Buying or Selling the Latest NFL Draft Buzz, Rumors

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2020

Buying or Selling the Latest NFL Draft Buzz, Rumors

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    No quiet section of the NFL calendar technically exists anymore thanks to the NFL draft process. 

    And give plenty of credit to the rumor mill, too. 

    Those two factors bounce off each other often in the months before the draft as seemingly endless buzz circulates. Front-office plans, prospect stock fluctuations, free-agency possibilities and potential trade ideas go public through various means. The rumor mill is an open market of sorts, with ideas stemming from all angles.

    The biggest rumors in mid-February center on both prospects and teams set to play key roles in how free agency and the draft order play out. Here's a buy-or-sell look at the headline items. 

Cowboys Planning a Big Splash

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys and "big splash" just seem to fit together nicely. 

    It shouldn't be too much of a surprise, then, to hear them all come up in some buzz from Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network: "I can tell you this – a source close to the team told me, 'Jerry wants to make a big splash in the draft.' That leads me to believe Jones could look to trade up from the 17th overall pick."

    Even so, this one is a bit of a sell.

    The Cowboys don't figure to have the bandwidth necessary to make a major move. And "big splash" seems to imply they're getting up into the top 10 or crossing their fingers to get in position for a potential Chase Young fall. 

    But while the Cowboys have north of $70 million in cap space, it's going to evaporate quickly while getting deals done for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, at a minimum. Feel free to add in a potential extension for top corner Byron Jones. 

    The Cowboys are likely to pay up big to keep core pieces and lock down possible areas of need. Sacrificing major assets to move up for a rookie when the working idea is that the current core just needed a new coaching staff wouldn't make a ton of sense. 

    Verdict: Sell

Dolphins Working the Phones

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins sit on a treasure trove of assets after enacting a clear-cut rebuilding strategy. 

    And while it's easy to think the Dolphins will hold onto every single asset (more than $93 million in cap space, three first-round picks and the most picks of any team in 2020) and revamp the roster as much as possible, some of the draft ammunition could always be an avenue toward a massive trade. 

    According to Benjamin Allbright of Pro Football Network, the Dolphins have made some calls to the Detroit Lions ahead of the draft. That would mean Miami brass have at least called to get an idea on the asking price of making the leap from fifth to third. 

    And that, in turn, means it's all about the quarterback position.

    If Joe Burrow goes first, a top-heavy draft class could have only Tua Tagovailoa remaining as a can't-miss prospect under center. And Detroit is right in that sweet spot. The threat of other teams trading up to get the last remaining passer of the top two could cause Miami to panic and jump. 

    But it wouldn't be much of a panic move, right? Boasting as many assets as Miami does is nice, but the needle doesn't move much in the NFL without a quarterback. After struggling with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen last year, the Dolphins can't afford to settle for whichever passer may or may not fall into their lap at No. 5.   

    Verdict: Buy

Detroit Considering QB Change

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Sometimes, it only feels like a matter of time before quarterback rumors swirl around a team with a top-five pick.

    But the Detroit Lions are an interesting case. They have a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford and are largely slotted to pick third because he missed eight games last year. 

    And yet, Bernie Smilovitz of Local 4 in Detroit reported the Lions had been in trade talks centered around Stafford. It's a rumor Lions general manager Bob Quinn went out and shot down, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

    Shot down or not, it's out in the wild now. But the idea of it is strange.

    Detroit has had problems over the years, but they are rarely due to Stafford, a career 62.5 percent passer with north of 41,000 yards and 250 touchdowns, never mind the ridiculous 34 game-winning drives. Even last year, Stafford completed better than 64 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns and just five picks over his eight outings

    The Lions have more than $45 million in cap space and clutch the third pick. It's a prime chance to build around their established passer, meaning this feels like a Detroit-based leak trying to drive up the price for the No. 3 selection. 

    Verdict: Sell

Tua Tagovailoa Is in the Fray at No. 1

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    It seems it has been rather easy to forget the hype for Tua Tagovailoa. 

    But it was only a matter of time before it re-emerged. 

    The Alabama quarterback was sidelined by an injured hip this past season and had to watch from the sidelines as LSU's Joe Burrow had one of the best seasons by a collegiate passer in history. 

    But as NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah recently noted, Tagovailoa is back in the conversation at No. 1 because he's just that good a prospect. A recent patch of good news on the medical front, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, helped solidify this and painted the Alabama product's looming trip to the scouting combine in a good light. 

    Tagovailoa's film and traits alone will keep him in the conversation if he's healthy. He's a prototypical modern passer with big arm talent, an ability to get through progressions and the skill to keep plays alive with his legs. There's a reason Lance Zierlein of NFL.com graded him out as a "Year 1 quality starter."

    This isn't some agent-pushed rumor in an effort to elevate his stock. At one point, Tagovailoa seemed locked in as the top overall pick.

    He's not a lock anymore because he has some company, but the debate is well underway.

    Verdict: Buy

Chargers Probing Cam Newton Trade

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Cam Newton is now one of the biggest sources of speculation this offseason—and, in turn, one of the biggest factors who could ultimately alter the course of the upcoming draft. He has one year left on his current deal with the Carolina Panthers and, thanks to the combination of recent injury history and the arrival of a new coaching staff, is a candidate to move. 

    The Los Angeles Chargers seem like they could be an interested party, and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller noted the link: "What will the Los Angeles Chargers do at quarterback? All signs from league sources indicate the team will draft a signal-caller—either Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa—in the first round, but within the last three days there have been a number of unsolicited calls and texts about a trade for Cam Newton."

    Talk about the shoe fitting.

    The Chargers have made it clear the Philip Rivers era is over. But at No. 6 in the upcoming draft, the team doesn't have a good chance at landing one of the top two passers in the 2020 class. Rather than settle for a third or fourth option, the front office might think it's a good idea to go out and get a veteran like Newton. 

    The Chargers would like to win now after regressing dramatically from 12 wins to just five in 2019. They also have a fan issue to combat after their move to L.A. Settling for a lower-tier rookie wouldn't fix either issue in the short term. 

    A former MVP like Newton coming to town just might. 

    Verdict: Buy

Raiders Covet Tom Brady

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    It would be ill-advised to think the current Tom Brady-New England Patriots drama is merely a standoff between two sides bound to reach another agreement. And it would be just as ill-advised to think it won't have a big impact on the upcoming draft. 

    According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, Brady and the Patriots haven't made any headway on an extension. And according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Las Vegas Raiders would love a chance to sign Brady in free agency. 

    That all sounds good, especially knowing Raiders head coach Jon Gruden's penchant for big moves. Remember Antonio Brown and other recent big trades?

    Plus, Brady leaving Foxborough for any other organization could have a huge impact on the draft, whether by New England trading around to get a rookie or gobbling up a big-name free agent and forcing another team to do the former. 

    And if there's any interest from the Raiders here, it could be a hint the team is ready to move on from Derek Carr. If that has a shred a truth, Las Vegas, owners of two first-round picks, could indeed be a team looking to make some major moves. 

    But unlike most of the rumors with draft impacts here, this one feels like a leverage play. It's almost impossible to see Brady leaving the Patriots as he turns 43 in August. The draft implications would be massive, but this seems more like the byproduct of a monetary tug-of-war between player and team.      

    Verdict: Sell

Jordan Love Has Several Teams Interested

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Quarterback thirst looks like it could lead to four or five passers coming off the board in the opening round. 

    And behind Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, there's Utah State's Jordan Love. He's a big prospect (6'4", 225 lbs) with gaudy traits, and more than a few teams could have some interest. 

    So says a report from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:  "The landing spots I've heard the most in connection with Love are the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans."

    The specifics there are certainly interesting.

    The Los Angeles Chargers would make plenty of sense with Philip Rivers out. The No. 6 pick might be a bit rich, but trading down or even back up into the first round could be an option. 

    In the AFC South, the Indianapolis Colts didn't get a great return out of Jacoby Brissett and could use some insurance. And the Tennessee Titans had a magical playoff push with Ryan Tannehill, yet they might desire some options behind him. Those two teams pick 13th and 29th, respectively. 

    Love isn't necessarily a high-end prospect ready to start right away, which is what makes him so potentially appealing to teams capable of getting by with a veteran for a year or two while he develops.

    Verdict: Buy

Joe Burrow Is Cemented as No. 1

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The debate is alive: Tua Tagovailoa or Joe Burrow?

    It's a fair question, especially taking into consideration that Tagovailoa might be on his way to full medical clearance.

    But will that be enough to swing the debate? According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, Burrow is the pick, and it isn't official merely because the NFL doesn't want a selection spoiled this early.

    "The Bengals, though, are not expected to bite," Miller wrote. "According to a coach who worked with Burrow in college, Cincinnati has clearly signaled the former LSU quarterback is its choice without coming out and saying it. And that's how the NFL wants it."

    Bingo.

    Were any other team picking No. 1, there might be more of an argument for the organization to remain undecided. But besides the historic college season, the Heisman Trophy and the national title, there's a unique local aspect at play here. The Bengals are resetting under center for only the third time since 2004 and have a chance to do so with Burrow, who grew up just a few hours from Paul Brown Stadium. 

    For a team struggling both to keep fans interested and to win games, ownership isn't going to pass on a Hollywood-esque homecoming story if the two top passers are close enough in ability.  

    Verdict: Buy