This is the seventh story in Real Football Services' offseason series. Today: Predraft rumors.
The truth is, nobody knows. This time of year in the NFL, nobody knows what's true and what isn't, what's a smokescreen and what is not. Team GMs and personnel people are required to take in all the information fit for print, radio, TV, the Web and otherwise, sort through it, read between the lines, decipher the deception and misdirection, and come up with a best guess that will drive their draft strategy at the end of April.
Honestly, we are doing the same thing. There are plenty of people willing to talk, so we've been willing to listen. Here's some of what we're hearing …
3 — It's the Magic Number
With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III all but assured of going 1-2 on Day One of the draft, the ebb and flow of the remainder of Round 1 lies in the Minnesota Vikings' No. 3 overall selection. We're hearing that the Vikes are having some doubts about Matt Kalil and aren't sure they like him, at least not in the third slot. They have some questions about whether he is an all-in, fully committed football guy.
Compounding the doubt is that they think they can drop out of their current spot, as low as fifth or sixth, and still get Kalil. But much of that hinges on getting the Dolphins to believe that they need to get ahead of the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 if they want to get Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill.
As luck would have it, Tannehill was actually in Cleveland on Monday, so you can expect the rumor mill to be in full effect today and the rest of the week, spouting the Browns' love affair with Tannehill. This, friends, is the classic smokescreen, because we have it on pretty good authority that the Browns have little to no interest in Tannehill.
4 — Last Week's News
A week ago everyone was reportedly trying to get to the fourth pick for a shot at one of the offensive skill players, namely Alabama RB Trent Richardson or WR Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State. The St. Louis Rams, according to sources, had their eye on Blackmon and felt they needed to be at No. 4 to get him. But as the rumor mill swirls, they now believe they can get him by staying put at No. 6.
We are hearing that the player Cleveland really wants is Richardson, which is the player the Browns will take if teams like Miami, St. Louis and others find the price too high to get to No. 3.
While conventional wisdom has always been to wait on drafting a running back, Richardson is the real deal and more like Adrian Peterson than any back we've seen in quite some time. He's a power runner who will run through contact between the tackles, faster than his 40 time would indicate when trying to gain the corner on outside runs, an excellent receiver, and a strong blocker — which is the one thing that usually keeps rookie backs off the field in the NFL.
The Tampa Bay Bucs could still be in play as a trade partner with the Vikings, and recent talks between the teams keep that option open. If Tampa does somehow jump ahead to select Richardson, Cleveland will select Blackmon.
Don't Believe the Hype
In the end, we're not sure all the trade scenarios being fueled by the media aren't overblown. The availability of Blackmon, Richardson and LSU CB Mo Claiborne after the top three picks makes it easier for Cleveland, Tampa and St. Louis to stay put and draft the best player available. All three players address a need for those teams, so if other teams are willing to be patient and let the draft come to them, each can get a good player who fills a need without paying the extra price in draft picks to get higher in Round 1.
A Green & White Plan of Action
The Jets need to come out of this draft with a pass-rushing OLB, a right tackle, and a running back, and they need to address at least two of those three needs in the first three rounds of the draft.
At No. 16 in the first round, they will certainly be in position to get their pass rusher. South Carolina's Melvin Ingram will likely be gone by then, but the Jets will have their choice of Alabama's Courtney Upshaw (16½ career sacks), Nick Perry of USC (21½ sacks in three seasons), Whitney Mercilus of Illinois (16 sacks, 22½ TFL in 2011), or even Clemson's Andre Branch (17½ career sacks). The pressure will be to not select another Vernon Gholston, but the Jets also shouldn't panic and move up for a player like Ingram.
Talk among scouts has focused on the fact that very few of the top pass rushers in this draft recorded 20 or more career sacks. That's not very productive, so while need and draft class makeup may dictate the selection of some of these players, the lack of significant sack production leads us to believe that there may not be an elite pass rusher in this group, so there is no urgency to move up in Round 1 in our mind.
Round 2 is a different story. The Jets need to get a run-blocking right tackle with the 47th pick. The problem is that there are probably about eight or nine tackles with first- or second-round grades, and by our count, about 16 teams who will be looking for a starter or a swing tackle to play right away.
Kalil will certainly be gone early. Riley Reiff, Cordy Glenn and Jonathan Martin are also sure first-rounders. Finally, Mike Adams of Ohio State could go to a team like the Giants at the end of Round 1. Cleveland at No. 22, and Pittsburgh at No. 24 could also be looking for a tackle.
For that reason, the Green & White would be wise to make a move up to the top of Round 2 because the next group includes players like FSU's Zebrie Sanders, Mitchell Schwartz of Cal, James Brown of Troy and UAB's Matt McCants, none of whom excites us very much.
Who's Worth a Tradeup?
The guy worth trading up for might be Bobby Massie out of Ole Miss. A month ago Massie had a third-round grade. But due to the need and just some old-fashioned tape work, his stock has continued to rise. He could step in and start at RT right away, but is athletic enough to one day move to LT and be your starter there.
We wouldn't be shocked if he ended up being selected at the end of Round 1. If he does get by the Giants, the Jets could use their third-round selection (No. 77 overall) to move up in Round 2 to grab him.
The running back issue can be addressed in the later rounds. What the Jets could be looking for is a sturdy back who can fill multiple roles and grind out yards when needed. Mississippi's Brandon Bolden (5'11", 222) shows good size and strength as an interior runner. He is also a valuable receiver out of the backfield and could contribute right away as a complementary back to Shonn Green, with an eye toward taking over the bulk of the load down the road. Bolden, following in the footsteps of fellow Rebels Deuce McAllister and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, can likely be had in the fifth or sixth round.