Draft buzz: Niners running a QB smokescreen?


Draft week has arrived. As of Monday morning, the NFL's lying season has escalated to full-throttle mode. Smokescreens, baits-and-switches and posturing are the order of the day, as teams attempt to manufacture demand for their draft slot.

It's no surprise that the 49ers are in the thick of the rumor mill.

Reporting from San Francisco's draft headquarters, NFL Network's Steve Wyche relayed general manager John Lynch's message that the Niners have "zeroed in" on two or three players if they stay put at No. 2.

"Right now, everybody is making assumptions," Lynch responded when Wyche asked if quarterback might be a realistic option in the first round. "It's air-tight here in this building."

The lone exception, then, was NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport's Monday morning scoop, via several sources with knowledge of the team's thinking, that the 49ers are strongly considering taking a quarterback with the draft's second overall pick.

That strategically placed leak comes two months after new coach Kyle Shanahan stressed the importance of patience at the position, "not trying to commit everything to one year."

Shanahan inherited one of the most depleted rosters in the league. He understands he doesn't have the luxury of reaching for a developmental prospect when impact players are available so early in the draft.

One thing Shanahan and Lynch do have in their corner is intrigue. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote Monday that he can't remember a year with so much uncertainty at No. 2.

Would North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky be a good fit in Shanahan's offense? Yes. All the better for a smokescreen masquerading as a "For Sale" sign:

With just a few days to go before the April 27-29 draft in Philadelphia, we'll be tracking all of the latest buzz. Check back each day for more updated nuggets like the ones below:

1. Earlier this month, NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala reported that Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert "loves" Jabrill Peppers with the No. 30 overall pick in the draft. The chances of Michigan's hybrid standout dropping to the end of the first round increased Monday.

Peppers tested positive for a dilute sample at the NFL Scouting Combine, per Rapoport. The failed test means Peppers will begin his pro career in the NFL's drug program, along with Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. Even before Monday news, Good Morning Football's Peter Schrager noted, Peppers was not expected to be a top-15 pick.

2. Will Baltimore pull the trigger on a first-round offensive lineman for the second consecutive year? The Ravens have visions of building a dominant offensive line by using the Cowboys' blueprint, according to The Baltimore Sun.

3. General manager Jason Licht has done so well in the draft and free agency the past couple years that the Buccaneers now have the luxury of selecting the proverbial best player available with the No. 19 overall pick. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes that player might be Miami tight end David Njoku.

4. At the other end of the spectrum, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan can afford to take the same best-player approach because he needs help at nearly every position. One long-standing beat writer believes LSU safety Jamal Adams won't get past Maccagnan with the draft's sixth overall pick.

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5. It's no secret that the Panthers are in the market for a running back, but the one they are targeting might surprise draftniks. Jeremiah has been hearing lately that Carolina might opt for Stanford's running back/receiver hybrid Christian McCaffrey over LSU power back Leonard Fournette if both are on the board at No. 8 overall.

6. While several teams in the top half of the draft are trying to trade down, Jeremiah believes the Titans will succeed in their efforts. If they can trade out of No. 5 or No. 18, they can regain their missing second-round pick and still pick up an impact defensive player and a wide receiver in the first round. If Tennessee does stay put with the fifth overall pick, Schrager highlights Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore and Alabama tight end O.J. Howard as names to watch.

7. Speaking of first-round cornerbacks, one general manager told Schrager that he would be "shocked" if Alabama's Marlon Humphrey isn't selected in the draft's top 20 picks.

8. Rapoport reported weeks ago that quarterback-needy teams had all but given up hope on the possibility of prying Jimmy Garoppolo away from a Patriots team intent on keeping its premium Tom Brady insurance. Why is New England drawing such a hard line on Garoppolo? It's for peace of mind in a Super Bowl window, knowing that the franchise tag is a viable option for 2018. As one Patriots source recently explained to the Boston Herald, they know how hard it is to draft and develop one legitimate quarterback, let alone losing Garoppolo and finding success a second time.

Watch the NFL Draft LIVE on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network