveland Browns, I'm going to pour my heart out for the Dawg Pound and try to win a Super Bowl for Cleveland. I don't care if they've had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I'm going to be the 21st and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl.
Quarterback is the more pressing need for Cleveland, but there are other directions in which it could go to address that position.
The Browns could hope one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft falls to the 26th selection or their second-round pick (No. 35 overall). Another option could be trading for a veteran like Kirk Cousins of the Washington Redskins, as Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer recently suggested.
Ultimately, the decision should come down to whether the Browns believe there is a quarterback worth the No. 4 overall pick that they won’t be able to get later in the draft. That could even lead Cleveland to Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, whom the Browns “really love,” according to B/R’s Mike Freeman and whom Miller actually projected to be the No. 4 overall pick in his “What I’m Hearing” mock draft.
If the Browns decide to go another direction than quarterback at No. 4, Watkins is favored to be the pick. Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans and Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson shouldn’t be ruled out as possibilities either.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Draft a Quarterback with 7th Pick?
Mike Glennon performed impressively enough as a rookie to look like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ potential franchise quarterback, but new head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht seemingly don’t see it that way.
Earlier this offseason, the Buccaneers signed Josh McCown to a two-year contract, and Smith promptly named him starting quarterback for the upcoming season. Now, according to multiple reports, the Buccaneers could end up selecting a quarterback with the No. 7 overall pick.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport said last week (via NFL.com's Marc Sessler) that the Buccaneers are “prepared to dial up a signal-caller,” while a report from Campbell went one step further, saying the Buccaneers plan to draft Central Florida’s Blake Bortles if he falls to the seventh slot.
This could just be a smokescreen, but the Buccaneers have at least feigned serious interest in drafting a quarterback. While Bortles hasn’t been a predraft visitor to Tampa Bay (at least not yet), the Buccaneers have hosted quarterbacks Bridgewater, Manziel, Carr, SMU’s Garrett Gilbert and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo.
If the Buccaneers’ new brain trust truly does not believe Glennon is a long-term answer at quarterback, it makes sense to select another passer and shop Glennon on the trade market.
That said, Tampa Bay has a more pressing need at wide receiver. The Buccaneers should only draft a quarterback if both Watkins and Evans are off the board by the seventh pick. Campbell’s report indicated that Tampa Bay does not intend to trade up in this year’s draft.
Detroit Lions Trying to Trade Up?
While the Buccaneers are reportedly not looking to trade up for a wide receiver, the Detroit Lions might be.
According to Rapoport (via Sessler), the Detroit Lions “loom as candidates to trade into the top five for one of the draft’s top prospects.” Their potential target in a move up, Rapoport said, could be Watkins.
Rapoport isn’t the first to suggest that the Lions might make an aggressive move up from the No. 10 overall pick; as can be seen in the video above, Miller indicated back in March that a deal to land Watkins could be a possibility.
CBS Sports’ Will Brinson recently projected that the Lions will move up to the No. 2 slot to select the dynamic playmaker.
The appeal of moving up for Watkins makes some sense, as pairing him with Calvin Johnson could immediately give Detroit arguably the NFL’s most explosive wide receiver combination. That said, the Lions have more pressing needs after signing free-agent wideout Golden Tate earlier this offseason, and Watkins might not be worth the likely hefty cost it would take to deal up into position to get him.
Even if the Lions were to trade up, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll draft Watkins.
Detroit could benefit greatly from adding an explosive edge defender like Buffalo’s Khalil Mack to its defense but would also almost certainly have to trade up to get him. Evans, a bigger receiver who is also projected to be a top-nine selection, is another potential trade-up target.
St. Louis Rams Looking to Draft a Quarterback?
While drafting a quarterback is considered to be a possibility for four of the teams selecting in this year’s top five, the one team which is almost certainly not expected to use its top-five pick on a quarterback is the St. Louis Rams. Later in the draft, however, quarterback could become one of the team’s priorities.
The Rams would still owe Sam Bradford at least $7.19 million even if they cut him this year, thanks to the prerookie wage scale contract he received for being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft; they aren’t likely to move on from him in 2014. The upcoming season might be Bradford’s last chance to prove himself, however, as he has had an underwhelming career to date and could be let go for a cap hit of only $3.595 million in 2015.
It would come as a surprise if the Rams used either the No. 2 or No. 13 overall selection to draft a quarterback, but it would make sense for them to draft a developmental talent in a later round.
According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Rams are “strongly considering” drafting a quarterback. Per Thomas, “the consistent signal from Rams Park is that the team wants to take a quarterback in the mid-rounds, someone who isn’t a project and could compete for a starting job in a year or two.”
Thomas reported that the Rams have hosted Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage for an official visit and have also shown interest in South Carolina’s Connor Shaw, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Gilbert, Carr and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd.
Carr would likely have to be a first-round selection, but any of the other quarterbacks could likely be had in later rounds. The most logical selection might be Murray, who is coming off a torn ACL but was healthy enough to throw at Georgia’s pro day and could be a third- or fourth-round option.
Miami Dolphins Targeting Cyrus Kouandjio at No. 19 Overall?
After a disastrous performance at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, Alabama offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio seemed bound to fall into the second round of this year’s draft. He might not even fall out of the top 20, however, according to a report from Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post.
Although Notre Dame offensive tackle/guard Zack Martin is a popular choice for the Dolphins among those projecting the NFL draft, a source with knowledge of the situation tells the Palm Beach Post that Miami GM Dennis Hickey prefers Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
General manager Dennis Hickey sees Zack Martin as a guard but Kouandjio as a right tackle, according to Abramson’s report. The source told Abramson that the Dolphins want to use the No. 19 overall pick on a right tackle.
Per Abramson’s report, the Dolphins would also consider Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan if he is still available at the 19th pick, but they prefer Kouandjio over Virginia’s Morgan Moses.
One report should never be taken as gospel at this time of year—Martin could still very well be Miami’s pick—but if the Dolphins believe Kouandjio has enough athleticism to keep up with speed-rushers as a right tackle, he’d be a logical choice. While Kouandjio isn’t an ideal athlete for an offensive tackle and might be best suited to play guard, his size, length and power give him high upside.
Trading down could also be an option if Kouandjio is Miami’s target, but given the typical prioritization on offensive linemen in early rounds, it wouldn’t be ludicrous for the Alabama blocker to be a top-20 choice.
Arizona Cardinals to Select Quarterback of Future with 20th Pick?
The Arizona Cardinals appear to be set for the 2014 season with Carson Palmer as their quarterback, but as he is 34 years old and on an expiring contract, the time to find the franchise’s quarterback of the future should be now. According to Rapoport (via Sessler), the Cardinals are a “candidate to pick an heir apparent” to Palmer with the No. 20 overall pick.
Whether the Cardinals ultimately do so could depend on which quarterbacks are still available with the 20th overall selection. The most frequently projected signal-caller to the Cardinals has been Carr, but Bortles or Bridgewater could also be in play if either of them falls to Arizona’s slot.
If Arizona believes one of those quarterbacks is the right guy to lead its franchise long term and that quarterback is still available at No. 20, the Cardinals should pull the trigger.
That said, the Cardinals also must consider whether they, as a team on the doorstep of playoff contention, can afford to use their first-round selection on a player who might not see any meaningful snaps in 2014.
Arizona shouldn’t be faulted if it pounces on the value of any of the top four quarterbacks if still available, though Manziel might not be the right fit for head coach Bruce Arians’ offense.
Players who could make a more immediate impact for the Cardinals in 2014, however, would include offensive linemen, such as Lewan or Martin, or defensive playmakers, such as BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy or Louisville safety Calvin Pryor.
Weston Richburg to Be a Surprise 1st-Round Pick?
The Dallas Cowboys made the most unexpected selection of the first round of last year’s draft when they chose Wisconsin center Travis Frederick at the No. 31 overall pick. It’s possible another center, Colorado State’s Weston Richburg, could follow in Frederick’s footsteps this year as a surprise first-rounder.
According to TFY Draft Insider’s Tony Pauline, teams who could select Richburg with a late first-round pick include the Green Bay Packers (who hold the No. 21 overall selection), the New England Patriots (No. 29 overall) and the Denver Broncos (No. 31 overall).
Richburg’s more appropriate value would be as a Day 2 selection, but it’s not ludicrous to suggest that he could land with any of those three teams in Round 1.
The Packers, the Patriots and the Broncos all have needs on the interior offensive line. This year’s center class is thin on talent, and according to Pauline, “the feeling is if you need [a center] Richburg is the guy and you better grab him early.”
If those teams don’t pounce on Richburg in the first round, they might have to look elsewhere if they plan to draft an interior offensive lineman on Day 2. Pauline suggests that the Jacksonville Jaguars are candidates to select Richburg with their second-round pick (No. 39 overall).
All measurables courtesy of NFL.com.
Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.