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

    2014 DRAFT BUZZ

by Colin Lindsay
GBN Editor and Publisher

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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