The fact that the 2014 NFL draft is a couple weeks later than usual has helped build anticipation, but it has also aided in thrusting the rumor mill into overdrive.
Although draft rumors are nothing new, it's difficult to remember a year that has featured so many significant rumors surrounding nearly every team. Separating fact from fiction is never easy; however, trying to do so at this point is essentially an exercise in futility.
With the NFL draft quickly approaching, here is a rundown of some of the hottest rumors that are currently taking the league by storm.
Philadelphia Eagles Targeting Johnny Manziel?
There are plenty of far-fetched, and even insane, rumors making the rounds, but perhaps none of them compare to the Philadelphia Eagles' possible interest in polarizing quarterback Johnny Manziel. Everyone has an opinion on Johnny Football, with some viewing him as a franchise signal-caller and others tabbing him as a surefire bust.
If the rumors are to be believed, then the Eagles fall into the former group. Philly's potential interest in Manziel was first reported by Peter King of SI.com's Monday Morning Quarterback. While King scoffed at the notion of the Eagles going after Manziel, he admitted that the source who reported it is reliable.
The initial reaction regarding this rumor is to shoot it down. Quarterback Nick Foles was spectacular in his first year starting the majority of the Eagles' games last season to the tune of nearly 3,000 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, just two interceptions and a sparkling quarterback rating of 119.2.
Foles was obviously quite comfortable in head coach Chip Kelly's offense, and there is no question that he deserves a chance to build upon his breakout year. With that said, Manziel's dual-threat skill set is obviously perfectly tailored to what Kelly liked to do offensively at the University of Oregon.
Because of that and Kelly's penchant for getting his way thus far with the Eagles, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com didn't completely write off the idea that Philadelphia could make a play for Manziel:
Foles had a great yr. But so did DeSean Jackson, and Chip did away with him. Lesson? If Chip wants Manziel, the #Eagles will get Manziel— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) May 5, 2014
Conversely, ESPN's Chris Mortensen doesn't see such a drastic move coming to fruition:
Would Chip Kelly would take Johnny Manziel if available? Mark me down for a "no" on that, not just because Eagles already have Nick Foles— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) May 5, 2014
If the Eagles could sit at No. 22 and wait for Manziel to fall to them, then there might be more steam behind this rumor. The likelihood of that happening simply isn't high. Philly would almost certainly have to trade up into the top 10 at the very least to nab Manziel, and that is just too big of a move to take seriously.
Houston Texans Not Interested in Jadeveon Clowney?
In terms of pure ability, there is little doubt that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the best prospect in the 2014 draft class. There are a lot of things that teams take into account, though, and raw talent isn't the sole determining factor. Because of that, the possibility remains that Clowney won't be selected No. 1 overall.
The Houston Texans are in the catbird seat with the top selection, and they have no shortage of options. According to Dan Parr of NFL.com, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport is reporting that if the Texans decide to keep the first pick rather than trade down, they may choose to pass on Clowney in favor of University at Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.
This report comes on the heels of a glowing endorsement of Clowney from Texans owner Bob McNair. Per Mark Berman of MyFoxHouston.com, McNair had high praise for Clowney, although he admitted that his team's needs don't necessarily match up with taking a defensive end:
You take a guy like Clowney. He's obviously the best player in the draft, but he's a defensive end. He's not a quarterback. If he's a quarterback and the best player it's easy, but that's not the case. So can that defensive player have a greater impact on the success of your team than one of these quarterbacks? It's not a sure thing that he is.
Mack isn't a quarterback, but he seems to be a more natural fit within Houston's defensive scheme than Clowney. It can even be argued that Mack is a superior all-around prospect, but not everyone is convinced.
JC Shurburtt of 247 Sports views Clowney as a much better prospect than Mack:
I don't think it's close between Clowney and Mack.Just my opinion, but I think the #Texans are over-thinking it.— JC Shurburtt (@jcshurburtt) May 5, 2014
Matt Mosley of Fox Sports echoed that sentiment:
If Texans select Khalil Mack first overall, I will be truly shocked. I saw him play once vs Big 12 champs in Waco. Bulls wilted in the heat.— Matt Mosley (@mattmosley) May 2, 2014
If the Texans do pass on Clowney it could prove to be one of the biggest blunders in the history of the NFL draft. At the same time, bold moves tend to win championships. Mack wouldn't be a poor pick by any means, and it wouldn't be all that surprising if he is ultimately a better NFL player than Clowney.
49ers Looking to Trade Up for Wide Receiver?
The San Francisco 49ers have been a team on the precipice of winning the Super Bowl over the past few seasons, but they continue to fall just short. With the Niners being passed within their own division by the Seattle Seahawks, one can only assume that they will do everything possible within the draft to get that one player they need to get over the top.
According to Rapoport, San Francisco believes that moving up in the draft from No. 30 in order to select a wide receiver is the best way to pull even with, or surpass, the Seahawks:
What 2014 NFL draft rumor is most likely to come to fruition?
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick already has some great weapons at his disposal, such as Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis. What he doesn't have, though, is a target who can truly stretch the field and keep opposing defenses honest.
There are several such players available in this year's draft with LSU's Odell Beckham, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks and USC's Marqise Lee all potentially fitting the bill, per Rapoport.
The 2014 draft is so rich with wide receiver talent that the Niners could potentially grab a solid pass-catcher if they stay at No. 30. Since the 49ers have so few holes to fill, though, trading up is a very real and logical option.
If San Francisco identifies a receiver that it really likes, then there is nothing holding it back from being aggressive and getting him.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter