The time of great misinformation is upon us. A week out from the 2012 NFL Draft, the spin masters, be they general managers, scouts, coaches or agents, are hard at work, trying to steer the pre-draft chatter in a manner which is most conducive to their draft board, or client.
And in this era of social media, it's never been easier to start a rumor that just might catch on. With that in mind, here are 10 thoughts on the draft as we get closer and closer to Commissioner Roger Goodell calling out Andrew Luck's name to kick it all off from Radio City Music Hall.
Wish I had a dollar for every time a front office person or agent uttered something along the lines of "It all starts with Tannehill" or "Tannehill is the swing player in this draft." We already know what's happening with the first two picks, so draft intrigue really begins with the Minnesota Vikings at No. 3 -- more on the Vikings in the next item -- and whether someone would try to jump the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 for Tannehill or RB Trent Richardson.
Brooks: Prospect tiers
There are three tiers of top-end prospects: elites, blue chips and red chips. Bucky Brooks breaks down the 2012 class.
The Browns are considering Tannehill with the fourth pick. He is going in the top 11, this much I am convinced of (and so is everyone else I've talked to). So No. 4 isn't a big stretch. It's highly unlikely he'd get past the Miami Dolphins at 8, but if somehow he did, the Kansas City Chiefs would snag him at 11. If Tannehill goes in the top four, then pass rushers and corners start going lower and things slide down. And if Tannehill goes in the top four, a corresponding run on quarterbacks in the late first/early second becomes all the more likely -- similar to how we saw teams jockeying in trades trying to land Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick a year ago. Prepare for more of that, with guys like Brandon Weeden and Kirk Cousins as possible targets.
All eyes are on Tannehill, and if his name is called as early as I think it will be next Thursday, the ripple effects will be very real.
If you are in the top 10, and you already have a quarterback, you want nothing more than to see this early run. For example, few teams would love to see Tannehill go in the top four more than Carolina Panthers GM Marty Hurney. The Panthers pick ninth and already have a stud QB in Cam Newton. If three quarterbacks go in the top four, then in reality Hurney has the sixth overall pick, because he wouldn't take a quarterback in any circumstance.
Throw in an RB like Richardson, who wouldn't fit the Panthers, going in the top five ... All of a sudden there could be a scenario where Quinton Coples, a freak-of-nature-type athlete off the edge, and Morris Claiborne, the top corner in the draft, are both sitting there for the taking at the ninth overall pick.
3. A St. Louis surprise?
I'm looking at the St. Louis Rams, who possess the sixth overall pick, as one of the teams that could throw a major curveball. Conventional wisdom has them taking Richardson, who coach Jeff Fisher has gushed about, Claiborne or a wide receiver. But look back on Fisher's time in Tennessee. Few teams loaded up on more defensive linemen than Fisher's Titans. Richardson is special, but the Rams still have Steven Jackson. Plus, we're in an age of devaluing running backs and they abound in the middle rounds and late stages of free agency. Claiborne is special ... but the Rams just gave Cortland Finnegan $33 million over the next three years. And sure, they need weapons for Sam Bradford, but this draft is deepest at wide receiver -- the Rams can find a starting wideout at the top of the second round.
What you won't find outside of the top of the draft is a game-changing interior defensive lineman. And it says here Fletcher Cox is the guy for the Rams. The Mississippi State defensive tackle is exactly the kind of guy Jim Washburn, Fisher's longtime defensive line coach in Tennessee, would covet. (And I'm convinced that if the Philadelphia Eagles, Washburn's current employer, did trade up, it would be for Cox.) In fact, I could see a scenario where the Jacksonville Jaguars, picking seventh and sorely in need of a wide receiver, have their pick of Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd. (According to sources, they'd lean toward Blackmon.)
4. Which Kalil rumor is true?
There is no middle ground here. And it seems pretty close. If I've had five GMs tell me Kalil is absolutely, positively the pick there, then I've had at least as many say the exact opposite. So, kudos to the Vikings because I suppose this is the dream scenario for a club. Whether or not Kalil is a perennial Pro Bowler in the making, the Vikings remain open for business on the trade front. They need help all over and accruing picks makes sense. If they can't find a trade partner to give them the value they covet, then I'd still give them Kalil if forced to mock this draft. Maybe some of this dichotomy is born of the fact that the first two picks are already in the bag and Kalil seemed like such a no-brainer for the Vikings, but there are agents for other offensive linemen in this draft who are adamant that Minnesota is not as all-in on Kalil as some would have you believe.
5. There shall be trades!
Casserly: Draft's hottest prospect
Teams are looking to jettison some veteran talent before May. Philadelphia has shopped Asante Samuel for ages, Washington wants to move Jabar Gaffney, and Osi Umenyiora would still be very open to a change of scenery. That's enough to create some action. With everyone seeing last year just how fixed the cost certainty is on these drafts picks in the new collective bargaining agreement, I'm bracing for all kinds of wheeling and dealing. Especially with so much time to make deals Thursday, and so much more time to make moves before the start of Round 2 on Friday.
As mentioned above, the Vikings' No. 3 pick is in play. The New England Patriots are widely expected to move at least one of their late first-round picks. Jacksonville, especially in the aforementioned scenario with both top receivers still on the board at No. 7, would love for someone to come calling to try to jump Miami for Tannehill. Sources tell me both the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals are interested in moving back, given the offensive line depth in this draft (a need for both clubs). Philadelphia, at No. 15, is poised to move up or back, depending on what happens at the top of the draft.
And as the start of Round 2 approaches, there will be supply-vs.-demand issues at a few key positions that will kick-start shuffling at the beginning of Friday night.
6. NFC East grudge match
If LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers makes it to the middle of the first round, he's a player Dallas (14th) and Philadelphia (one pick later) are very high on. Would one of them try to move into Arizona's spot at 13 to make sure they land him? It's one of the interesting flashpoints in this draft -- you're talking about two aggressive front offices that could be in direct competition for a player.
I can't see a scenario where the Lionsdon't take Dre Kirkpatrick or Stephon Gilmore if one is available when they pick (Detroit currently holds the 23rd selection). There are offensive linemen the Lions like, as well, but they passed on DB help early last year and lost Eric Wright in free agency. Not to mention, they play in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler -- that accounts for a quarter of their schedule every year. The pass rush is there ... they need the back end to hold up.
8. Janoris in Round 1
Few players have been as scrutinized leading up to this draft as Northern Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins. He's been the subject of scorn and intrigue. In the end, despite all the disconcerting stories about him and his dismissal from Florida, the talent is there. Cover corners are very rare. A year ago, Jimmy Smith was in a similar spot and still went in the first round.
Now, Jenkins isn't as big as Smith. But it's very possible we see five corners come off the board in the first round. Georgia's Brandon Boykin is generating a lot of buzz, too. He can play four spots (corner, nickel corner, return specialist, and some teams see Wildcat potential in him, as well). Wouldn't be shocked if he is the fourth corner taken in the draft.
9. Late linemen
Wyche: Mock Draft 3.0
The Houston Texans and New York Giants, picking late in the first round, will both be looking for the best offensive lineman available. In general, there could be a run on them in the 20s, with Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Baltimore and San Francisco spending a lot of time scouting that position group, as well. I could see players like Stanford OT Jonathan Martin, Ohio State OT Mike Adams, Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler and Midwestern State OG Amini Silatolu flying off the board in a flurry there. In terms of the buzz around Wisconsin C Peter Konz ... I'm not sure a center goes that high. And several teams I've talked to don't believe Delaware's Gino Gradkowski or Georgia's Ben Jones grade too far behind him and could be better value a little deeper down Day 2.
10. Late riser
You don't hear much about Marshall DE Vinny Curry, but could he be the second outside rusher selected? Wouldn't shock me. He's raw, but teams are very interested. He had 13 visits, and late private workouts with teams like the Jets, Lions and Eagles. He could be in play starting around No. 14, depending on what happens up top. He's someone a lot of teams wanted to spend some time with and learn a little more about. Knocks have emerged on other defensive ends over time. I can't help but wonder if Curry ends up hearing his name called much higher than many have projected, similar to a Tyson Alualu a couple years back.