Don't be fooled by what teams say about draft prospects

As the NFL draft draws closer next week, understand that this is when we will begin hearing about teams wanting to trade up or down, or targeting a certain player or position.

To which I say: Believe none of it.

Most teams are just posturing in an attempt to improve their options and create more leverage once they are on the clock. And the best way to create leverage is to make teams at least think they have options.

Latest mocks all in one place

Teams are putting the finishing touches on their draft plans, and so are NFL.com and NFL Network experts with their mocks. Find out the latest in Mock Draft Central.

Deception plays a huge role in the draft. The key, as a general manager, is the ability to peel away what is deception and what is real.

Many teams know who they want to draft come April 28, or at least have a cluster of players who could be available when they pick. Some teams, such as the Bengals, target certain positions in each round, meaning they know with a high degree of certainty which player they will select.

So when it comes to draft strategy at this point, put it this way: Every team has formulated their plan for the first round. All that is left is their execution and continuing attempt to deceive.

What I know

» In spite of all the perceived off-the-field issues, many of them not accurate, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett will be a first-round pick and might be gone before the 15th overall. Teams that wanted to pick Mallett at the bottom of the first round now realize he is not going to reach them.

» The Bengals want to pick a receiver in the first round, and then take a quarterback in the second. It would not shock me that, even if Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green was off the board when Cincinnati was on the clock, the Bengals would stick with their plan and select Alabama's Julio Jones fourth overall. The Bengals designate specific positions for each round, and their first round is being used for a wide receiver.

» Whether the Cowboys move up or down or actually stay at No. 9, the one certainty is they will pick a player with a high level of character. I know that Dez Bryant has tried the Cowboys' patience all year, from his immaturity to his inability to learn the offense. This year, Dallas will go in the opposite direction of where it went last year.

» Tyron Smith of USC is clearly the best offensive tackle prospect in the draft and should be off the board sometime in the top 10. If he is still available by then, there will be teams picking in the teens that will be willing to move up to acquire this young, athletic player.

» In spite of denials from his agent, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley is not viewed as a hard worker by many teams. More than one team picking in the top 10 has told me that he would be a risk to take that high.

What I'm hearing and thinking

» Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones had an impressive workout, and many teams view him as a Chris Johnson-type back. Jones has durability issues but is an explosive player who can make big plays in the run or passing game.

» The Redskins have been extremely quiet this offseason, and many teams think they will pick a quarterback in the first round. My source who shared this with me did not think it would be Washington's Jake Locker, but rather Mallett. We shall see.

» I keep hearing that four quarterbacks will be picked in the first round, but I'm not sold on who will be the fourth. I do know there will be three -- just not sure another is in the mix.

» Many teams are telling me the Rams aren't a lock to select a wide receiver in the first round, in part, because St. Louis has many other needs. Offensive and defensive lines might be a larger concern.

» The Bills signed outside linebacker Shawne Merriman to an extension before the lockout went into effect. And since general manager Buddy Nix was an assistant in San Diego when the Chargers selected Merriman in 2005, it's hard for me to see the Bills picking Texas A&M's Von Miller at No. 3. With Merriman and Chris Kelsay already signed to long-term deals to play off the edge, where would Miller fit?

» I keep hearing the Cardinals want to sign Marc Bulger once the lockout ends and that Bulger wants to sign with Arizona, too. Does this mean the Cards won't select a QB in the first round? Maybe.

» I'm not buying that Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson is a top-20 pick, but I am buying that North Carolina's Marvin Austin is one of the most talented players in the draft. Austin is closer to Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, in terms of talent, than many people might suspect.

» North Carolina outside linebacker Bruce Carter is going to be a great pro once he recovers from his knee injury. Teams might pass on him because of the knee, but two years from now many are going to wish they had selected him.

Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi

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