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Four smokescreens we aren't buying before the draft

The NFL turns lying into an art form during draft season. General managers, coaches and scouts are so good at it that they wouldn't even admit it's lying.

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Lies have been rebranded "misinformation." Obscuring the truth ... that's just strategic. Ignoring specific questions at press conferences is simply good business.

Speaking vaguely in public is one thing, but teams and agents also go out of their way to set up smokescreens through sourced rumors during draft season. They leak potentially helpful information (about players, teams and everything in between), and then see which reporters will go for the information. The value of such strategy is dubious, but what else are teams going to do with all their time? They figure it can't hurt.

Smokescreens can be created through a long campaign of private misinformation or by showing public interest. With that in mind, here are four smokescreens from the 2014 draft season that we aren't buying.

St. Louis Rams want Johnny Manziel

The whispers on this story started a while ago. We wrote about the Rams' rumored interest in Manziel three weeks ago. Like a lot of long-game smokescreens, the volume on the story has turned up considerably as the draft approaches.

It doesn't pass the sniff test. If the Rams were really interested in making a franchise-altering decision, they would do everything possible to keep it quiet. They would stand by their public affection for Sam Bradford, go about their business, let the Texans take Jadeveon Clowney and grab the Rams' new franchise quarterback at No. 2. That hasn't happened.

The Rams' top power brokers met with Manziel at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, kicking lower level staffers out of the room, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. The Ramsworked out Manziel last week. This all feels too choreographed, too public.

Instead, plenty of smart analysts and reporters that have spoken with the Rams have come away with the belief that their interest in Manziel was real. By keeping it all off the record, the Rams preserve plausible deniability when it comes to Bradford. (It's just media speculation! We said we love Bradford the whole time!)

The steady, increasing Manziel-Rams connection theoretically raises the value of the No. 2 pick. Any team that wants Manziel would have to hop ahead of QB-needy Jacksonville and Cleveland to ensure it gets Johnny Football.

I want to live in a world where the Rams take Manziel and then deal Sam Bradford in a blockbuster move. (Let's just throw Brian Schottenheimer in the trade while we're at it.) This is a world where Manziel takes on the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals defenses six times a year. This is a fun world to live in, full of draft-night fireworks that deliver on all the pre-draft hype. It's just too fun to believe.

  • -- Gregg Rosenthal *

Philadelphia Eagles are in the mix for Manziel

There is reportedly a buzz making the rounds in league circles that Philadelphia is interested in Manziel.

Manziel originally committed to play for coach Chip Kelly at Oregon before backing out and going to Texas A&M. Acknowledging that Manziel is "tailor made" for his offense, Kelly recently said the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner "broke my heart."

"I love the kid," Kelly added, via CSN Philly. "I think he's a hell of a football player."

If the Rams are serious about Manziel and the Brownswon't let Johnny Football get past them at No. 4 overall, the Eagles would have to surrender a mountain of draft picks to move up to top of the draft.

As if that wasn't enough of a deterrent, Kelly would also have to throw in the towel on Nick Foles, who ran the Eagles' offense to perfection after taking over for Michael Vick last season.

There's no denying Kelly's interest in Manziel. But does that interest translate into a blockbuster move up the draft board? It doesn't pass the smell test.

-- Chris Wesseling

Cleveland Browns plan to wait before drafting QB

Mike Pettine said last week that, in an "ideal situation," the Browns would take a positional player at No. 4 and a quarterback later in the draft. To hear Pettine explain it, starting a QB as a rookie is asking for trouble in the hyper-competitive NFL.

Of course, even more trouble awaits the franchise that has no quarterback at all. That's where the Browns are now, with the unproven Brian Hoyer coming off knee surgery and Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen simply hoping to latch on to the back end of an NFL roster.

Manziel is exactly the type of player this franchise has been missing since it rematerialized in 1999. I think the Browns know this, and they're doing everything in their power to keep teams from making a play to jump ahead of them in the draft.

  • -- Dan Hanzus *

Cincinnati Bengals could take Teddy Bridgewater in Round 1

We're supposed to believe a team coming off three straight playoff appearances would eschew the chance to add an immediate starter to a defense in need of upgrades at corner and D-line and instead draft a player who, according to some, might have just as many question marks as Andy Dalton?

Sorry, not buying it.

Bridgewater might be on the positive side of the "After Dalton" scale, but drafting a first-round quarterback doesn't make sense for a team that could win the division again with the help of the right first-round pick.

The Bengals should draft a quarterback who might eventually take over for Dalton -- but not in the first round. This has the feeling of a message directed at Dalton and his agent, telling them to lower the asking price on a contract extension.

  • -- Kevin Patra*

The latest "Around The League Podcast" breaks down draft news and rumors and predicts headlines for the week.

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