NFL Draft Rumors: Buying or Selling Latest Buzz Around the League
After what's been an arduous and seemingly interminable wait, the 2014 NFL draft is finally within sight. With this close proximity comes a fresh batch of hearsay, and in order to help wade through the scuttlebutt, it's time to buy or sell the latest buzz around the league.
As the rumors continue to fly, it's important to remember that the next few days represent the epitome of the NFL's lying season. That means when an NFL coach or general manager opens his mouth over the next few days, the assumption must be that whatever he says is a smokescreen that is meant to drum up fake interest in a pick or prospect.
Much of the recent gossip has been focused on the two most polarizing players in the draft: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Throughout the process, both men have been scrutinized more heavily than the Zapruder film, and the buzz only figures to ramp up over the next few days.
In addition to those two men, this column also contains buzz about the potential trade of a current starting quarterback, plans for the Raiders and Browns with their first-round selections, a club reportedly considering moving up to the No. 1 overall pick and a surprise prospect who could shock the world and be selected on Thursday night.
Ahead, we'll buy and sell the buzz around the league.
Rams and Vikings Discussing a Possible Trade for QB Sam Bradford?
One of the hottest (and wildest) rumors currently circulating through the NFL universe concerns a potential trade of quarterback Sam Bradford from the St. Louis Rams to the Minnesota Vikings.
Speaking on CBS Sports 920 in St. Louis (h/t InsideSTL.com's Tim McKernan), CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora revealed that "there are people in the league who believe" the teams have discussed a deal revolving around Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Frankly, this would be an insane move by Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who must acquire the right signal-caller to ensure his long-term employment in the Twin Cities. In four seasons with the Rams, Bradford hasn't exactly sparkled, compiling a record of 18-30-1 and missing 15 games due to injury over the past three campaigns.
Plus, Bradford's contract would have to be restructured in the event of any deal, as he's set to count for more than $17 million against the 2014 salary cap.
Depending on compensation, the deal would be a win for the Rams, who could hit the reset button at the quarterback position and draft an incoming rookie (more on that in the next slide), but I just can't see it happening.
This rumor is an easy sell. It doesn't make sense for the Vikings.
Rams Targeting Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel?
While the St. Louis Rams have remained publicly committed to quarterback Sam Bradford, rumors continue to swirl that they have significant interest in Texas A&M signal-caller Johnny Manziel.
A few weeks ago, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah revealed (h/t Bryan Fischer of NFL.com) on NFL Network's Path to the Draft that there is "legitimate interest" between the Rams and Manziel.
Then, on Monday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport tweeted that the Rams had an "interesting" meeting with Manziel at February's scouting combine, saying that the only people present in the room were Manziel, general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher.
And also on Monday, Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote that the Rams "like (Manziel) a lot."
I am going to buy this rumor. The Rams' reported interest in Manziel makes sense on a number of different levels.
First, Sam Bradford hasn't gotten the job done in his four years as the starter in St. Louis. If the Rams decide to move on from him, no one could reasonably begrudge them.
Second, Manziel would inject swagger and attitude into a team that is in desperate need of both on the offensive side of the ball.
I don't know if the Rams will move Bradford and draft Manziel, but I have no doubt that their interest is legitimate.
Raiders Not Looking to Draft a QB with the Fifth Overall Pick?
The vast majority of draft experts would agree that there are only two quarterbacks who could potentially be selected within the top five: Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and UCF's Blake Bortles.
And according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Raiders, who hold the fifth overall selection, aren't interested in either option.
I think this is the right play by Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, and I wrote as much over the weekend.
McKenzie recently dealt for former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, and the team has far more pressing needs at other positions. The Raiders need to add a potential game-changing player (preferably Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins or Buffalo defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack) with the fifth overall pick and grab a presumable franchise passer in the later rounds.
Browns Only Considering Auburn OT Greg Robinson or Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel?
By virtue of possessing the fourth and 26th overall picks in the draft's first round, new Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer has the opportunity to leave his imprint and change the fortunes of perhaps the NFL's most star-crossed franchise.
On ESPN's NFL Insiders, Chris Mortensen said that he believes (h/t Rotoworld's Evan Silva) that Farmer is only considering two players at No. 4 overall: Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
I'm on record saying the Browns must leave the draft with Manziel, so I certainly buy that part, but I don't believe that Robinson is the only other option they'd contemplate.
There's no doubt that Robinson would improve an already solid offensive line, which includes left tackle Joe Thomas, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and center Alex Mack. Robinson could play guard as a rookie and amplify the play of the interior.
But to assume that Farmer has that kind of tunnel vision with the fourth overall pick is a stretch. There are too many other potential fits—namely, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans—that could be in play for me to consider this rumor becoming reality.
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney Not a Lock for the Texans at No. 1 Overall?
While most experts have reached the conclusion that the Houston Texans will select South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick, scuttlebutt is now emerging that the team might shock the world and go a different route.
On Sunday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport stated on NFL Network's Total Access (h/t Dan Parr of NFL.com) that it's no longer viewed as a "certainty" that the Texans will select Clowney if they decide to keep the first pick.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt would go on to corroborate Rapoport's report, telling Sports Illustrated's Peter King that he believes Buffalo defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack will be drafted ahead of Clowney.
This story has more layers than an especially pungent onion, particularly when considering the fact that Texans general manager Rick Smith all but declared the pick for sale in his predraft press conference.
Is it within the realm of possibility that the Texans trade out of the pick? Yes. Is it possible that the team could shock the world and select Mack over Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick? Sure.
But is that likely to occur? As of right now, I don't think so.
The smart money is still on the Texans standing pat and selecting Clowney.
Do the Eagles Have Interest in Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel?
Move over, Nick Foles. There could be a new Philadelphia Eagles quarterback on the roster come Friday morning.
According to ESPN's Field Yates (h/t Rotoworld's Evan Silva), buzz is growing that coach Chip Kelly and the Eagles have interest in Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
This jibes with a story that broke last week, when Kelly told CSNPhilly.com's Geoff Mosher that Manziel "broke his heart" when he decommitted from Oregon (where Kelly was the coach) to attend Texas A&M.
It's easy to imagine Kelly salivating over Manziel's game tape the way teenage boys do over Kate Upton YouTube videos, so the reported interest is far from a stretch.
But when considering how well incumbent quarterback Foles played last year (27 touchdown passes against only two interceptions) as well as the fact that the defense could use a playmaker or two, it seems unlikely that the Eagles would make a play for Manziel.
I'm buying the interest, but I don't expect it to lead anywhere.
Bills and Lions Looking to Trade into Top Five?
The rumors are starting to fly fast and furious about trades at the top of the first round.
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday that the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions have inquired about moving into the top five, with the third pick, currently possessed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, as the most likely landing spot.
This makes sense for both teams.
The Lions have shown interest in South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, having hosted him for a pre-draft visit. That move raised eyebrows around the league as there is simply no way that Clowney falls to the No. 10 overall pick which is currently held by Detroit. Plus, the Lions interest in Clowney could indicate that they are looking for a pass-rusher, and Buffalo defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack could also fit the bill.
As for the Bills, they could be looking at players such as Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews and receiver Mike Evans, as neither player is guaranteed to fall to their current selection, No. 9 overall.
I'm buying these recent developments, and wouldn't be surprised if either team swung a deal to move up into the top five.
Nebraska CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste a First-Round Pick?
As the top cornerbacks in the draft have been bandied about throughout the predraft process, Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste has rarely been mentioned.
But with just a few days remaining before the draft, now is probably a good time to acquaint yourself with the former Cornhusker, as NFL Media's Mike Mayock told Sports Illustrated's Peter King that Jean-Baptiste will be a first-round pick.
That would be a stunner, considering that Jean-Baptise's name hasn't appeared in many mock drafts and he hasn't been the subject of a ton of hype. He was the 12th-rated cornerback in the draft by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
But as Mayock opined to King, Jean-Baptiste has outstanding size (6'3", 215 lbs), and with the success of Seattle's "Legion of Boom" secondary, the tall, physical cornerback could be in high demand this year.
Crazier things have happened, but with so many other talented cornerbacks available, I have a hard time believing it comes to pass. I'm not saying it won't happen; I just don't think it's likely.
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