The insane popularity of the NFL is driven by the draft. Fans are sold on the idea of hope and the future on these three days in May, so everything that happens in football starts Thursday night.
It's also the one time of the year when NFL fans know what it's like to be a fan of Major League Baseball or the NBA around the trade deadline. Even though deals happen in football, rarely are they notable enough to make a significant dent in the media.
Right now, with just over 24 hours to go before the start of the draft, all we hear about are potential draft-day trades and rumors about selections that are, for the most part, garbage being spewed just to drum up interest in a player or pick.
The rumor mill is firing on all cylinders right now. In an effort to keep your head from trying to keep it all in line, we have rounded up the hottest buzz floating around the Internet leading into the draft.
Rams targeting Sammy Watkins at No. 2 overall?
If there's one team that controls the first round, it's the St. Louis Rams. They own two of the first 13 picks, including the second overall selection. That's the spot where a lot of things are going to change, based on what Jeff Fisher's team does.
The consensus seems to be that Auburn tackle Greg Robinson will be the pick, but quarterback Sam Bradford could use another weapon on the outside.
Enter: Sammy Watkins.
According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there are people in St. Louis who love the Clemson wide receiver.
And despite all the signals from Rams Park about standing pat at wide receiver — including some public statements by coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead — it’s believed there are some in the building who would like to take Watkins.
And if you put the truth serum into members of the personnel department, some — maybe most — would say Watkins is a more talented wide receiver than anyone on the current roster. That’s no slam at Austin, because he’s kind of in a separate category, more playmaker and “loose play” specialist than pure polished pass-catcher.
This is a move that actually makes sense for the Rams. Watkins has star potential and is a much better fit to play on the outside than last year's first-round pick Tavon Austin, who can move into his natural slot position and create plays with his legs.
It also allows the Rams to address the tackle position with the No. 13 pick. They won't get the top three guys (Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan), but the second tier with Morgan Moses and Zack Martin has excellent football players who can step in right away.
Keep in mind the Rams have 12 picks in this draft, so they can also attempt to move up or down after making their first pick. That's why they are in the driver's seat heading into Thursday night.
Buccaneers looking to move up for Johnny Manziel?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been linked with a wide receiver at No. 7 overall basically throughout this process. Watkins, barring a huge upset, wouldn't be around, but Texas A&M's Mike Evans has a very real chance of being on the board.
But what if the Buccaneers didn't want to wait to make a pick?
One of the late-developing rumors comes courtesy of ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio, who reported the Bucs are looking at St. Louis' first pick.
There’s chatter in league circles that the Buccaneers could end up being the team that moves up to No. 2 from No. 7.
It’s unclear what it would take to make the leap by five spots. It’s also unclear who/whom/whatever the Bucs would target with the second pick.
Florio later found out the object of Tampa Bay's desire if it decides to make the jump up to the No. 2 pick.
As we currently understand it, the Buccaneers would be making the move not for Watkins, but for Manziel.
It’s not known whether a deal is close or even doable. Two years ago, the Rams got the sixth overall pick, two more first-round selections, and a second-round pick from Washington for the ability to select Robert Griffin III.
This is an interesting scenario, to say the least. The Buccaneers signed Josh McCown to a two-year deal, either to challenge second-year quarterback Mike Glennon or take over as the starting quarterback following a strong season in Chicago.
But McCown obviously isn't a long-term solution at quarterback, so Lovie Smith does have to look toward the future at some point. Manziel is a playmaker extraordinaire, but how well his quarterback skills translate to the NFL is one of the great mysteries in this draft.
The Rams have been linked to Manziel recently, according to Peter King of TheMMQB.com, but if there is a threat to draft the 2012 Heisman winner before Tampa Bay picks, it's Cleveland at No. 4.
St. Louis' interest seems like posturing to drum up trade interest in the pick, so the Rams can move back to add more picks while potentially being able to make a choice between a top tackle and one of the two big receivers.
Browns have only two names in mind at No. 4?
If you just look at the individual pieces currently in place, the Cleveland Browns are more interesting now than they have been at any point since returning to the NFL in 1999.
They have a chance to get much better with two first-round picks (No. 4 and 26) and seven in the first four rounds. Everyone knows the Browns need a quarterback, with one name coming up more than the rest.
According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, via Rotoworld.com's Evan Silva, Cleveland's decision with the No. 4 pick appears to be down to two names:
Between those two names, Manziel seems the most likely to fall into Cleveland's lap. The Rams have been linked to Robinson throughout the process, even with the rumors about taking Watkins, so it's unlikely he falls to No. 4.
It seems foolish for the Browns to limit themselves to these two players with their first pick. Wouldn't you like to see an offense with Watkins and Josh Gordon on the outside? They can get a quarterback at No. 26 (Teddy Bridgewater?) or in the second round with a similar upside of Manziel without the low floor.
Suppose Khalil Mack is still on the board at No. 4. Imagine how a Cleveland defense with Joe Haden, Donte Whitner, Paul Kruger, Karlos Dansby and Barkevious Mingo would look with Mack as an edge-rusher.
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