With time running out before the start of the 2014 NFL draft, teams are finalizing their strategies and figuring out which players are truly worth a spot on their rosters.
We have seen in recent years that the draft order does not matter all that much when teams are capable of trading up and down to get the right prospects. These trade talks have led to rumors flying around about which teams are looking at which players.
Then again, it is hard to know what rumors coming from organizations are genuine and which ones are just misdirection. There are plenty of smokescreens at this point of the year.
However, here is a look at the latest rumors surrounding the top quarterbacks on the board and where they are likely to land.
Everybody Loves Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel might end up being the most unique prospect in NFL history. While some will argue that he is the best player in the class with his ability to create big plays from nothing, others do not think his college success will translate to the NFL.
As a result, it has become even tougher to guess where he will end up.
One of the latest rumors is that the Dallas Cowboys are interesting in making a move to get the talented quarterback. Broadcaster Jim Nantz explained to Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland:
No one knows what they’re gonna get with him. There is no slam dunk. It is all over the place. Honestly, no one knows.
I can say this, he's going to be the guy everyone wants to see. I've heard this rumor for a month -- the Cowboys will figure out a way to get Manziel.
Considering the Cowboys currently own the No. 16 pick, they will likely have to trade up. However, this would not be as big of a move as if the Philadelphia Eagles wanted Manziel.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly would not comment about his draft strategy, but he certainly showed his admiration for the former Heisman Trophy winner. According to Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly, Kelly explained, "When I coached at Oregon he was tailor made for it. He broke my heart. I love the kid. I think he's a hell of a football player."
The interesting thing about both teams is that they each have a quarterback in place with Tony Romo and Nick Foles. It would certainly be surprising for either squad to give that up for a rookie.
Of course, it might end up that neither team gets a chance with the Houston Texans picking first overall. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported that Manziel could end up going No. 1:
The Texans need a quarterback and seem to think the Texas A&M star is the best available. This is not good news for the other teams that want him.
Blake Bortles to Cleveland?
It is hard to remember so much disagreement when it comes to the top quarterback prospects in the draft. While many are on board the Manziel train, there are still those who think Blake Bortles is the best in the class, like ESPN's Ron Jaworski:
The Cleveland Browns are one of a few teams to bring Bortles in for a private workout last month with all the key people on hand. Head coach Mike Pettine had some glowing praise for the young player, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com:
He has all the measurables. If you look at him, if you said draw me an NFL quarterback, that's probably who you'd draw. I think the thing that's impressive about him is his ability in crunch time in a lot of tight games, a lot of come-from-behind wins, you can see he's confident, can make all the throws, I think he's a better athlete than some people give him credit for.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated also recently explained, "The Browns have been smitten with him since last fall."
Cleveland needs to draft a quarterback with either the No. 4 or No. 26 pick in the first round. While there are other possibilities like Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater, the team should feel confident about taking Bortles early.
On the other hand, King speculates another landing spot for the UCF product:
I watch Blake Bortles on video, his accuracy and escapability and his occasionally questionable decision-making, and I can’t help but think of him as a Viking. This is the kind of quarterback Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner loves: an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than Troy Aikman, a lover of the pocket in an era of escape artists, a 66-percent lifetime passer in three years at Central Florida. I doubt he makes it to No. 8, but that’s the best fit for me for Bortles in the top 10.
The Minnesota Vikings are another team that needs a quarterback, and this remains an interesting fit for the organization.
As King notes, though, you can be certain Bortles will be taken somewhere in the first 10 picks to a team in need.
Derek Carr All Over the Board
If the Browns do not draft Bortles with the No. 4 pick, they could make a surprise move by taking Derek Carr, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan (via Grossi):
Quarterback guru Jon Gruden certainly would not think this was too bold:
Then again, most seem to project Carr as someone who will be taken in the second half of the first round. This could mean that the Fresno State player would be available for the Browns at No. 26.
One team that could ruin this plan is the Arizona Cardinals. King reported that "Arizona is sweet on a couple of quarterbacks, Derek Carr and A.J. McCarron, who are first- and second-round possibilities."
The Cardinals have a starter in Carson Palmer, but they could use a younger player who could develop into a franchise quarterback down the line. Considering Carr would have to transition from playing against the Mountain West to the NFC West, you do not want to force him into action.
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean also reports that the Tennessee Titans are "especially curious" about Carr despite the fact they are not actively looking for a quarterback. Wyatt writes, "The Titans have said they're committed to Locker for 2014, and still believe he's capable of being a franchise quarterback, but that hasn't kept them from test-driving Carr and others."
It seems incredibly likely that the younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr will be taken somewhere in the first round. However, fans should not be surprised to see him selected anywhere in the first 32 picks.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!