The 2014 NFL draft is less than a week away, meaning we've reached the homestretch of the nonstop rumor mill and seemingly endless conjecture.
In a few days' time, Round 1 will be underway and perception will give way to reality.
But with so much conversation and buzz surrounding the 2014 NFL draft as the calendar flips to May, let's take a look at some of the most notable rumors and speculation surrounding this year's top prospects.
Atlanta Falcons in Play for No. 1 Pick, Jadeveon Clowney?
Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback column that the Atlanta Falcons would be the team most likely to trade up to No. 1 overall in an effort to secure South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney.
"Not saying it’s going to happen; I’d list the odds at 40 percent. But if the Texans want to trade the No. 1 pick, the Falcons, as of this morning, are their best option."
King adds that Clowney left a "very positive impression" with the Falcons' front-office and coaching staff when he visited the team last week.
"I’d heard before that meeting that the Falcons weren’t inclined to entertain thoughts about making such a bold move, from sixth pick in the first round to No. 1 overall. Now they are thinking of it."
NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport has also heard the Falcons are looking to rise up the board:
#Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff doesn’t waste his time. Looking at Jadeveon Clowney signaled the obvious: ATL exploring moving all the way up— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 28, 2014
King goes on to discuss Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff's efforts three years ago to move up from No. 27 to sixth overall to draft former Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. To secure the top spot from the Houston Texans this May, the Falcons would likely have to cough up their No. 6 pick this year and another first-round pick for 2015.
But even that might not be enough considering it would likely guarantee them a franchise-changing playmaker in Clowney.
The frightening pass-rusher had a disappointing junior season with the Gamecocks in 2013, but bounced back to wow scouts at his pro day in early April. Afterward, the 6'6", 265-pound defensive end expressed high hopes for the future, via SI.com's Chris Burke.
"I want to be the best. I say to myself every morning, ‘Just be great today.’ I just want to be one of the best … to be talked about forever."
There's no doubt the Falcons are desperate to add an elite pass-rusher on defense, and Clowney fits the bill. At this point, it appears to be a matter of whether Atlanta is willing to give up what it will cost to move into the top spot on Thursday night.
Is There Any Chance Johnny Manziel Winds Up in Philly?
It's always important to take in NFL draft rumors with a grain of salt considering teams want to avoid giving anything away and showing their hand ahead of the selection process.
According to King, there's a rumor swirling that the Philadelphia Eagles are looking to move up in the draft so they can take former Texas A&M quarterback 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.
With Nick Foles coming off a superb season in which he threw for 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions in 13 regular-season games, drafting a quarterback in Round 1 wouldn't make a whole lot of sense for Chip Kelly's squad, which has more pressing needs on defense.
However, there's no telling how Round 1 will unfold on Thursday night, and, given Kelly's offensive brilliance, there would be no limit to what the Eagles could accomplish offensively with Manziel's skill set at their disposal.
But in addition to the fact Philadelphia already has a Pro Bowl passer on its roster, the circus-like media attention and potential distraction brought on by drafting Manziel is also a reason this move seems highly unlikely.
Miami Dolphins Eyeing Zack Martin in Round 1?
The Miami Dolphins desperately need to bolster their offensive line this offseason, and it would appear that the Dolphins front office is set to do just that in the first round of Thursday's NFL draft.
According to the Miami Herald's Adam H. Beasley, Miami, who will pick No. 19 overall, has its sights set on Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin:
Although the Dolphins, as one scout put it, would 'fall all over themselves' if Michigan’s Taylor Lewan somehow slipped to them, multiple sources in the know firmly believe Martin is the team’s first-round target on May 8.
Beasley adds that the Dolphins would only consider a handful of offensive linemen in Round 1: "Sources say Miami has first-round grades on just five tackles: Martin, Lewan, Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Greg Robinson (Auburn) and Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee)."
While Lewan's draft stock has been steadily rising over the past couple of weeks, it's unlikely he'll still be available when Miami comes on the clock midway through the first round.
Although Martin could be gone by then too, he's been projected in the mid-Round 1 range and brings tremendous versatility to the table as an experienced college prospect who can play both tackle positions and potentially transition to guard at the next level.
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