GREAT BLUE NORTH DRAFT REPORT
NEWS AND INFORMATION ON THE NFL DRAFT

    2014 DRAFT BUZZ


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by Colin Lindsay
GBN Editor and Publisher

May 8

(9:30 AM): It now appears the whole St. Louis may take Johnny Manziel rumor was just that, likely started y the Rams to drum up interest in a trade for #2 pick in tonight’s draft. The Rams put the story to bed last night when head coach Jeff Fisher got on stage at the team’s annual pre-draft party for season-ticket holders and told about 2,000 fans in attendance that “Sam’s our guy.” Sam, of course, is incumbent starting QB Sam Bradford, who was standing right next to Fisher. In fact, there are unconfirmed reports that the Rams had actually let Bradford in on the Manziel smokescreen before the fact. However, that actually may not change all that much because nobody in the league really believed that the Rams were ever going to take Manziel anyway. And the #2 pick could still be very much in place because sitting at #3 Jacksonville could take any of Manziel, WR Sammy Watkins or Buffalo LB Khalil Mack and any teams that really, really wants one of those three guys may have to go through St. Louis to lock up the pick ... Meanwhile, the buzz continues to grow that the Jaguars may be prepared to select Manziel with the 3rd pick. Owner Shad Khan just saw his Fulham soccer team get demoted out of the English Premier League and desperately wants to own at least one team that has some semblance or relevance. And while Manziel has a major bust potential, there is no question that he is the most electric prospect to come along in a while and if nothing else will generate a ton of buzz wherever he goes for at least several years. Stay tuned tonight! … Meanwhile, Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine reportedly said yesterday that Manziel was still in the mix for the Browns with the 4th pick which according to Pettine is still “very fluid.” It is also believed that Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam also really likes Manziel (see above re Jacksonville), but there were reports yesterday that G.M. Ray Farmer has been sold on Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater all along, but likely only with the team’s second opening round pick. Could it be there is still some debate in the Browns’ war room? However the first 4 picks go, it appears that there is a better than even chance that Oakland deals the 5th pick; in fact, one could get pretty good odds that the 5th pick is THE most likely pick to be dealt in today’s opening round. Oakland only has four picks through the first 6 rounds having dealt away their 5th and 6th rounders, the Raiders likely would like to restock and are almost assured of getting calls from teams looking to move up to grab a player like WR Mike Evans or fast rising Pitt DT Aaron Donald. Then again there is the Manziel phenomenon. If the latter gets past Jacksonville and Cleveland at the 3rd and 4th picks respectively, any team with a hankering to move up to select Manziel may want to move ahead of Tampa Bay at #7. That could also put the 6th pick currently held by Atlanta in play for a trade down if the Falcons don’t use it in a draft-and-trade scheme with Houston for DE Jdeveon Clowney … Buffalo is still reportedly working the phones to try and move up from the 9th pick to get an impact player. However, it could be a tough buy for the Bills who have only six picks in this year’s draft so they may have to include something from 2015 to get anything significant done. In fact, if as rumored the Bills are trying to move into the top 3 - likely to get WR Sammy Watkins - it could very well cost them their first pick next year which would be an awfully steep price to pay. As such it might be a better compromise for the Bills to look to deal with a team like Oakland or Atlanta instead to get a Mike Evans receiver which would likely only cost them a second round pick …

(12:01 AM):
With the start of the 2014 draft now less than 24 hours away it is looking more and more like Houston will in fact make South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney the first player selected this year. There is still an outside chance that the Texans could take Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack, who would actually be a better fit in the Houston 3-4 defense than Clowney, a prototype hand-on-the-ground 4-3 end, but that would be a major upset. There is also still a chance that the Texans get an 11th hour offer for the top pick that they can’t turn down as Houston G.M. Rick Smith said late yesterday that he is still talking with other teams. It appears, though, that at least so far Houston has been asking for ’QB-type-money‘ in what they want for the top pick and that likely isn‘t going to happen. In fact, there may be something of a game of chicken going as other teams wait for theasking price to drop as the 8-o’clock witching hour approaches … Certainly, Clowney sounded like a guy who thinks he is going to be the #1 pick at a pre-draft media event in New York on Wednesday. It also appears that Houston has been in pretty regular contact with Clowney over the past couple of weeks. On the other hand, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel says he has not had any recent contact with the Texans and has no idea who the team will select. Interestingly, while for most fans around the league, wanting to trade down is almost a reflex response, the majority of Texans‘ fans appear to want the team to keep the pick. Indeed, in an informal poll conducted by the Houston Chronicle only 25% of Texans‘ fans wanted to trade down. Houston fans, though, are really split on who to take with the top pick, though; in fact, the last time we checked, Manziel had received all of 13 more votes than Clowney with over 22, 000 registered to date … On the other hand, it appears that the second pick could still be in play; there have been rumblings for several days now that Buffalo feels it is close to challenging New England in the AFC East and would be willing to move way up in the draft to get a dynamic playmaker like Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. The Detroit-likes-Watkins story line also continues to have legs and any team wanting to ensure getting Watkins may have to jump ahead of Jacksonville to guarantee they get their guy. At the same time, there is still a chance that Tampa Bay makes a bold move up the draft to get Manziel. Again Jacksonville could be the danger for the Bucs as there is a bit of a buzz around the league that Manziel could be in play for the Jaguars with the 3rd pick. Certainly, no team in the league needs some electricity more than the Jaguars; however, there are also rumors that Manziel isn’t exactly enamored with playing in Jacksonville arguably the smallest market team in the league … And if its Thursday, it means there is yet another rumor that Cleveland could be going in a yet another direction. Indeed, the latest buzz from Cleveland is that new G.M. Ray Farmer really likes Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater and hopes to get the latter with the 26th pick the Browns acquired from Indianapolis for RB Trent Richardson last fall. Recall that way back at the beginning of the process Farmer said he knew which QB he liked, although it is possible that the Browns may have to trade up somewhat from #26 to ensure getting Bridgewater, who many analysts still consider to be the most NFL-ready QB prospect despite his somewhat shaky pro day earlier this year that sent his stock plummeting. Who the Browns take with the 4th pick, though, is still very much up in the air with Watkins, Mack and possibly Texas A&M WR Mike Evans the most likely candidates. The interesting sidelite to the Bridgewater-to-Cleveland story is that there is a report on the NFL Network that way back at the beginning of the process the Browns commissioned a metric study to scientifically evaluate the pro potential of the top QB prospects and Bridgewater came back with the top grade. The Browns may have waffled during the actual pre-draft process, but ultimately may have opted to stick with their first choice … There are also seems to be a growing feeling around the league that Oakland will not be taking a QB with the 5th pick … Meanwhile, the buzz around the league continues to be that the two hot guys in the top 10 are Pitt DT Aaron Donald and LSU WR Odell Beckham. On the other hand, with everyone mostly focused on the draft fate of QBs Manziel and Bridgewater, there is a growing possibility that Central Florida’s Blake Bortles slips down the board later this evening. ... One won’t know for sure until the picking actually starts, but the expectation around the league is that there could be a flurry of trades in the second half of the opening round. Teams like Baltimore (#17) and Miami (#19), for example, may be looking at OTs like Cyrus Kounadjio, Morgan Moses or Ja’waun James, all of whom could still be later in the opening round, while there are other teams like Philadelphia (#22), Kansas City (#23), New Orleans (#27) and San Francisco (#30 and 10 other picks) are thoughts to be considering moving up to perhaps get a receiver. Then there is the possibility that teams that don’t get a QB in the top 10 start positioning themselves to get one the leading second-tier passers. Other guys who teams could ultimately look to trade up for include Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, especially if Alabama FS Clinton-Dix comes off the board ahead of him, as well as LBs C.J.Mosley of Alabama and Ohio State‘s Ryan Shazier …

May 7

Who’s #2 … Much of the drama regarding tomorrow’s draft appears to be focused on the second pick overall. The pick is currently held by St. Louis, but it is possible there are multiple teams looking to move up to that spot to grab Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel. Cleveland, for example, was rumored to be the leading contender to move into that spot a day or so ago, although the Browns have denied any such interest and there are reports that they wouldn’t take Manziel even if he were still on the board at #4. Meanwhile, there are reports that Tampa Bay has emerged as a potential trade up partner for the Rams. The Buccaneers, who pick 7th this year, did acquire veteran journeyman Josh McCown in the off-season, but have has been checking out this year’s top QB prospects as thoroughly as anyone. In fact, a case could b made that no team needs a top QB more than Tampa Bay as they play in a division in which the other QBs are Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan and unless they find a guy who can compete at the same level as those three they could be destined to be a bottom-feeder for years. Of course, the Rams have hinted they could take Manziel themsleves at that spot, although St. Louis has also reportedly identified 6-8 players that they think could potentially be fits if they were to stay at the #2 pick. Glad they were able to clear that up! What that may actually mean is the Rams may be willing to drop that many spots in the draft and still be able to get a guy they like …

There is some buzz out there that nobody should be surprised if Pitt DT Aaron Donald could go even a little higher than the latest projections which have him going in the 8-10 range. Donald, of course, is somewhat undersized for a DT but was arguably the best defensive player in college football last fall, was the best player at the Senior Bowl and then was arguably the most impressive prospect at the combine … Other guys who remain potentially hot properties close to the top 10 include Notre Dame G/T Zack Martin and LSU WR Odell Beckham, both of whom could have teams in the second half of the opening round looking to trade up to get them. Baltimore (#17) and Miami (#19), for example, both have major issues at OT and could be tempted to get ahead of the Giants at #12 to take Martin, especially if the big three OTs - Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan come off the board early in the top 10. Meanwhile, there are reportedly as many as a half dozen teams that like Beckham as the next best receiver after Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. Interesting that several of those teams are also plotting to move up to get ahead of the Giants at #12 to get the former LSU receiver ...  

A couple of OLBs reportedly getting long looks from teams include Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, who ran an unofficial sub-4.4 40 at his pro day, as a potential top 15-20 pick and BYU’s Kyle Van Noy in the latter part of the opening round … On the other hand, there are reports that TCU CB Jason Verret could slip somewhat because of health concerns; he’s not all that big and has been dealing with a shoulder problem this off-season ...More injury woes for LSU QB Zach Mettenbeger, who is coming off a torn ACL late last month. NFL.com is reporting that several teams have medically flagged over a back condition, although it is something he has played with for years and surgery is not required.

May 6

Given that NFL teams have had an extra couple of weeks to mull over all the perms and combs of one of the most talented draft fields in recent years, it has actually been a surprisingly quiet run-up to the 2014 draft. Until now! Indeed, all of a sudden, with just over two days to go until the draft gets underway, there is so much smoke wafting about its like a real brushfire broke out. And the biggest buzz is coming from St. Louis where there have been multiple reports that the Rams are seriously considering taking Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel with the second pick overall on Thursday evening. And it doesn’t appear as if anyone around the league is sure whether that is indeed the direction the Rams are thinking of going or whether they are just trying to drum up interest in trading down the #2 pick. Along with the Manziel-to-St. Louis rumors, there have been growing reports that Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam wants the erstwhile Johnny Football with the 4th pick - if nothing else he’d be able to pay a ton of lawyer’s fees from sales of #2 Browns’ jerseys. However, what the Rams may actually be hoping to do is force the Browns to swap the 2nd and 4th picks where St. Louis would still likely get Auburn OT Greg Robinson, plus an extra pick or two. And just to punctuate their interest in Manziel, there have also been reports that the Rams have been in discussions with Minnesota about sending incumbent starting QB Sam Bradford, who has battled injuries and inconsistencies since being selected with the first overall pick in 2010 to the Vikings. Again, hard to know what is true and what is smoke, but the Rams would take a huge cap hit if they did move Bradford. It is also somewhat difficult to see Rams’ GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher hitching their somewhat tenuous job security to an enigma like Manziel, but time will tell …  Meanwhile, back in Cleveland, the Browns are pushing back a bit say that there are elements in their organization that really like Robinson. Of course, all along the Browns have been non to secretive about their desire to take a position player with the #4 pick, while using the 26th pick they acquired from Indianapolis for RB Trent Richardson to finangle a QB. In fact, there have been reports that the Browns are actually working the phones to try and acquire a 3rd opening round pick to use on a QB with a move up from the 35th pick in the second round …

At the same time, the storyline that Houston may be thinking of taking Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack over South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney won’t go away. The more likely storyline out of Houston, though, is that the Texans may agree to some kind of draft-and-trade scenario with Clowney. What the Texans need, of course, is a QB, but they don’t appear sold on any of the top prospects at the position - most likely Manziel and/or Blake Bortles of Central Florida - as potential top picks overall. What the Texans could do, though, is come to some kind of agreement with a team like Atlanta to trade Clowney if a QB they liked was still on the board at #6. The rumblings are however that the Texans may be asking for a little too much in return for the top pick …

Back to Manziel for a moment, another story that just won’t go away is that Dallas owner Jerry Jones would really like to make a splash in this draft and would like nothing more than to find away to take the former A&M star for the Cowboys as a future replacement for Tony Romo. Seems a little far-fetched especially with Manziel now likely destined to be a top 5 pick, but hey its Texas. One thing that would appear to be a good bet though is that Jones and the Cowboys will be active this weekend. Indeed, the Cowboys have 6 picks in the 7th and final round, but only 5 in the first 6 rounds …

There continue to be rumblings that there are multiple teams picking in the second half of the opening round, including the Jets (#18), Philadelphia (#22) and San Francisco (#30) that would like to move up into the top half of the round to get one of the elite receivers. On the other hand, teams that could move down include Tampa Bay (#7), Tennessee (#11), Chicago (#14) and Pittsburgh (#15) …

Most teams have had their boards set for some time now, however, there are reports that several guys could a little earlier than perhaps has generally been expected including Notre Dame G/T Zack Martin. Every G.M. in the league talks about wanting a ’clean’ prospect who comes without any red flags and is ready to plug in and play from day one, and no one comes closer to filling that bill than Martin, although most teams still appear to figure that he is likely a better fit at OG than OT. Alabama LB C.J. Mosley also appears to be a popular prospects once again. There was a time, for example, when Mosley, who was described as the best pure prospect in this draft, was thought to be top ten lock, but the fact that he didn’t test all that well this winter and that he plays a devalued draft-day position, appeared to drop him closer to the bottom of the opening round. However, it now appears unlikely he’ll get out of the top 20 and could go as high as 14th to Chicago. Mosley, in fact, is one of a half dozen or so prospects who could go almost anywhere in Thursday’s opening rounds. Others who appear to have a real divergence on their grade include Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, Michigan OT Taylor Lewan, UCLA OLB Anthony Barr, Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard and DTs Timmie Jernigan of Florida State, Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman and Notre Dame’s Louis Nix. At the same time, Florida DT Dominique Easley has emerged as a kind of poor man’s Aaron Donald and may have started to generate some late first round consideration. Like Donald, Easley isn’t all that big, but is very quick and disruptive; he also appears to be close to 100% again after a second career ACL injury last September.

May 3

Houston owner Bob McNair appeared to make it even clearer during a pre-draft interview yesterday that the Texans wants to trade down from the #1 pick in next week’s draft and select a QB a little further down the draft. Texans’ GM Rick Smith hinted at pretty much the same thing at his pre-draft presser earlier in the week, but McNair was even more explicit in talking about Houston’s plans. McNair said the team still views South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney as the top prospect overall this year and will select him if they are still at #1 on Thursday, but indicated they would still try and trade him as the first-round unfolded …

Meanwhile, Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell, whose Jaguars’ have the 3rd pick overall and could be a team that might have some interest in acquiring Clowney, said during his pre-draft presser that the team viewed Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel as the most NFL ready QB in this year’s draft class. In fact, Caldwell said that Manziel was “probably be the one guy you could plug in there sooner rather than later just because his style of play isn’t going to change much from Year 1 to Year 2.” Interesting because while the Jaguars desperately need a young QB, the assumption has been that the Jags would take a position player - likely either Clemson WR Sammy Watkins or Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack - with the 3rd pick and then select a QB with their early second-rojd selection to groom behind veteran starter Chad Henne. Of course, in mentioning Manziel by name, the Jaguars could also be putting a little heat on Houston not to think about dropping any farther down than the third pick if in fact Manziel is the QB the Texans would be targeting if they moved down … And speaking of Jacksonville, local beat writer Gene Frenette may have the best label for the NFL’s decision tto push the draft back into May when he wrote that the “NFL should be flagged for delay of game” for creating a process which has become almost “torture” rather than hype ...

New Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan also had some kind words for Manziel during a mini-camp interview. Shanahan described Manziel as a ‘guy who can play football‘. Shanahan also said he thins that Manziel’s unique style will translate to the NFL, although he may have to make some adjustments along the way. Shanahan, who will have a major input into which QB the Browns select at next week’s draft, say he has his guys ranked, but wouldn’t say how, although he also had some positive things to say about Fresno State’s Derek Carr. Interestingly, there have been some reports that the Bron shave gone so far as to talk with Carr’s older brother David about coming to Cleveland as a backup were the Browns to select Derek next week …

Chicago GM Phil Emery said in his pre-draft presser that the Bears have received a number of calls about moving down in the opening round. Its likely something the Bears will consider as they have multiple needs on defense and unless they really like one specific player when they get on the clock a #14 could actually have multiple guys on their short list at that time. And several teams could be tempted to move in search of an offensive lineman like Michigan's Taylor Lewan, if still available, or Notre Dame's Zach Martin, or possibly a top DB prospcet such as Oklaloma State CB Justin Gilbert or Alabama FS Ha-ha Clinton-Dix ...

May 2

Its down to one … sort of …  After weeks of speculation what Houston will do with the #1 pick overall at next week’s draft, Texans G.M. Rick Smith says the team has set their board and he knows who they will take if they ultimately make the first pick. That’s the kicker, though, as Smith openly admitted at a pre-draft presser yesterday, that the Texans are engaged in trade discussions with at least one team and possibly more. “There’s a bunch of options out there for us,” said Smith, who added that he expects talks to increase during the days leading up to the start of the draft next Thursday. In fact, one can probably fairly accurately translate what Smith said to: the Texans have set their board and DE Jadeveon Clowney is the top-rated player and he’s the guy Houston will take if they don’t trade down so anybody who wants him better be trading up to that spot! Or something along those lines anyway. Of course, its no secret around the league that Atlanta would like to move up to get Clowney from the 6th pick, while its possible that other teams such as Jacksonville at #3 could also be interested. So far, though, the Texans have not indicated how far they will be willing to drop down, although its unlikely they’d considerer dropping down much below the Falcons’ pick as they would likely still want to come out of this draft with one of this year’s elite prospects. Just who the Texans really want to take this year also remains open to speculation, although the two most likely targets appear to be either of QBs Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles …

#2 does try harder !!! … While most teams around the league, including Houston, have pretty well set their boards for next week’s draft and will only do some minor tweaking over the next week, St. Louis will be criss-crossing the country conducting a series of late private workouts with the leading prospects for their two opening round picks this year. Nothing unusual here - at least for the Rams - as the Rams have used the final week before the draft to check out a variety of prospects in private workouts since the arrival of head coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead three years ago. The Rams have already confirmed that they will work out QB Johnny Manziel, OT Jake Matthews and WR Mike Evans at Texas A&M, while they will also be in Auburn to work out OT Greg Robinson and Georgia for a final check on QB Aaron Murray. ESPN reported Wednesday that the Rams were heading to Texas A&M to work out offensive tackle Jake Matthews, wide receiver Mike Evans, and quarterback Johnny Manziel. There have also been unconfirmed reports that the Rams will also be holding private workouts this week at Notre Dame (G/T Zack Martin and DE Stephon Tuitt), Michigan (OT Taylor Lewan), Alabama (possibly for FS Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, LB CJ Mosley, OT Cyfrs Kouandjio and QB AJ McCarron), and Tennessee (OTs Ja‘waun James and Tiny Richardson.) What isn‘t clear is what the Rams plan to accomplish with their tour. One would assume that like the rest of the teams around the league their board is pretty well set; its also unclear how the create any smoke and mirrors as to which player or players they actually like because they are checking out so many. What is pretty well known, though, is that the Rams like the Texans would really like to trade down a few spots and add some extra picks ...

One of the interesting sub-plots of this year’s draft has been how teams have adjusted to having two extra weeks to prepare. Because there was no change to the schedule for the rest of the process, teams generally have had their final boards pretty much in place for a time. In fact, the concern for a lot of teams is that they don’t overanalyze the situation. According to Arizona head coach Bruce Arians, for example, the danger is "you have a grade on a guy, you go back and watch him and you try to find out more stuff.  Pretty soon, there won't be anybody worth drafting. You won't like anybody." In fact, what it appears a lot of teams are actually doing is cutting their work days. In the past, for example, personnel staffs would put in 10-12 hour days during the final stretch leading up to the draft as they weighed out all the potential options they could face once the picking starts; this year, though, a lot of teams have been packing up and going home after only 7-8 hours each day almost like regular folks. Minnesota GM Rick , although it helped the Vikings as they were tied up early in the process with a head coaching search. As for the future, though, Spielman said that he thinks “it's a long drawn-out process and you guys (the media) are getting to the point where how much more do you have to write? You've been writing about it for a month and a half." Sad, but true!!  … 

The general consensus around the league has been that this is  a very deep, talented draft class. That has been supported by reports that Baltimore currently has 180 rated as draft-worthy whereas in earlier years the number tended to ranged between 140 to 150 ... The fact that this looks to be a loaded draft may have an impact on how many teams are willing to move around the board especially in the first round. In fact, most years there are plenty of teams that are willing to move down, but fewer indicating an interest in moving up. However, it seems pretty clear that Atlanta, Buffalo, and Detroit are already all looking at their options to move up within the top ten. At the same time, there are rumblings that the Jets, who pick 18th and enter the draft with a league-leading 12 picks, may be positioning themselves to move up closer to the top 10 to hopefully find themselves an impact receiver. Same story out at San Francisco where the 49ers have 11 picks, including 6 in the first three rounds, and could be inclined to move up from the 30th pick; and like the Jets the 49ers could be looking to add a potential elite receiver … Meanwhile, one can probably add both Oakland and Tampa Bay, which pick 5th and 7th respectively, as teams with top 10 picks that are looking to trade down. According to GM Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders have had some contact with other teams, but have "no firm offers" to date. At the same time, there has been some speculation that because McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen are both on the hot seat this season, the Raiders are likely to be looking to draft players than can make an immediate impact, but McKenzie indicated that he won’t be sacrificing the team’s future with his picks this year. Tampa Bay also looking to deal down from the 7th pick and may be willing to include last year’s starting QB Mike Glennon, a 3rd round pick at the 2013 draft as part of the deal after signing veteran free agent Josh McCown in the off-season. The Buccaneers, who have checked out this year’s QB class as thoroughly as any team in the league, are expected to take a QB at some point in next week’s draft, possibly as early as the first round …

Tennessee has opted not to exercise the fifth-year option on QB Jake Locker's rookie contract. The fact that Locker will now be in the final year of his contract will do nothing to quell speculation that the Titans will take a QB with an early pick at the 2014 draft. Of course, Tennessee could still resign Locker at some point next fall, or tag him with a franchise or transition designate next winter, but that would require Locker, the 8th pick overall at the 2011 draft, a) to stay healthy in 2014 and b) play much, much better than he has to date. The deadline for teams to pick up the fifth-year option for players from the 2011 draft is Saturday.

April 29

There were some interesting comments from Houston owner Bob McNair over the weekend. McNair, whose Texans have the first pick overall at the next week’s draft, said that if the Texans selected QB with the top pick they would not make the same mistakes the team made with David Carr whom they started from day one after selecting him with the first pick in 2002. Carr never really developed in part because he was subjected to an inordinate number of hits as the QB for an expansion team. McNair did not go so far as to say the Texans would take a QB with their first pick, but it would certainly seem to appear that Houston is at least still considering taking one at that spot. In particular, there is almost no positive smoke to be blown by the Texans talking about taking a QB at #1; in fact, it is likely that drawing attention to their interest in a QB at that spot could actually make the #1 pick harder to trade as a team such as Atlanta that might be considering moving up to take South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney might start to think that they jus might not have to trade all the way up to the #1 slot to get the latter.

Cleveland G.M. Ray Farmer also had some interesting comments in his pre-draft press conference on Monday, although needless to say he left most analysts still wondering what the Browns plan to do with the 4th and 26th picks next week. Farmer, though, did raise a few eyebrows with his effusive praise of Clemson WR Sammy Watkins whom he described as “explosive … he’s got really good hands … he can run all the routes ... So saddle him on the opposite side of Josh Gordon and wow.” Indeed, Farmer went on to describe Watkins’ potential impact on the team as ‘ginormous!‘ In fact, Farmer gushed so much about Watkins that more than one observer speculated that maybe he was just trying to gin up interest from another team thinking about moving up to get Watkins. Farmer, though, was also generous in his evaluation of just about every other top prospect this year including OLB Khalil Mack, OTs Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews, WR Mike Evans and QBs Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles. In particular, Farmer described the enigmatic Manziel as ‘exciting, electric and dynamic!‘ Farmer also talked about how much he valued mobility in his QB and Manziel is nothing if not mobile. Farmer closed his comments by saying that he knows which player he wants to take with the #4 pick, but added that he wasn’t sure he would not be taken with one of the first three picks. For the record, the players most often considered to be top 3 prospects are WR Watkins, LB Mack and OT Greg Robinson, along with South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, if that makes it any clearer. 

While most observers see Detroit as perhaps the most likely team to move up into the top 5 to get one of this year’s blue chip prospects, Buffalo G.M. Doug Whaley indicated at his pre-draft presser late last week that the Bills, who pick 9th, one spot ahead of Detroit, might also consider trading up “if there’s a guy we think can get us to the playoffs.” And while Whaley wouldn‘t necessarily rule out taking a QB with their top pick, he made it pretty clear that the Bills‘ priority in this year‘s draft was to give incumbent starting QB E.J. Manuel every bit of help possible, presumably with a potential elite receiver or solid OT. Whaley also had a couple of interesting comments with a more general league-wide application. On the one hand, Whaley said that while the Bills already have a good LT in Cordy Glenn with so many defenses running exotic pass-rush schemes, that nowadays teams ‘need a right tackle as athletic as your left tackle” such that a RT would be good “value” at #9. Whaley also suggested that, because teams are now looking for athletic receivers who can stretch the field at TE, while their blocking skills are of lesser concern, that North Carolina TE Eric Ebron, whom the Bills will very likely seriously consider with 9th pick, is actually close to the prototype TE teams are looking for today.

While Clemson WR Sammy Watkins remains the consensus #1 wideout in this year’s draft, there is a buzz about that Texas A&M’s Mike Evans has closed the gap and that nobody should be surprised if Johnny Manziel’s former go-to guy is selected within the first 5-6 picks as teams are always in the market for big receivers who can run … There are also some rumblings that the odds are increasing that Pitt DT Aaron Donald and/or Alabama FS Hasean Clinton-Dix could be top 10 picks next week …  Meanwhile, in line with Buffalo G.M. Doug Whaley’s thoughts on the emerging value at RT, there has been a bit of a buzz about that no one should be surprised if Virginia OT Morgan Moses is selected in next week’s opening round. Not that buzz has grown to also include former Tennessee OT Ja’waun James as a potential late first rounder. Both are massive guys with huge wingspans who are simply a long way around, while they both also have reasonably active feet ... There have also been whispers that nobody should be shocked if Pitt QB Tom Savage is selected somewhere in the top 50 picks this year. And while he likely won’t go quite that high, it also appears a lot of teams looking for a developmental type QB are taking a second look at San Jose State’s David Fales.

And you thought the 40 was overrated !!! For years, the 40-yard dash, the bench press and the vertical leap have been standards by which NFL teams measure the athletic ability of potential draft prospects. However, that ‘drill’ that Jadeveon Clowney did with Atlanta last week may signal that sooner rather than later the NFL will be adopting some of the sports science athletic training and measurement techniques that are almost old-hat among so many other sports around the world. For the record, Clowney agreed to do an experimental biomechanical test with the Falcons in which a player moves around on a force plate which takes all sorts of precise measurements including their range of motion, how well they move, and how stable they are during that movement.

April 21

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King got the morning off to a fine start with a comment in this week’s MMQB segment that Houston G.M. Rick Smith actually prefers Buffalo LB Khalil Mack over South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney for the #1 pick in next month’s draft. Or at least hat’s according to a friend of Smith’s or something like that. As noted in the piece it would be something of a stretch for the Texans to become the first team ever to take a LB with the first overall pick, especially in a loaded draft so figure there might be some smoke in the picture. At the same time, though, there is also some speculation that if Mack is indeed the player the Texans are targeting then they would like to move down several spots.

There is a buzz out of Minnesota that the Vikings may not take a QB with the 8th pick overall, but instead could focus on the defense. That would be a tad strange because no team has been more all over this year’s top QB class than the Vikings who had full contingents at all their pro days etc. Does that mean in the end they just didn’t like what they saw. Vikings’ G.M.Rick Spielman, though, continues to say that the team will select the ‘best player on the board’ when they get on the clock. The Vikings, of course, were burned back in 2011 when they reached to select Christina Ponder with the 12th pick. Ponder has never really developed, but remains on the roster and will compete would compete with newly signed veteran free agent Matt Cassel to be the team’s starter this fall. If they did pass on a QB with their first pick the Vikings would then almost assuredly grab one during the second day of the draft, but they are in the same situation as several other teams described in today’s Scouts Notebook in that Minnesota plays in a division in which the other starting QBs are Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford and its hard to see them competing with Cassell or Ponder under center …

Staying in the NFC North for a moment, the consensus among draft watchers was that the Chicago would also be focusing heavily on defense with their 2014 draft picks, with the defensive line, and especially DT, the primary target. There are rumblings out of Chicago, though, that the Bears could actually be targeting a safety, specifically Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama with the 14th pick, although Louisville’s Calvin Pryor could also be an option. The Bears could then upgrade at DT in the second day. In fact, Clinton-Dix is starting to show up in some top 10 discussions, although that still could be something of a reach …

There is also a bit of buzz emerging that Pitt DT Aaron Donald may be showing up on a growing number of teams’ top 10 boards across the league. Donald is a tad undersized, but was arguably the best defensive player in college football last fall; was the best player at the Senior Bowl, and then was arguably the most impressive performer at the combine. The other guy who appears to be making a move up s Ohio State CB Bradley Roby, who likely has established himself as the 3rd option at the position behind Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard; in fact there are some teams that reportedly have Roby higher than Dennard as he is much better athlete … Meanwhile the top 10 guy who may be slipping is UCLA Anthony Barr, although that’s been rumored more than once before …

Back to the QBs for a moment, there is a nice breakdown of the top QB prospects in the Jacksonville paper today, while there is a nice breakdown of the top TE prospects in the Buffalo News. The Bills are one of several teams believed to be looking hard at North Carolina TE Eric Ebron with their top pick …

No word so far on how Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel’s private workout with Cleveland went on Saturday, but the former Aggies’ star who is often mentioned as a prime candidate for the Browns to take with the 4th pick, will also visit the team at their Berea facility later this week. For his part, Manziel said several times early in the draft process that he’d love to play in Cleveland, but the Browns have left very few hints as to what they are thinking at this point. Meanwhile, both Manziel and South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney are in Houston today visiting the Texans …

Today is d-day in Oakland where the Raiders are expected to release QB Terrelle Pryor by the end of the day if they can’t work out a trade. The Raiders have said they don’t want Pryor around when OTAs start on tomorrow …

There is also growing speculation across the bay that San Francisco could release star OLB Aldon Smith after his hugely embarrassing airport meltdown earlier this month. Whatever they ultimately do with Smith, the 49ers are not expected to focus on an edge-rushing OLB with an early pick at next month’s draft, although WR would also appear to be high on their wish list. In fact, with 11 picks in this year’s draft, the expectation is that the 49ers could very well attempt to trade up to address either or both positions …

There was a report in a local Miami paper that the Dolphins could settle on Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio with their opening round pick. The Dolphins are so desperate along their OL that they may simply have to take the best guy available and with the likes of Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan likely to be gone by the 19th pick reaching for a Kounadjio might be their only option at OT; Zach Martin could also figure in the mix but the Dolphins are believed to view him more as an OG. There is also the possibility that the Dolphins try and move to get one of the top three guys …

April 15

The NFL was a buzz this weekend with the leaking of the Wonderlic intelligence tests scores of some of the leading QB prospects for the 2014 draft from the scouting combine in Indianapolis. For those at didn‘t hear, Texas A&M‘s Johnny Manziel had the best Wonderlic score of this year’s top QB prospects with a score of 32, compared with 28 for Central Florida's Blake Bortles and 20 for Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville a 20, while the best figure for a QB was turned by Ivy Leaguer Jeff Matthews of Cornell was scored 40 on the test. Indeed, Matthews had the highest score of any player in Indianapolis this year.

For the record, the Wonderlic is an intelligence test in which respondents have 12 minutes to answer the 50-questions. While it has nothing to do with football per se, it is given to prospective players by the NFL to measure their ability to absorb and process information. And this may have particular relevance for the QBs as rookies at the position have so much information thrown at them when the first arrive in the NFL. In fact, Manziel’s score was slightly above the average historical score of 29-30 for QBs entering the NFL.

In the end, Manziel’s Wonderlic score isn’t likely going to have much impact on his ultimate draft grade; however, it may give Manziel a small boost in the sense that he is trying to prove to NFL that he is more than just a free-lancer and that he has a greater capacity to play within a structure and lead a team from the pocket than he is usually given credit for.

Truth be told, the more surprising result of the Wonderlic scores is that Bridgewater’s score was  well below average for a QB given that most analyst view him as having the best ‘football smarts’ in this year’s QB class. Again, that score isn’t likely going to hurt his draft status, but it isn’t going to help at the same time.

In fact, it may have been a lousy weekend all around for Bridgewater in the wake of a published report by Chris Mortensen of ESPN that the former Louisville star had been ‘shaky’ in pre-draft workouts for ‘some’ teams. That would, of course, be in addition to Bridgewater’s less than stellar pro day last month. However, Bridgewater’s agent immediately responded with the argument that Bridgewater had in fact only had one pre-draft workout up to that time which, for the record, was with Cleveland. Of course, in this time of smoke and mirrors one should take comments attributed to'unnamed' team sources with a grain of salt unless they are confirmed by other sources. In this particular case its hard to know whether Brigewater was in fact 'shaky' at his workout with the Browns, or if some team hoping that he would drop into their range is putting out a little smokescreen.

Bridgewater did have a second workout with Minnesota this past weekend. No reports on whether Bridgewater had cleared up the shakiness but he is believed to be one of the players the Vikings will be bringing for visits on Monday and Tuesday of this week as part of their 30 allowed pre-draft onsite visits. And while no team has done more due diligence on QBs than the Vikings this off-season, it does not appear as if any of Bortles, Derek Carr of Fresno State, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron or LSU’s Zach Mettenberger will be included on their visit list this week. And for the record, the Vikings also reportedly had a private workout with Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo on Friday.

(And just a note on keeping straight all the various visits, onsite workouts and working lunches. Several reputable sources reported that the Vikings were working out Bridgewater at their team facility in Winter Park. Except that would be against the rules. Teams can bring in up to 30 out-of-town prospects for onsite visits, but are only allowed to workout players at their own campuses or home towns.)
 
To trade or not to trade … Normally NFL teams keep their cards pretty close to their chests when thinking of moving up to target a specific player. However, Detroit appears to have made little secret of their interest in moving up from the 10th pick in order to acquire Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. For starters, no team has kept closer tabs on Watkins than the Lions. G.M. Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Caldwell had dinner with Watkins and his family prior to his pro day. Then after his pro day, the Lions were the first team to have Watkins in for an onsite visit; too boot, they also worked out and interviewed his Clemson teammate and fellow receiver Martavis Bryant and had a private meeting and workout with his brother, Florida CB Jaylen Watkins.

The problem for the Lions if they are serious in their pursuit of Watkins is that he’s one of this year’s 3-4 legitimate elite prospects, such that Detroit will have move well up into the top 5 to ensure getting the former Clemson star. Fortunately, for the Lions, both St. Louis and Jacksonville have made little secret of their desire to move down from the second and third picks respectively, although its not clear either would be willing to drop all the way down to the 10th pick in a draft for which most draft analysts say there are only 7 or so true elite prospects.

It also likely wouldn‘t be cheap for the Lions to move up in deals with either St. Louis or Jacksonville. In 2012, for example, the Rams got 2 future first rounders and a second rounder in order to flip the 2nd pick that year with Washington (who took QB Robert Griffin) for the 6th pick overall. Given that there aren’t any QBs in Griffin’s class this year, the Rams won’t be expecting quite as much, although one would figure that the Lions would almost assuredly have to give up their #1 pick in 2015 to move that far, at least according to the standard NFL trade value chart. Meanwhile, any deal with Jacksonville would likely cost the Lions their second round pick this year, as well as something like their #2 pick next year.

The wild card if the Lions were looking for a trade partner might very well be Cleveland. That is, of course, if the Browns don’t want Watkins themselves, and that’s a real possibility, hence the Lions interest in trading up to the 2nd or 3rd picks. However, no one really knows what the Browns have on their minds these days and if they are more interested in acquiring a QB like Derek Carr they might very well be willing to drop down to the tenth pick in a deal that likely would only cost the Lions their second rounder this year. Time will tell!

This and that … South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, the consensus #1 prospect for this year’s draft, said in an interview with Jaguars.com that the most common question he gets from teams is which family members will move with him to his new home. Clowney said it will be just him. Of course, what teams want to know is what kind of an entourage Clowney will be bringing with him to the pros. In fact, teams may not be all that pleased to here he’ll be living by himself, because wealthy young NFLers end to attract a posse of old neighborhood friends. Indeed, it might have been better for Clowney to have said he was bringing his mom with him. Meanwhile, no word on whether he’s being asked whether he’ll have a cat or a dog as a pet! … Again, one is never sure how to interpret these kind of things but guys who appear to generating some genuine interest from NFL teams these days include Georgia QB Aaron Murray; Virginia CB Kyle Fuller, Indiana WR Cody Latimer; and Northern Illinois FS Jimmie Ward. No one should be surprised, for example if NIU’s Ward is a late first-round selection, while Fuller may have edged into3rd place among corner prospects this year behind Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard. Meanwhile, both Latimer and Murray have emerged as strong second candidates for teams that aren’t able to upgrade their respective positions with the earliest picks.

April 3

A throng of NFL personnel people including big contingents from Houston and Jacksonville, which have the 1st and 3rd picks overall, were at the South Carolina pro day on Wednesday where DE Jadeveon Clowney was the featured attraction. And by all accounts Clowney put on an athletic which pretty much confirmed that he’s the top non-QB prospect, if not the top prospect period, for the 2014 draft. Clowney stood on his combine numbers from Indianapolis where he ran a 4.53 40, but did do a full series of defensive line drills. Plus, for good measure, Clowney who has always played with his hand on the ground, also took part in LB drills during which he reportedly did not look out of place playing in reverse. Although his strength obviously is in going forward and rushing the passer. When all was said and done, more than one media type described Clowney’s workout as one of the most impressive they have seen in a while. However, Houston head coach Bill O’Brien, who was one of 8 team officials, including owner Bob McNair, a South Carolina alum, to attend the Gamecocks’ workout, saying only that Clowney had a ‘good day‘ and that the #1 pick was still ‘wide open.‘ Interestingly, O’Brien was seen talking with extensively with Steve Spurrier his USC counterpart during the workout. O’Brien also reportedly listened rather intently from the fringes of Clowney’s post-workout media scrum. Of note, the Texans’ contingent had dinner with Clowney the night before his workout, but have yet to set up any future meetings with Clowney, although O’Brien indicated that they ‘may’ bring him in for a private visit prior to the draft.

Of course, as with Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, who also had an outstanding pro day last week, the issue for Clowney isn’t talent, its effort, conditioning and consistency. And afterward, Spurrier doubled down on his less than effusive praise of Clowney’s work ethic saying he worked hard ‘enough.’ For the record, though, Clowney appeared to be in great shape for his pro day; in particular he weighed in at 266 pounds, the same as at the combine. 

While Houston had the largest contingent of personnel people at Clowney’s pro day, Jacksonville was also well represented with GM Dave Caldwell, head coach Gus Bradley, director of college scouting Kyle O’Brien and defensive line coach Todd Wash all making the trip up to Columbia. Meanwhile, GM’s Les Snead of St. Louis and Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie, whose teams have the second and 5th picks respectively, were also in attendance. Meanwhile, Atlanta, which has been thought to be a team that might try and move up from the 6th pick to acquire Clowney, were represented at South Carolina’s pro day by defensive line coach Bryan Cox and OLB coach Mark Collins. However, the rest of the Atlanta staff will get a look at Clowney as the Falcons have set up a private workout with him in the next week or so. Same for St. Louis which will actually be Clowney’s first stop. He will also reportedly have a least a private visit with Jacksonville and a date to be determined.  

Cleveland, which made news when the Browns all but ignored the workouts of Manziel and the other big-name QBs last week, did have a rep at the USC workout, but once again neither G.M. Ray Farmer nor head coach Mike Pettine were in attendance. This day, though, they at least had an excuse as the key Browns’ decision-makers including Farmer, Pettine, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and QB-coach Dowell Loggains were at Central Florida working out QB Blake Bortles. That’s the same group that worked out Fresno State QB Derek Carr earlier this week. In fact, the Browns will also conduct private workouts with Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garropolo, Tom Savage of Pittsburgh and Ball State's Keith Wenning later this weekend. The Browns will also have a private workout with Manziel in the next couple of weeks.

Among other notable visits or workouts by other players, Michigan OT Taylor Lewan is making the rounds. In addition, to visiting Detroit, for which he counts as a local visit rather than one of the Lions 30 out-of-town visits, Lewan has worked out privately with Atlanta, and will visit with St. Louis. The Rams have also had CB Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert, Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier and Notre Dame DT Stephon Tuitt in for visits, each of whom would appear to be more of a target for the Rams with the second of their two opening round picks this year - the 13th overall - rather than the second pick they acquired from Washington. Its also interesting to note that Tennessee will have Fresno State QB Derek Carr in for a visit. The Titans have not generally been thought of as a team with a big interest in a QB; however, Tennessee could look in that direction if one of this year’s top 3-4 prospects at the position are available when the Titans get on the clock with the 11th pick, as incumbent starter Jake Locker remains a huge if on the team’s roster.

March 31

    This and that from around the league: The league was abuzz on Friday with multiple reports that Houston was trying to deal down from the 1st pick overall and were talking with Buffalo about a possible trade. Houston beat writer John McClain, who is pretty plugged in with the team, later downplayed the likelihood that the Texans would deal with the Bills because they would not want to drop all the way down to the 9th pick. Its also unlikely that Buffalo would have been talking trade with anyone last week as the organization dealt with the passing of owner Ralph Wilson, although its possible any trade discussions were from before. However, if Houston is indeed trying to move down from the top pick, it would be a pretty good indication that they just don’t view any of this year’s top QB prospects as worthy of the #1 pick overall, although new Bills head coach Bill O‘Brien had positive words about each of this year‘s top prospects at the position after their respective pro day workouts. Sill, it may reflect what appears to be a growing consensus around the league that while Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr of Fresno State are all very good pro prospects, none of them has emerged as true elite candidate and that could make things very interesting on May 8th. If that were the case, that could bring South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney back into the debate for the top pick. In fact, the Texans will be sending a full contingent to the USC pro day on Wednesday where they have already scheduled to meet privately with Clowney. 

    Meanwhile, St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher appeared to downplay the likelihood the Rams would select a WR with the second pick overall. The consensus is that if the Rams stayed at #2 their choice would come down to either Auburn OT Greg Robinson or Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, with Texas A&M Jake Matthews, whose uncle Bruce was a mainstay for many years on Fisher’s offensive line when he was at Tennessee, also a long shot. Fisher did have some good things to say about Watkins calling him “very, very explosive.“ However, after selecting 5 receivers with top 100 picks in the past three years, including Tavon Austin with the 8th pick overall last year, Fisher indicated that he thinks the Rams have talent enough on the roster right now that they can provide QB Sam Bradford with the targets to win a lot of games. Fisher also would not rule out selecting South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, even though the Rams appear to be stacked at the position. “You can never have enough pass rushers” said Fisher who likely isn’t going to take Clowney, but would listen intently to offers to move down if the former USC star was still on the board when the Rams got on the clock with the second pick.

    And back to Manziel for a moment. And likely did all he could in a pro day setting to help his grade. The problem for the NFL, of course, is one can learn only so much from a pro day workout and it appears that teams still really don‘t know what to make of Manziel and whether his unique skills will translate to the NFL. After his pro day, nobody really doubts his arm strength or mobility. Fact is there aren’t many teams that doubt his talent, especially his unique ability to improvise on the fly. However, just about every team has questions about his staying power in the NFL. On the one hand, will his style handle the pounding Manziel will almost certainly take and will he be able to make things happen when he stays in the pocket. Then, of course, is the issue of Manziel’s celebrity and the question whether he’ll remain focused on football down the road. Certainly, with the notable exception of Cleveland, all the team’s with early picks and a need at QB remain intrigued. In fact, each of Houston, Jacksonville, Oakland and Minnesota had big contingents in College Station for his pro day and met with him privately afterward. In fact, Minnesota, which has probably studied this year’s QB class as hard as anyone, met again on Manziel the morning after his workout. Interesting, though, that Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer was one of the only onlookers at his pro day who had some negative words about Manziel’s workout which he called a choreographed sideshow that placed too much emphasis on style instead of substance or words to that effect anyway! On the other hand, both Bill’O’Brien of the Texans and Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley were complimentary of the whole atmosphere at the special Texas A&M pro day.

    Bottom line is hat really going to know until he actually gets onto an NFL field what kind of a player Manziel is going to be. Of course, that‘s true of all draft prospects, but it‘s especially true of a unique talent like Manziel who has a ton of upside. Indeed, what keeps getting reported is that fact that just about every personnel person around the league Wil tell you they’d be nervous about taking Manziel, but nobody wants to have to play him! Ironically, there’s a similar story for Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald, who if he were an inch and a half taller and 8-10 pounds heavier would be very much in the discussion with the likes of Clowney to be the #1 pick overall. Donald was arguably the best player in college football last fall, was the best player at the Senior Bowl and then was the most impressive prospect at the combine where he ran under 4.70 seconds for the 40, a time almost unheard for an interior defensive lineman.

    While much of the buzz regarding possible trades at the 2014 draft seems to be that there are far more teams that are inclined to move down rather than up, sounds like one team that could consider trading up is Detroit. Lions’ G.M. Mike Mayhew, for example, was quoted as saying that he thinks there is some value in considering moving up “if you’re picking 10 and there’s five elite players and you can get one of those guys.” The Lions do pick 10th and Mayhew added that he did not think there are 10 elite players in this draft. Not clear who the Lions might be after if thy did consider moving up, however, even with the addition of veteran free-agent WR Golden Tate, they are thought to be interested in adding another big-time receiver to pair with Calvin Johnson such as Clemson’s Sammy Watkins. However, the Lions have also indicated that they would be interested in adding an edge-rushing OLB and could be intrigued by either of Khalil Mack of Buffalo or Anthony Barr of UCLA.

    And from the who’s up; who’s down file: Could be that Alabama LB C.J. Mosley could take a tumble into the latter pat of this year’s opening round. Mosley is a very instinctive, reliable LB, but he isn’t that big and he really isn’t all that athletic although he is very good in coverage; he could also pay a price for playing a position that just isn’t a draft priority for NFL teams if they don’t rush the passer and Mosley has never been known as a particularly dynamic pass-rusher. On the other hand, there is a bit of a buzz that Boise State tweener DE/OLB Demarcus Lawrence, who is a very good pass rusher, could squeeze into the latter part of the first round; he’s especially attractive to 3-4 teams looking for a pass-rushing OLB.

    March 20

    This and that from around the league: The big question around the NFL these days is whether Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater’s somewhat disappointing pro day will hurt his ultimate draft grade. Time will tell, but for now the consensus around the league seems to be that while it certainly didn’t help, it also likely won‘t hurt it that much either. After his workout, for example, Bridgewater met with representatives from Oakland and Jacksonville and then had a private meeting with Houston, which owns this year‘s #1 pick, the following day. In fact, nobody may be happier about Bridgewater’s ’average’ performance at his pro day than Minnesota, which was all over him at his pro day, but with only the 8th pick, weren’t optimistic about their chances that he would still be on the board when they made their opening round selection. And Minnesota offensive co-ordinator Norv Turner, who described Bridgewater’s efforts as ’pretty good’ was one the very few observers at the Louisville pro day to say much positive about his performance ...

    One of the noteworthy notes about the Louisville pro day was the fact that Cleveland appeared to be the only team with a very early pick and a big need at QB not to be at the Cardinals’ pro day. Upon further review, though, it appears that Browns’ G.M. Ray Farmer was indeed in Louisville although other Cleveland notables such as head coach Mike Pettine, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and QBs coach Dowell Loggains all appeared to have more important things on their respective plates. In addition, it has also been revealed that the Browns did not interview Bridgewater, or for that matter, any of this year’s top quarterbacks at the combine last month …

    Speaking about QBs and the 2014 draft, there is a bit of a buzz that more than one team looking at the position are taking another long look at Alabama’s A.J. McCarron. McCarron isn’t going to be taken early in this year’s opening round, however, no one should be surprised if somebody moves up into the latter part of the first day to grab him …

    Arguably, the top prospect that is hardest to get a read on is UCLA LB Anthony Barr. One keeps hearing that he could be slipping into the middle part of the opening round, but then one hears that no one doubts he is a legit top ten guy, although he is still a step or so behind South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney and Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack on just about every defensive board around the league.

    The other defensive guy who appears to be all over the board is Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan, who some people claim is a potential top 10 pick, whereas others still see him more as a top 20-25 type ...

    Nobody seems to be denying that Houston is shopping QB Matt Schaub and that Oakland has some interest. Of course, Oakland, which has the 5th pick overall, is also checking out this year’s top prospects at the position; however, whether the acquisition of a veteran like Schaub would lead the Raiders to look at other positions with their top pick is unclear …

    Meanwhile, Philadelphia is reportedly ‘listening’ to offers for WR DeSean Jackson and are reportedly looking for a 3rd round pick in return …

    February 27

    This and that from around the league … While South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney was the biggest story of the combine after he ran a 4.53 40 to firmly establish himself as the top prospect, at least in terms of physical tools, for the upcoming draft. The best performance this past weekend though was turned in by Pitt DT Aaron Donald. College football's defensive player of the year in 2013 had been something of an enigma for pro scouts as he lacks prototype size for an interior defensive linemen which was reinforced when he measured in at the combine at just over 6-0 feet even and 285 pounds. However, Donald was a revelation when the DL hit the field on Monday as he ran under 4.70 in the 40 with a quick sub-1.60 second 10-yard split and then posted numbers that were near the top of the pack among the DEs in the other tests. All that after Donald was among the leaders along the defensive front in the bench press with 35 reps. It is still not clear, though, how all this will play out among NFL personnel people such that he could be one the real wild cards in the opening round of the upcoming draft and there is growing speculation that several teams with mid-first round picks including the Giants (12th pick), Chicago (14th) and Dallas (16th) are giving Donald serious second and third looks after his dominating week in Indianapolis. However, with Hakeem Nicks expected to leave via free agency before the draft, the Giants are also believed to be adding an impact receiver and are intrigued by both Texas A&M WR Mike Evans and North Carolina TE Eric Ebron; and that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as both appear to be fall in that second tier of prospects for this year’s draft right after the top 10-11 guys. Meanwhile, Baltimore, which picks 17th hasn’t done much to hide the fact that they will also be looking hard at receivers in this year’s opening rounds and one guy who could very well be on the radar is Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, who like Pitt's Donald had a sensational combine which may put aside worries on the part of NFL team's about his lack of size. Cooks had an unreal season in 2013 when he caught 128 passes for over 1,700 yards and 16 TDs for the Beavers, but was only considered to be a second round type prospect because of his relatively small stature (5-9.5, 189). However, Cooks may have put a lot of that out to pasture afetr turning a truly dynamic combine in which he ran a 4.33 40, along with a 36" vertical and a remarkably quick 3.81 short shuttle run. For good measure, Cooks then went out and continued to look smooth and explosive in the passing drills where he caught everything thrown his fast and was just fast doing everything.

    He remains the most polarizing player in the 2014 draft, but there are reports that Oakland was impressed with Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel during interviews at the combine. That follows reports that Jacksonville also had a good interview with the former Aggies’ star. It is still not clear who the top-rated QB is on the majority of boards around the league, but it is clear that Manziel is at least still in the discussion; and reading between the tea leaves it appears that UCF’s Blake Bortles is the other QB in the 1-2 discussion at the position despite the fact that he didn‘t blow away anyone with his arm strength when he threw at last week‘s combine, while Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville could be #3. Tomorrow, though it could all change because it still appears to be that close with all three still to go through full workouts at their respective pro days. And just to complicate things, Dan Jeremiah of the NFL Network is reporting that Cleveland, which has the 4th pick overall, is actually interested in Fresno State’s Derek Carr rather than the other three. Remember that just before the combine that new Browns’ GM Ray Farmer said that he knew the QB Cleveland would be taking and hinted that it would be a bit of a surprise. If the report is true it begs the question do the Browns take Carr at #4 or use that pick to take a top positional player and then try and trade back up into the opening round from the 26th pick the Browns acquired from Indianapolis in exchange for RB Trent Richardson  ...

    The buzz around the NFL is that this year’s salary cap could actually end up being higher than even the $132M figure that was reported last week; for the record, last year’s cap was just over $120M …

    Northern Illinois FS Jimmie Ward, one of the rising stars at the position for the upcoming draft, did not participate in on-field drills with the other defensive backs after being diagnosed with a foot injury; however the injury is not believed to be serious.Meanwhile, wile former Vanderbilt teammate Jordan Matthews had a great combine that included a quite unexpected 4.46 40 clocking, former Commodores' WR Chris Boyd appeared to almost run himself out of the draft when he clocked a very disappointing 4.73 40 time. Now his agent says Boyd had suffered a quad injury in training, wasn’t 100%, and hopes to significantly improve on that time at the school‘s pro day next month ...

    There is growing speculation around the league that Tampa Bay could attempt to trade CB Darrelle Revis once the new football year starts on March 11th. When healthy, Revis is arguably the best man coverage corner in the NFL, but new Bucs’ head coach Lovie Smith has been more a Cover-2 type throughout his career; and if the Bucs are abe to move Revis prior to March 13th they would only owe the Jets a 4th round pick in the upcoming draft, whereas if Revis is still on the roster by that date, the pick escalates to a 3rd rounder. Certainly, if the Bucs are to keep Revis they will have to find away to rework his contract which calls for $16M this coming season … 

    There is growing concern over the whereabouts of former San Diego State RB Adam Muema who upped and left the combine before the positional workout saying that God had told him that if he left town he’d end up playing for Seattle his favorite team. Muema did fly to Florida, where his training base is located, after leaving the combine, but he never showed up and friends and colleagues are getting a little worried ... .

    Cute story out of the combine where recently dismissed Cleveland G.M. Mike Lombardi was seen in the Patriots’ booth flipping through a file with a Browns’ logo on it; that led to speculation that part of Lombardi’s severance package was the stipulation that he share some of the Browns’ scouting material with other teams as their drafts haven’t been that productive of late …

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