The 2014 NFL draft is almost assuredly going to be the highlight of this offseason, as a loaded class of blossoming stars is set to replenish the league’s talent pool. Naturally, with so many great prospects lurking in the first round, there is no shortage of rumors and speculation surrounding potential landing destinations and trade scenarios involving the marquee names.
Lets take a look at the latest buzz involving a couple of the most prominent prospects in the draft.
Manziel May End Up in Tampa
Johnny Manziel is one of the most debated prospects in this draft class, largely due to his undeniable talent, larger-than-life persona and lack of ideal measurables. Some think he has the look of a surefire bust at the next level, while others claim he is going to emerge as a bona fide stud.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be in the latter camp, with reports surfacing that the club has Johnny Football on its shortlist of players to draft with the No. 7 overall pick.
According to ESPN’s Ed Werder, the Bucs are in the running for Manziel’s services and are smitten with his unique style of playing the game, plus his immense athletic ability, strong arm and accuracy as a passer:
Bucs would seriously consider Johnny Manziel if on the board at 7th pick. Team sees him as very unique, good arm and accuracy, great athlete— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 24, 2014
It’s an intriguing development, especially considering Tampa brought veteran Josh McCown into the fold this offseason and saw some promising flashes from rookie Mike Glennon in 2013.
However, new head coach Lovie Smith understands that having a franchise quarterback on the roster will be the difference between making the playoffs in the ultra-competitive NFC South and contending for the top pick.
McCown, a career backup, is coming off the best season of his career upon filling in for the injured Jay Cutler for eight games. However, the soon-to-be 35-year-old is clearly not the long-term answer at the position.
Is Tampa Bay a good match for Manziel?
If Smith is truly trying to make his mark on the team and get it back into playoff contention, bringing in a coveted, talented signal-caller like Manziel is the smart play. He has more upside than Glennon and could develop into one of the league’s best young quarterbacks.
Regardless, this is far from a lock. A former league executive bluntly told Andy Fenelon of NFL.com: “If anyone says they know where Johnny Manziel will go, get their head examined.”
At least we now know one destination where the former Heisman Trophy winner is somewhat likely to land.
Niners Targeting Mike Evans
The 2014 draft class is brimming talented wide receivers, but it seems the San Francisco 49ers do not want to settle for a second-tier prospect at the position.
According to Evan Silva of Rotoworld, Chris Mortensen of ESPN hinted that the Niners may trade up for Texas A&M star Mike Evans and are planning to make a lot of noise during the upcoming event:
ESPN's Chris Mortensen suggested Mike Evans as a trade-up target for #49ers. Mort hearing Niners "could be very aggressive in this draft."— Evan Silva (@evansilva) April 25, 2014
Silva noted that Mortensen has heard multiple reports that San Francisco is on the verge of a blockbuster move, and it may involve a deal with the crosstown rival Oakland Raiders:
While No. 5 overall may be a tad high to select Evans, the big receiver is undoubtedly worth the price of admission. At 6’5” and in possession of otherworldly athleticism, Evans is capable of adding a whole new dimension to the San Francisco offense.
Not only would he give developing signal-caller Colin Kaepernick a massive target in the red zone and in situations where the chains must be moved, but he’s also speedy enough to burn his man and create home run plays as a deep threat.
He’s vying with Clemson standout Sammy Watkins to become the first wideout off the board. Evans may surpass the former Tiger if San Fran makes a maneuver from No. 30 overall up to a spot inside the top 10.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller noted that Evans accepted an invitation to attend the draft in New York City and believes it will not take long to hear his name called:
I'm told Texas A&M wide receiver @MikeEvans13_ will attend the NFL draft in NYC. He won't be waiting long to hear his name called.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 22, 2014
Should the 49ers pull off this rumored move, it might even happen as early as No. 5 overall.