Nothing sparks the NFL rumor mill quite like draft weekend.
We survived the early round speculation, and now we've lived to tell the tale of the time Johnny Manziel almost became a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Although the hot stove's temperature is significantly lowered on the final day, there's still a few intriguing storylines to follow.
Quarterbacks will never abdicate the spotlight, so Quarterback X dropping down the draft will always produce an annual plot point. This year, Alabama's AJ McCarron is the big name forced to wait for a new home.
All eyes and cameras are also locked on Michael Sam, who can become the NFL's first openly gay player to be drafted. Add in some trade possibilities, and football fans can't tune out the final rounds as they unfold throughout the day Saturday.
Possible Reason Behind AJ McCarron's Free Fall
He won two national titles with the Crimson Tide. He earned a 67.3 completion percentage and 9.1 passing yards per attempt during his senior year. Yet nobody has much interest in McCarron.
The 23-year-old quarterback remains available during the third day, and there isn't much buzz about teams anxious to snatch him up. Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman relayed some character concerns unearthed by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, McCarron claimed several teams graded him as a first-round selection. A couple of weeks ago, the quarterback shared the wishful projection on The Paul Finebaum Show, via AL.com's Andrew Gribble.
"They felt like I could go anywhere from 16-35," McCarron said. "I believe that, too. At the same time, I don't have my hopes set on anything. Whatever happens, happens. It's a blessing for me to even be in this situation."
Florio also said that some scouts did not care for his tattoos, even though they're not visible. Let's hope NFL executives are smart enough to ignore such foolishness when making important decisions for an organization worth billions of dollars.
Hopefully teams are passing solely because they see him as a low-upside choice who will struggle to succeed away from Nick Saban's juggernaut in Alabama. A kid fresh out of college donning some ink and looking on the bright side hardly seems like a red flag.
Will Michael Sam Get Drafted?
Once the early smoke cleared and the constant Manziel watch mercifully ended, Michael Sam became the focus of the draft. His selection, which is far from a certainty, would create a historic moment.
Oh yeah, the team that takes him is also getting the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. During his senior season, Sam recorded 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses, making him a nice find on Day 3.
Rapoport speculated on some possible landing spots for the defensive lineman:
New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese is typically fond of stacking up pass-rushers, and the G-Men tied for 25th with 34 total sacks last season. In New England, Bill Belichick would also make the perfect coach to keep the discussion about football with his dry, no-nonsense interview style.
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver conducted some research and determined that it would not be out of the norm for a defensive end with a Round 4 grade to go undrafted. Since 2005, 15 of 70 such players did not hear their name called through seven rounds.
Silver, though, likes Sam's chances of drawing a late-round selection:
Personally, however, if the odds are something like 50-50 on Sam being drafted, I think I’d take his side of the bet. Why? A player only needs one team to draft him. A player like Sam who generates polarized opinions might have a better chance of being chosen in a late round by a team like the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks than one who everyone agrees is mediocre.
Everyone covering the draft will have his or her eyes on Sam as he hopes to get selected Saturday.
Ryan Mallett Reportedly Staying Put
The New England Patriots dealing Ryan Mallett during draft weekend became a popular rumor, and everything that unfolded over the first two days supported the idea that the team would deal him to the Houston Texans, a rumor previously reported by CSNNE.com's Tom Curran.
In need of a quarterback, the Texans took Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick and passed up Fresno State's Derek Carr to begin Round 2. New England, on the other hand, began to plan ahead by grabbing Jimmy Garoppolo during the second round.
Nonetheless, Curran is now hearing a different tune about Mallett's availability. He posted on Twitter that sourced told ESPN's Ed Werder that the 25-year-old quarterback is not for sale.
Since getting selected in the third round of the 2011 draft, Mallett has done little but watch Tom Brady from the sidelines. He has thrown four passes in his limited pro action, completing one attempt with an interception.
He has one year remaining on his contract, and it's doubtful New England will pay him to hold a clipboard while grooming Garoppolo as Brady's possible replacement down the line. But for now, Mallett looks poised to battle the newcomer for the depth chart's No. 2 spot.
Meanwhile, Houston looks to have moved on by grabbing Tom Savage in the fourth round.