NFL Draft 2014: Latest Rumors Surrounding Top Incoming Prospects

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2014

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 04:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates his touchdown with Mike Evans #13 against the Oklahoma Sooners during the Cotton Bow lat Cowboys Stadium on January 4, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With the 2014 NFL draft slowly approaching, journalists are trying their hardest to piece together the puzzle on where the nation's brightest collegiate stars will land.

While viewers are livid when their favorite scripted TV shows are spoiled before they can witness the drama unfold, sports fans do not share the same patience and eagerness to sustain the suspense. If there are any answers floating around, they want them.

We could just wait for May 8, but where's the fun in that? Less than two weeks separate football fans from draft day, and not even vivacious NBA and NHL playoff action can satiate their relentless appetite.

The hot stove is sizzling as the draft looms around the corner. These three prospects are all highly desirable, causing unexpected teams to reportedly look their way.


Khalil Mack Joins No. 1 Pick Discussion

The Houston Texans have a tough decision on their hands in a draft with no clear top choice. While Jadeveon Clowney sports the highest ceiling, the franchise could also choose between three quarterbacks. Add Khalil Mack to the mix as well.

Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King has heard that general manager Rick Smith prefers the Buffalo linebacker to Clowney, which would create an interesting decision to begin the draft.

Houston, at No. 1, isn’t set on Jadeveon Clowney. In fact, one FORS [friend of Rick Smith] told me the Texans general manager likes Khalil Mack over Clowney, and we still don’t know which quarterback Houston would choose if it chooses one first overall. I still think the Texans would go with a more sure thing with the first overall pick than a quarterback—and that sure thing could also be tackle Greg Robinson. But imagine Mack, the outside linebacker from the University of Buffalo, being the first pick in a stacked draft. Wouldn’t that be something—a second straight Mid-American Conference player (Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, by Kansas City) as the top pick in the NFL draft?

If this is true, Smith is not alone is his assessment, on NFL's "Around the League" podcastNFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell also cited Mack as his top prospect.

B/R's Matt Miller and Chris Simms also have tickets aboard the Mack bandwagon.

Through four seasons with the Bisons, Mack mangled the Mid-American Conference opposition with 327 tackles, 75 of them for losses, and 28.5 sacks. While the lack of prudent competition remains a concern, he dominated Ohio State in the 2013 season opener, registering nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception he returned for a touchdown.

Even if King's report is just more smoke to confuse other league executives, Mack should be taken seriously as a candidate to have his name called first. If not, he won't fall much further. 


Johnny Manziel in Play for Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are apparently still searching for answers at quarterback.

They enjoyed some on-and-off success from Mike Glennon during his rookie season. A third-round selection in 2013, Glennon completed 70.5 percent of his passes in November, firing seven touchdowns to help Tampa Bay win three of four during the month. The one exception came in an overtime loss to the Seahawks in Seattle.

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 15:  Mike Glennon #8 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during a game at Raymond James Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Yet he averaged 165.2 passing yards per game through the final five contests, prompting new head coach Lovie Smith to acquire some competition in veteran Josh McCown.

Tampa Bay has two solid options under center, yet the franchise is not ruling out selecting a signal-caller at pick No. 7. ESPN's Ed Werder said the team would "seriously consider" Johnny Manziel if he remained available.

While that may likely prove moot with Manziel going to Houston, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns or Oakland Raiders, it's far from unfeasible. King reported that those teams may look to instead draft a passer in the second round, which would cause Manziel to drop down the draft board.

Picking one of his former offensive teammates from Texas A&M, however, would make more sense for the Buccaneers. Mike Evans would give Glennon or McCown another towering wide receiver to go alongside Vincent Jackson, who is often mentioned as a comparison for the future draftee.

After surrendering 47 sacks last year, they'd be wise to also consider offensive tackle Jake Matthews, one of the draft's safest choices to produce immediately. This rumor keeps the Minnesota Vikings on their toes at No. 8, but don't expect the Buccaneers to grab Manziel, even if he's available. 


'Aggressive' 49ers Eyeing Mike Evans

Currently slotted at pick No. 30, the San Francisco 49ers have bold aspirations to leave New York with one of this year's top pro recruits.

Per Rotoworld's Evan Silva and ESPN's Chris Mortensen mentioned Mike Evans as a trade target for San Francisco, who would have to move up considerably to snag the prized wideout.

Evans could go as high as No. 7 to Tampa Bay. Should the Buccaneers pass, he'll draw attention from the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, St. Louis Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. 

San Francisco can use some of its 11 picks in this year's draft to persuade a team to move down, but they still only pick three times in the top 75—No. 30, 56 and 61. The club would have to cough up several assets to leapfrog from No. 30 to the top 10 or 15.

While many mock drafts award the 49ers with a wideout, they typically obtain the likes of Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee, Kelvin Benjamin or Allen Robinson. Evans is a major step up from those guys.

Unless Evans falls lower than expected, it's probably too distant of a leap for them to make. But, considering all the talent already existent on their roster, they will likely package some picks for a higher one at some point during draft weekend.