The NFL draft could serve as a CIA course on counterintelligence. Rumors are concocted, teams hide their true intentions close to the vest and nobody really knows which teams want to draft which players at what draft slot.
It's a jumbled mess of schemes and carefully crafted spins, and we all love it.
So, with the draft less than two weeks away, what are some of the juiciest rumors making the rounds? What team loves which player this week? And can we decipher any of it?
Everybody loves Johnny Football; nobody loves Johnny Football. Everybody would do what it takes to get Johnny Football; nobody wants to do what it will take to get Johnny Football. He's the perfect fit for everybody; he isn't a good fit for anyone.
It's hard to know what to believe, exactly, when it comes to Johnny Manziel in this draft, mostly because he's become such a polarizing prospect on just about every level.
But the rumors persist that various teams have serious interest in him, and the one that has really gotten everyone's attention is that the Philadelphia Eagles could make a trade in the draft to select him.
Peter King (somewhat hesitantly, it seemed) passed along the rumor in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column:
There’s a rumor (apparently faulty) making the rounds about the Eagles moving up to try to get Johnny Manziel. I wouldn’t pass it along if the person who told me wasn’t smart and, to this point, reliable. But I just can’t see it, and I have someone who would know better than the rumor source telling me it absolutely won’t happen. Which seems smart to me, seeing that Nick Foles’ 27 touchdowns and two interceptions and 119.2 passer rating would be pretty damned foolish to throw out the window for Manziel. I just put it out there as an example of the kind of stuff that makes the rounds when so much of what happens at this time of year is designed to be a misdirection play.
There's no doubt that Manziel would be an excellent fit in Chip Kelly's offense. And the two have a history, as Kelly recruited him to Oregon. He also visited Manziel's draft day, and the quarterback paid his respects to the Eagles coach, via Corey Seidman of CSN Philly:
Coach Kelly, I remember sitting down in his office at Oregon probably four, five years ago. And obviously it didn't work out for me to go there, but a guy I still have the utmost respect for. I'm glad to see him become where he is today and have success. I wish him nothing but the best.
But the Eagles aren't the only team rumored to have interest in Manziel. In fact, they aren't even the only NFC East team rumored to want a piece of Johnny Football.
Yup, you guessed it—Jerry Jones might want to get in on this action, as well. Jim Nantz, talking to Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, said, "I’ve heard this rumor for a month—the Cowboys will figure out a way to get Manziel."
Now, it's unclear exactly where Nantz heard that rumor. Was it coming from league sources and people in the know, or was Nantz simply talking about media reports he'd come across?
If it's the former, well, would it really be all that surprising? Tony Romo is 34, Manziel is the flashy superstar that Jones craves to keep the Cowboys relevant even when they aren't terribly successful and, well, Jones does what he wants.
It would be a fitting match. It's unlikely it will happen, of course, because Dallas likely would have to trade into the top 10 to get him, but crazier things have happened.
For the moment, Jadeveon Clowney seems like the popular choice to be the top overall pick. Though this draft is incredibly deep, there have been questions about whether there's a transcendent talent atop the board. By most accounts, Clowney is the most likely to be that type of talent.
But he wouldn't be a great fit, at least schematically, for the Texans, a team that runs a 3-4 scheme. Clowney, meanwhile, seems perfectly suited for the 4-3. And that means the Texans have to at least be considering trading the top overall pick (especially in a year when the quarterback class is so polarizing).
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Atlanta Falcons are interested in moving up to the top spot:
The Falcons, who numerous league sources say remain very focused on South Carolina pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, hosted him for a visit this week and are scheduled to spend more time with him Friday.
The Falcons are seen by many execs as the team most likely to trade up to first overall with Houston, with Clowney their target. Pass rush remains a big void for the team, which hopes to bounce back to Super Bowl contention after a disastrous 2013. GM Thomas Demitroff has pulled off big draft-day moves in the past and the Texans are very open to trading down, with at least three players under consideration for the top selection.
Moving from No. 6 to No. 1 would cost the Falcons a ton, however. Remember, when Washington traded up to the No. 2 spot in 2012 to draft Robert Griffin III (they had the No. 6 pick in that draft), they gave the St. Louis Rams three first-round picks and a second-round selection.
At the very least, the Falcons would probably be looking at giving up their top two picks this year and a first-round selection next year. Is he really worth the cost?
Speaking of teams that may have to pay a small fortune to move up in the draft, there are whispers that the San Francisco 49ers could move way up the board to select Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.
In a confusing bit of digital-age sourcing, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported the rumor, which Evan Silva of Rotoworld tweeted and Adam Schefter of ESPN retweeted, essentially verifying the validity of the rumor. Phew, got all that?
RT @evansilva: ESPN's Mortensen suggests Mike Evans as trade-up target for 49ers. Mort hearing Niners "could be very aggressive in draft."— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 25, 2014
To ensure they nab Evans, the Niners would likely have to move from the No. 30 spot to No. 7, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are picking. To put into perspective the type of cost for such a move, when the Falcons moved up from No. 27 to No. 6 in the 2011 draft to select Julio Jones, they sent the Cleveland Browns two first-round picks, a second-round pick and two fourth-round selections.
Evans is an intriguing prospect, surely, and his combination of size, speed and ability to pluck the ball from the sky over opposing defensive backs would make him a great fit in San Francisco. Colin Kaepernick would surely like to have a target so capable of stretching teams vertically.
But to land Evans, the cost will be huge. Perhaps if Evans drops out of the top 10, that cost will be reduced, but if the Niners truly are in love with Evans and willing to get him, chances are they'll pay a steep price.