LYING SEASON: FACT OR FICTION?
By Simon Carroll
The NFL Draft is a mere week away, and teams are happily allowing rumours to spread like wildfire. It’s the time of year to trust nothing and nobody – Simon Carroll investigates:
Lying. We all do it right? Growing up, my mother told me never to tell lies. She said that she’d be able to tell because my tongue would turn yellow. I still did it – coming from someone who also told me that eating bread crusts would make my hair curl and sitting too close to the television set would give me square eyes, I was inclined to believe she was misinformed. I didn’t open my mouth afterwards though. You can never be too careful…
Now, as a fully-fledged adult myself, I’ve come to the realisation that my mother was lying to manipulate me. It’s a lesson that 32 NFL front offices have learnt well from – the closer we get to the NFL Draft, the more spurious information gets disseminated amongst the media. Friends tell other friends untruths in order to give their team an advantage in the battle for the best talent – and often with complete disregard for the reputation of the reporter. Using words such as ‘smokescreen’ just puts a pretty slant on an ugly world where deception rules and honesty is for suckers. Welcome to lying season folks – the dark art of the NFL Draft.
So let’s determine the fact from fiction. I’ve compiled a number of draft ‘rumours’ together, and adding some context to each claim will give my verdict on whether to believe it or not. Ultimately, we’ll find out who the best liars in the NFL are in a week’s time.
49ERS 'LIKELY TO SHOP A FIRST ROUND PICK'
Let’s start with an easy one. Following DeForest Buckner’s trade to The Colts last month, Adam Schefter reported that John Lynch will be open for business with one of his two first round draft choices:
After today’s trade for the No. 13 overall pick, the 49ers now have two first-round picks.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2020
Without second-, third-, and fourth-round picks, the 49ers are likely to shop one of their first-round picks to pick up more draft compensation.
It’s a fair assessment. The aggressive nature that Lynch took in stockpiling the 49ers with talent for Kyle Shanahan has left them bereft of middle-round draft picks. They select at #31 right at the end of the first round, and have to wait until #156 before they’re back on the board again. With some very definite and immediate needs at corner, receiver and in both trenches, trading back in the first and adding some second and third round selections makes complete sense.
The question is, which pick to trade back? Obviously the #13 pick is the premium option, and if they can resist taking one of the elite pass catchers in this draft could be a very attractive spot for others to trade up and grab a Lamb, Jeudy or Ruggs. Passing up on talent like that at a position of need is a big ask, and they would likely have to be offered a king’s ransom to part with the pick. #31 may be more likely, with teams like the Colts moving into round one to grab a quarterback a real possibility. The compensation would be markedly less, and as with any trade they’d need to find a willing partner, but San Fran definitely have the capital and need to be open for business on day one.
DOLPHINS TO ‘MAKE AN ATTEMPT TO TRADE TO #1’
Talk about blockbuster moves. Dolphins’ oracle Armando Salguero reported back in late March that Miami might be ready to mortgage the house in order to move up to the top spot in the draft:
Jaw-dropping. An obvious assumption is that Chris Grier would be manoeuvring up to go and grab Joe Burrow – the consensus top quarterback and #1 pick in this draft class. After all – The Dolphins very much are in the market for a franchise quarterback, and if the other QB’s don’t tick the boxes then why not go and get THE guy?
It would likely cost the Dolphins all three of their first round selections this year and one of their first round picks in 2021. A steep price to move up four spots, but it’s a seller’s market and The Bengals need a quarterback themselves. The cost seems far too prohibitive to me considering how many holes in this roster Brian Flores needs to fill. And as Salguero sagely points out, there’s no guarantee Burrow is the best quarterback in this class, even if the majority of the scouting world (myself included) believe he is.
To me, this smacks more of due diligence than an insatiable desire to go get Burrow. Sitting at five it’s probably in Miami’s best interests to keep the whole world guessing. Chalk this one up as a long shot at best folks.
PATRIOTS 'FIRMLY IN THE MIX FOR A QUARTERBACK'
The defection of Tom Brady to Tampa has left us all wondering what The Patriots are going to do at quarterback. And of course, in true Belichickian fashion, New England have offered no explanation outside of bringing in Brian Hoyer. A QB room of Hoyer, Jarrett Sitdham and Kody Kessler is fooling nobody – be it free agency, trade or draft, Belichick is far from done at the position.
So yeah – Ian Rapoport is hardly pulling up any trees by suggesting they’re after a new signal-caller. But listen carefully to his chat with Rich Eisen and the NFL Network insider says they’re willing to use a ‘premium pick’ to address the need. With no second round selection that refers to their choice at #23, a trade notwithstanding.
We know two things about The Patriots and their roster-building philosophy under Bill Belichick – they don’t do anything unless it proves excellent value for the organisation, and expect the unexpected. Sitting late in the first round they are very much in a prime position to move up or down this draft board, making a prediction even more difficult than usual. With reports out there that they’re in love with prospects ranging in draft stock from Justin Herbert (first round) to Ben DiNucci (UDFA) you certainly won’t find me second-guessing what the old curmudgeon is going to do next week.
LIONS 'LOOKING AT QUARTERBACK OPTIONS'
Last Friday Mike Garafolo reported that the Lions had conducted a virtual interview with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Since then we also know they’ve held a similar meeting with Justin Herbert. At first glance it seems improbable that Detroit – a team with a lot of work to do to be competitive in the NFC North – would be moving on from Matthew Stafford. Stafford has been one of the few reasons that The Lions haven’t been a total embarrassment the last decade, often dragging his team to 4th quarter comeback wins and improbable playoff berths:
Despite all that, Stafford is injury-prone. He’s broken a number of bones in his back, which may sound more concerning than it probably is but has still sidelined him for multiple games in multiple seasons. If they can’t rely on their gunslinger to be on the field they have no hope of competing with Aaron Rodgers. Would they really consider moving on from him?
Probably not. This has the whiff of trying to generate trade interest, with a couple of pleasing scenarios for Detroit. Firstly, they are acutely aware that The Dolphins and Chargers could be in a battle for Tua. If that’s the case, suggesting they’ll take him may encourage one of them to trade for their #3 pick and allow them to move down the board. With The Lions eyeing cornerback Jeff Okudah, they’ll be able to garner more draft picks and still get their preferred player.
Alternatively, they could be so convincing that teams offer the world to Washington for the pick ahead of them. If this happened they’d see Chase Young drop right into their laps, giving them the consensus best player in this draft. Call me a cynic, but if you were given a remote shot at Young I’m pretty sure you’d orchestrate a sham quarterback search too. Expect to see Stafford in Honolulu blue next year.
MOVING ON UP?
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported on Monday that three teams – The Broncos, Buccaneers and Falcons – have all expressed interest in moving up in the first round. Whether or not he’s just connected the dots or actually heard bonafide information is uncertain, but I like the way he’s thinking…
Denver currently sit at #15, very much on the outside looking in for one of the elite three receivers already discussed. In order to get their weapon of choice they’d like to jump above The Raiders, Jaguars, Jets and 49ers, who could also be in the market. With some extra capital from the trade back last year they have the means to do so.
The Buccaneers are all in on Tom Brady, and will be looking to protect their new quarterback. Similarly to The Broncos they may fancy moving up the board and leap-frogging the likes of The Browns, Jets and maybe the Cardinals to grab one of the top-end offensive tackles. It’s hughly unlikely that Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, Andrew Thomas or Mekhi Becton falls to them at fourteen.
And as for the Falcons, history tells us that Thomas Dimitroff is not shy in moving up for talent. In 2011 they gave Cleveland FIVE draft picks to move up from 27 to 6 and grab Julio Jones, a ballsy trade when they had other needs to fill. Likely focusing on defense, they could be after the likes of cornerback CJ Henderson, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw or edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson who might not make it to them at sixteen.
It looks like Peter King called in a few favours this week, emptying his confidential text messages into his latest Football Morning in America article. Here he takes a look at each pick and offers tidbits to what he’s heard through his spider’s web of contacts in the league. Let’s take a look at three of them:
Chargers prefer Justin Herbert to Tua Tagovailoa: Based on a ‘GM friend of Tom Teleseco’, King states that the Chargers General Manager is very high on Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. He did offer the caveat that Anthony Lynn is bullish on starting Tyrod Taylor. Regardless if they select Herbert or not, it’s in The Chargers best interest to keep people guessing at the position. If they want Tua, saying they love Herbert helps them. If they end up with Herbert, they look like they got the guy they wanted. And if they pass at #6, then they can look at the position in the second round, roll with Taylor or check out someone like Cam Newton. Keeping their cards close to their chest is the name of the game.
Jaguars all-in on Gardner Minshew: He knows a lot of friends of General Managers doesn’t he! Someone close to Dave Caldwell tells King that ‘they really want to give Gardner Minshew a real shot’ as the starting quarterback in Jacksonville. Sounds plausible – the fans favourite exceeded all expectations as a late round pick from Washington State last year, for the most part outplaying Nick Foles and striking up a nice connection with DJ Chark. He’s still an unknown with no guarantees, but at the very least was a nice surprise for the Jaguars in another disappointing season in Duval County.
But is it true? Yeah, why not. At the very least if they want to bring in some insurance I’d expect it to be in the form of a veteran – maybe Jameis Winston or possibly a late-round trade for someone like Josh Rosen. With such a thin roster, particularly on defense, if Caldwell can avoid spending a pick on a quarterback then he will. A rare bit of honesty at this time of year!
Cowboys love Cesar Ruiz: I’m not sure what a ‘personnel wag’ is (I assume it’s not Jerry Jones’ glamorous partner), but the Cowboys being infatuated with the Michigan Center makes all the sense in the world. Dallas sadly lost Travis Frederick to retirement this offseason, the veteran accepting defeat in his battle to overcome Guilian-Barre Syndrome after 18 months trying to control the illness. The fit of Ruiz in this offense is perfect, and I even concur with the notion that they’d need to trade down from #17 to get him in a more reasonable range. That’s exactly what I did in my latest seven round mock draft. I’m all-in on this rumour.
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.