2014 NFL Draft: Analyzing the Latest Buzz and Rumors 1 Day Before the Draft
It's the equivalent of Christmas Eve for NFL fans.
After a longer-than-usual wait, the 2014 NFL draft is just around the corner, and in 24 short hours, the Houston Texans will go on the clock with the first overall pick.
Or will they?
The possibility that the Texans will trade down Thursday night is only one of a number of rumors and reports making the rounds on the day before the draft.
With that in mind here's a look at the latest, starting with an update on the most heavily scrutinized signal-caller in this year's class.
Johnny Manziel to Jacksonville?
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's nickname may be "Johnny Football," but "Johnny Fishbowl" might actually be more accurate.
After all, the kid lives in one.
There's been a ton of news linking Manziel to any number of teams over the past several weeks, and it only figures that those reports would keep on coming in right up until Thursday evening.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, for one, tweeted Wednesday that he expects Manziel to be a top-five pick:
Word's spreading among media here that Manziel is going to Jacksonville at 3.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) May 7, 2014
However, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports thinks that if Manziel gets past Jacksonville, the Cleveland Browns will pass at No. 4:
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) May 6, 2014
Andy Fenelon of NFL.com, on the other hand, lists the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the most likely landing spot for the former Heisman Trophy winner. That jibes somewhat with a report from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who writes that if the Buccaneers trade up to the second spot (as has been rumored), Manziel is the target.
However, Florio concedes that "It's not known whether a deal is close or even doable."
Blake Bortles a Target for the Texans?
We might as well stick with the quarterbacks—those glory hounds.
There are some draftniks who believe that Central Florida's Blake Bortles, and not Manziel, is the top quarterback in this year's class.
Bortles has been linked in a number of mock drafts (including Rob Rang's at CBS Sports) to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 8, but a recent report tossed some cold water on that idea.
According to Rotoworld, while appearing on ESPN's SportsCenter, Bob Holtzman said that the Vikings are "not expected" to take a quarterback in the first round.
Minnesota is "prepared to wait a round or two," Holtzman said, "if not longer."
However, ESPN's Ed Werder told "On The Clock" later in the day that his "sense is" that if the Houston Texans trade down in the first round, Bortles would become their most likely target under center.
That may well be for the best for Houston, at least according to one NFL quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, while speaking with 93.7 FM in Pittsburgh (via Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review), said that were he an NFL general manager, Bortles would be his first choice among this year's quarterback crop:
I talked to Blake, and I know Blake has that fiery chip. I think he's going to be the best one of the group because I see something in him, his competitiveness, his leadership. And I think he's got a lot of upside.
Could Teddy Bridgewater Be the 1st Quarterback Drafted?
It's been a rough few weeks for Teddy Bridgewater.
Once considered the odds-on favorite to be the first quarterback drafted in 2014, a poor showing at Louisville's pro day sent the young quarterback's draft stock spiraling.
Still, Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting believes that recent news may have opened the door for a reversal of fortune for Bridgewater:
If the Browns seriously don't want Johnny Manziel, then there's still an outside chance Teddy Bridgewater is the first QB taken.
— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) May 7, 2014
According to Mary Cay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, Cleveland general manager Ray Farmer is "enamored" with Bridgewater and "would like to land him at No. 26. The Browns have even looked into trading up from No. 26 to get Bridgewater, one source said."
With that said, though, it doesn't appear Bridgewater is likely to begin his NFL career on the Florida Gulf Coast.
According to Rotoworld, ESPN's Britt McHenry reported Wednesday that the Jaguars "aren't as high on Teddy Bridgewater as some other teams are."
Sammy Watkins Motown Bound?
Believe it or not, there are elite players in this year's draft who aren't quarterbacks.
Take for instance, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who is a nearly unanimous choice as the top wide receiver prospect in 2014.
It now appears the Detroit Lions may be looking to pair that top prospect with the NFL's best wideout.
There's less than no chance that Watkins is still available when the Lions pick at No. 10, but Dan Hanzus of NFL.com reports that a draft-day move may be in the works.
According to Hanzus, colleague Ian Rapoport spoke to the Clemson star, "who said Tuesday the Lions have made it clear they are very serious about potentially trading up for him."
Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports passed along similar news:
Spoke to Sammy Watkins for an @FOXSports1sitdown a little while ago. Thinks Lions interest is legit. "It's kinda serious."
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 6, 2014
The idea of pairing Watkins with Calvin Johnson should appeal to quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions a great deal, and to the rest of the NFC North not even a little bit.
Odell Beckham over Mike Evans?
There's very little question that Watkins is the top wide receiver in this year's draft.
The water gets a bit muddier after that, but the general consensus has been that Mike Evans of Texas A&M is wideout No. 2. There are even those who have him ranked ahead of Watkins.
However, it appears that Evans may be set to get leapfrogged, at least in the opinion of ESPN's Ed Werder:
Nobody in the NFL will be surprised if LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr picked before Texas A&M's Mike Evans.
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) May 7, 2014
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey agrees:
Odell Beckham Jr. over Mike Evans is something that *could* happen...
— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) May 7, 2014
So does Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, who points out that Beckham's rising draft stock may have actually hindered the Jets' chances of landing the 5'11", 198-pounder:
One personnel dir told me Odell Beckham a better prospect than Evans. #Jets really like OBJ, but not sure he'd be worth trade into top 10.
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) May 7, 2014
Brandin (Cooks) and the Jets
In fact, it appears the Jets may already have a plan B in mind at the wide receiver position.
Oregon State speedster Brandin Cooks, who is one of a fistful of wide receivers in this year's loaded class with a first-round grade, told Brian Costello of the New York Post he thinks the Jets may be zeroing in on him at No. 18.
"It's been big time," Cooks said. "We've been talking a lot on and off. I took a visit. I think the visit went great. It's one of those things. I feel like they're pushing for me, but who knows?"
Granted, this could just be wishful thinking from Cooks, but it's worth pointing out that the 5'10" burner with the 4.33-second speed, per NFL.com, would appear an excellent complement to free-agent acquisition Eric Decker.
Zach Mettenberger's Stock Continues to Drop
After tearing an ACL late last season, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger all but certainly wasn't going to be drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Now, it's looking more and more like Day 2 may be a long shot as well.
Fresh off reports that Mettenberger failed a drug test at February's combine (which his agent blamed on a diluted sample caused by hydration during Mettenberger's rehab, according to ESPN), there's new news that has further dinged the 6'5", 224-pounder's stock:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 7, 2014
WebMD offers this description of the condition:
Spondylolysis is a defect or fracture of one or both of the wing-shaped parts of a vertebra. These 'wings' help keep the vertebrae in place. When a 'wing' is absent, defective from birth, or damaged, a vertebra can slide forward or backward over the bone below, sometimes pressing on the spinal cord or a nerve root. This slipping, called spondylolisthesis, usually happens at the base of the spine. Symptoms of spondylolisthesis can include back pain and numbness or weakness in one or both legs, sometimes leading to a loss of leg function.'
However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports (via colleague Josh Katzowitz) that one of Mettenberger's former trainers disputes Rapoport's Rapoport (see what I did there?), claiming there "are no lower back issues" and that he suspects a "smear campaign" against the former Tigers standout.
The Offense vs. Defense Argument
As we mentioned earlier in this slideshow, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the leading candidates to land Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
At least one draftnik reported Wednesday that would run contrary to the wishes of the team's new head coach.
Speak to NFL executives and almost to a man they will tell you if Johnny Manziel is selected in the first eight picks tomorrow it will be by decree of the owner rather than the scouting department or general manager, something I've mentioned for a while. One insider told me the feeling amongst the 32 general managers is the hope Manziel is gone before they are called to the clock so there's no discussion or distraction of selecting the signal caller. I'm told nowhere is this more apparent than Tampa Bay where owners are pushing for Manziel but wish of head coach Lovie Smith is defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Donald is the most disruptive 3-technique to come down the pipe since Ndamukong Suh, but at seventh overall, the Pitt tackle would appear to be a luxury for a Tampa Bay team that already has Gerald McCoy in the fold.
(Carlos) Hyde and Go Seek
It's generally believed that, for the second straight season, no running backs will be selected in Thursday's first round.
Ohio State's Carlos Hyde is one of the top candidates to be the first player at his position drafted on Day 2, but there are conflicting reports about whether the 230-pound bruiser will be continuing his football career in the state of Ohio.
On Tuesday, Mary Kay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group tweeted that Hyde was in the mix for the Cleveland Browns at No. 35:
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) May 7, 2014
However, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland quickly refuted the report:
@Angelo7266 if hyde is there with our first pick in 2nd rd we taking him? // No way.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) May 7, 2014
Even after adding Ben Tate in free agency, the Browns could still use help in the backfield, but it's anyone's guess at which point the Browns choose to address it.
A King's Ransom for Jadeveon Clowney
Like we were getting through an entire article without mentioning Jadeveon Clowney.
There's been plenty of discussion regarding the possibility of the Houston Texans trading down from the first overall pick. Almost all of it has regarded a team moving up to draft the South Carolina defensive end.
However, if recent reports are accurate, it's probably not happening.
First, ESPN's Ed Werder reported on SportsCenter Wednesday (via Rotoworld) that "word on the street" has the Texans looking for "a Robert Griffin III-like trade haul" from the Atlanta Falcons, who presently pick sixth.
That's three first-round picks and a second-round pick, for those scoring at home.
Sure enough, although Jay Glazer of Fox Sports quantified that while Houston's demands are on a "slide scale" depending on how far back the team has to move, he concurred that "the Texans are asking for three first-rounders and a second-rounder in exchange for the top pick tomorrow night."
Talented though Clowney may be, that's a lot to give up in a deep draft like this year's.