2014 NFL Draft: Playing Fact or Fiction with All the Latest Rumors
As anyone who follows the NFL draft closely each year knows, the weeks leading up to the draft are prime season for smokescreens. All 32 teams would love if the player they wanted fell to them, and trying to convince fellow teams through the media that their interest is elsewhere is the best way teams know to do that.
But not all of the information “leaked” out this time of year is inaccurate. Sometimes, an insider finds out where teams have their roster or draft board set to for the future.
In an effort to sort out smokescreens from actual draft news, I’ve done my best to determine what I believe is fact or fiction. While I may not have the insider access some of these reporters have, I’ll use draft experience and a bit of intuition to determine which of these news stories is worth taking seriously.
FACT: The Falcons' Interest in Securing Jadeveon Clowney Is Real
The Houston Texans have been consistently linked to trading down in recent weeks, as they’d rather add draft picks and secure more value for later in Bill O’Brien’s first draft. But for all teams who look to trade down in the draft, finding a suitor who will mortgage its future draft picks for a single player is much easier said than done.
That being said, the Falcons seem like a perfect match. The Falcons have experience in making major trade-ups on draft day, giving up four picks to secure Julio Jones in the 2011 draft. They also have two main needs, offensive tackle and defensive end, and moving up for the best prospect at end in the past 10 years seems like the ideal way to fix that need.
And after the Falcons met with Jadeveon Clowney this past week, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, the persistent interest adds another layer to the Falcons' trade-up scenario coming true. While it’ll likely take the Falcons' first- and second-rounder this year and potentially a 2015 early-round pick, the Falcons could deem the trade worthy if they hope to get back into playoff contention.
FICTION: The Bucs Will Take Johnny Manziel in 1st Round If He's Available
After Ed Werder of ESPN claimed that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have interest in Johnny Manziel if he’s available at the seventh overall pick, I’ve been unnerving in my questioning of the potential pick. First off, I believe there’s a real possibility that Manziel slips on draft day, if only because there may not be tremendous interest in taking such an enigma of a quarterback in the top five.
And I don’t believe the Bucs will be the answer to the Manziel draft-slide question marks. For one, he isn’t an ideal fit for new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense. Secondly, they still have Mike Glennon and recently signed Josh McCown on the roster, so the rush for a new quarterback doesn’t seem to mesh with their current roster.
And finally, Tedford has a far greater connection to Derek Carr of Fresno State than to Manziel. Tedford is the former college offensive coordinator of David Carr and has worked with Derek this past offseason, as Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times details.
FACT: The Texans Won't Rush Their Rookie Quarterback This Time
The Houston Texans franchise began in 2002, and their inaugural draft pick was David Carr. As an opening day rookie who started for three years, Carr took a beating behind a developing offensive line and offense in Houston, forever stunting his development as a quarterback.
Texans owner Bob McNair has seemingly learned his lesson from the failed David Carr experiment. He told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (subscription required) that the quarterback they draft in this class will have ample time to develop before being thrust into the starting role.
While the top 10 isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the Texans to draft a quarterback, especially if they trade down from the first overall spot, the second or third rounds seem more likely for them to find their “quarterback of the future.” Blake Bortles of UCF, Tom Savage of Pittsburgh and Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois all seem like strong options if the Texans can be in a position to secure them.
FICTION: Cyrus Kouandjio Will Be Available in the 3rd Round
After failing physicals during the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine medical tests due to an arthritic knee, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Cyrus Kouandjio’s draft value took a hit. Teams are always cautious of lingering injuries from college, and in Kouandjio’s case, his past injuries may limit how long his NFL career will be.
But for a mauling run-blocker with ideal size and strength for the left or right tackle spot in the NFL, there’s no reason to expect him to slide too far on draft day. I believe there’s still a possibility he lands in the first round to a team like the Ravens, Dolphins or Seahawks, but Mel Kiper of ESPN disagrees. He claimed, on ESPN Radio, that there’s a possibility Kouandjio slides all the way to the third round.
It wouldn’t be the first time a talented offensive lineman slipped on draft day due to career-limiting injuries. In the 2006 NFL draft, Auburn’s Marcus McNeill was viewed as one of the premier offensive tackles in the draft but fell due to having spinal stenosis. Still, despite his career being clearly limited (he would retire five years later), McNeill landed in the middle of the second round, which is the floor of where I’d expect Kouandjio to land.
FACT: Zack Martin Is the Dolphins' Target at No. 19 Overall
Before the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga in Miami, the Dolphins needed to address their offensive line in the following offseason. After the national issue in the locker room, the Dolphins lost two starters and were left with only center Mike Pouncey as a legitimate long-term starter.
After signing Branden Albert in free agency, the Dolphins can rest a bit easier when it comes to their left tackle woes. But they still have work to do, and the logic is that they’ll consider filling another offensive line void with the 19th pick.
Which blocker would they consider? According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, Zack Martin of Notre Dame may be their target.
In recent weeks, tackles like Cyrus Kouandjio and Morgan Moses have been linked to Miami, and both possess better size and tools than Martin. However, few blockers in this class are as polished and NFL-ready when it comes to positioning, timing and hand placement as a blocker than Martin. While he played left tackle in college, he showed plenty of right tackle capability during the Senior Bowl. And with his skill set, if he can’t find success at tackle, he likely could slide inside at guard and have great NFL success.
FICTION: The Patriots Will Consider Tom Savage in the Top 40
The hype train that’s carrying Tom Savage has gone off the rails in my opinion. Based on film, Tom Savage is a strong-armed, flashy quarterback who has the tools to be great but not the production, consistency, accuracy or poise in the pocket to be deemed worthy of a top-100 pick.
That being said, the persistent talk of Savage in the past month of draft coverage has me sold that some team will invest a high pick on him. The most recent team linked to Savage is the New England Patriots, where the term “Tom No. 2” is being thrown around, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net.
I see the reasons to like and want to develop Savage, and while I’m personally not a fan, I think that in a long-term backup role, Savage could work his way into a starting quarterback level of play with the right coaches around him. But comparing him to Tom Brady and having him viewed as a late-first-round possibility seems laughable to me and a prime example of the Patriots winning in the smokescreen game this draft season.
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