Five smokescreens to watch out for ahead of NFL draft

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  • By Around The NFL staff NFL.com
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Draft season is lying season. And those lies inevitably start showing up in the media during the week before the draft whether it's through unnamed sources or news conference misdirection. Here are five smokescreens we aren't buying as Thursday's draft approaches:

Christian Hackenberg could be a first-round pick


2016 NFL DRAFT

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These sort of rumors elevating a random quarterback prospect seem to pop up every year during draft week. Sometimes that buzz is right -- Christian Ponder rose up the board in 2011. Sometimes that buzz is laughably off -- remember when Ryan Nassib was supposed to be a top-10 pick?

The two names that have been elevated in recent days: Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg. We could see Cook sliding into the back of the first round, but Hackenberg is much harder to buy. We've seen reports that the Bills will consider Hackenberg at No. 19 despite the rough tape he's put up over the last two seasons and legitimate concerns about Hackenberg's leadership ability. NFL analyst Jon Gruden similarly said he'd take Hackenberg in the first round. Just "looking the part" shouldn't be enough to get taken in the first round, although it was for another Bills first-round quarterback: J.P. Losman. --Gregg Rosenthal

Saints with first-round designs on Drew Brees successor


On Tuesday, Drew Brees told The Rich Eisen Show he doubted the New Orleans Saints considered making a move for the No. 1 pick, dismissing an NFL Media report that New Orleans had internal discussions about a mega-trade with the Tennessee Titans. Now we're hearing the Saints could have interest in moving up from No. 12 to grab Paxton Lynch, the tools-rich Memphis passer widely believed to be the best quarterback in this class after Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

There's logic to all this, of course. Brees is coming off another productive season, but he's now 37 years old. Garrett Grayson, a quarterback selected in the third round a year ago, hasn't generated positive buzz. Selecting a QB of the future makes sense, but the Saints are also trying to win in Brees' twilight, which means the team is better served addressing other areas of need. If anything, we could see New Orleans using this QB smokescreen as a way to acquire more picks in a trade-out scenario. -- Dan Hanzus

Dolphins 'comfortable' with backfield? Try again


New Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said he's "comfortable" with Miami's backfield. Don't believe a word of it.

The depth chart -- Jay Ajayi, Damien Williams, Jahwan Edwards, Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead -- is missing a lead dog, something the 'Fins must agree with after swinging and missing on both C.J. Anderson and Chris Johnson in free agency. Ajayi showed sparks as a rookie, but will new coach Adam Gase trust the second-year runner to carry the load? Don't bank on it. Armed with the No. 13 pick, Miami remains a candidate to trade up -- maybe with the Browns at No. 8 -- for Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott.

If that doesn't happen, Grier and football czar Mike Tannenbaum will grab help soon after. Round 2 could bring Alabama's Derrick Henry or Utah's Devontae Booker to South Beach. Sitting put, though, is not an option. -- Marc Sessler

Ezekiel Elliott to Dallas


Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones believes Ezekiel Elliott is worthy of a top-10 pick. Dallas has been connected to the Ohio State running back throughout mock-draft season. I'm not buying it. The Cowboys added veteran Alfred Morris to the backfield after watching Darren McFadden post more 100-yard rushing games than any NFL back except Adrian Peterson in 2015.

When owner Jerry Jones opted against signing DeMarco Murray to a mega contract last offseason, he espoused a belief that investing too heavily in one running back "might not be the way to go." This team has too many needs to splurge on the backfield. -- Chris Wesseling

A massive drop for Laremy Tunsil?


In recent days, reports have surfaced about Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley rising on teams' draft boards. Some analysts have preferred him to Laremy Tunsil, considered by many as the No. 1 overall prospect in this year's draft. Tunsil is still No. 1 on NFL Media senior columnist Gil Brandt's Hot 100 rankings and is the top tackle on NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock's latest positional breakdown. We aren't challenging those takes, but we are challenging the notion that a player's stock could rise or fall this rapidly just before the draft at a position like left tackle. Does it happen? Sure. But if a team like the Chargers preferred Stanley to Tunsil, wouldn't that have been the case all along? Left tackle isn't like quarterback, there aren't as many variables to measure.

Some of this is just now coming to light thanks to the Eagles and Rams shaking up the draft. The Chargers probably did not expect to be in the position to draft the top tackle available back in February during the scouting combine. Now they can, and they now prefer Stanley. This won't mean a huge drop for Tunsil if at all -- players who are this consistently rated the No. 1 prospect in the draft rarely bomb out of the top 10 without the help of some off-field incident. -- Conor Orr

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