2014 NFL Draft: Fact or Fiction for Most Recent Draft Rumors
The closer we get to the 2014 NFL draft, the more gossip we're bound to hear.
With New York City once again serving as gracious host, the NFL draft is about to burst through the doors of Radio City Music Hall and set the sports world ablaze.
Living in a society saturated by social media, any rumor broadcast about the draft has a tendency to spread like the plague.
Sometimes the best way to cut through the hyperbole is to dig a little bit deeper and get the whole story.
From "top-tier" quarterbacks plummeting down draft boards to under-the-radar wide receivers making a case to be first-round picks, it's time to break down what's fact and what's fiction when it comes to the latest 2014 NFL draft rumors.
Fact: Only 2 Offensive Linemen Will Be Selected in the Top 10
Last year, we saw five offensive linemen get selected within the first 10 picks of the draft.
This year, that number will shrink to just two names.
Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Auburn's Greg Robinson are more dominant versions of Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel—the top two left tackles taken in the 2013 draft.
Debating which player will have a better long-term career in the NFL isn't an easy chore.
MMQB.com's Greg A. Bedard wrote about both Robinson and Matthews, trying to figure out which is the better prospect.
After going through the tape and breaking down their strengths, Bedard said, "Matthews is better today, but Robinson’s vast potential shouldn’t be hard to unlock. That makes Robinson my pick as the top tackle prospect in this draft."
Matthews may be the more polished player coming out of the draft, but Robinson's upside is remarkable.
ESPN's Todd McShay (Insider subscription required) loves both guys, ranking Robinson No. 2 on his big board with Matthews not far behind at No. 5.
You can make the case that Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan is another prospect who should go in the top 10.
ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. (Insider subscription required) ranked Lewan as the seventh-best player in the entire draft.
Talking about his skill set, Kiper noted, "It's possible Lewan would have rated higher than any tackle in last year's draft, and he could be the second tackle taken this year. Lewan has great length and above-average athleticism (he showed well in Indy)."
Having a draft class with three franchise-caliber offensive linemen is great for NFL teams.
But because of their impressive upside and sustained effectiveness on the field, Robinson and Matthews will end up being the only left tackles selected in the top 10.
Fiction: Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo Will Be a First-Round Pick
Heading into the 2014 Senior Bowl, Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was one of the hottest "unknown" prospects in the country.
Garoppolo is a young man who benefits from having the quickest release of any quarterback in this year's draft class. His smooth mechanics and effortless delivery have turned him into a potential first-round pick.
It helps that scouts and coaches love this kid.
Dino Babers, Garoppolo's head coach the last two years at Eastern Illinois and now the headman at Bowling Green, reiterated those feelings while speaking on The Damon Amendolara Show. "This guy’s decision-making process is unbelievable; he’s like a damn computer out there on the field," Babers said.
The biggest vote of confidence Garoppolo has received leading up to the draft has come by way of former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian.
Polian, now working with ESPN, said the Eastern Illinois QB would be drafted in the first round, according to NFL on ESPN's Twitter account.
Despite all of the praise and positive qualities Garoppolo brings with him to the next level, a deep quarterback class makes him a tough sell for any team in Round 1.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com) wrote about some of the challenges Garoppolo is going to have to overcome if he wants to excel in the NFL:
Needs to get his feet under control on a consistent basis and regularly step into his throws. Must continue and develop his pocket awareness and internal clock to feel pressure. Holds the ball too long at times and will take unnecessary hits.
With guys like Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr all currently projected to be first-round picks, logic dictates that Garoppolo will find a home on Day 2 of the draft.
Fact: The New York Jets Want to Draft Kelvin Benjamin
It's no secret that the New York Jets need to add offensive weapons in the worst way.
Although a step in the right direction, the jury is still out on whether Decker can be a true No. 1 target.
During the four seasons he spent with the Denver Broncos (2010-2013), Decker was a part of one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history.
Holding the 18th overall pick in the 2014 draft puts Jets general manager John Idzik in a great position to land another premier pass-catcher.
Plenty of mock drafts have projected the Jets to go after another wide receiver in Round 1 to continue to improve this offense.
Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com has the team selecting LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., while CBS Sports colleague Pat Kirwan has the team drafting tight end Eric Ebron out of North Carolina.
But one interesting piece of draft buzz that recently surfaced is the Jets showing interest in Florida State big man Kelvin Benjamin.
New York Daily News writer Manish Mehta first broke the news when he said on Twitter that the team is "very intrigued" by the 6'5" Benjamin.
If the Jets decide to go in that direction on draft day, it will not have been the first time they have fallen in love with a towering wide receiver.
In 2012, the team spent a second-round pick on 6'4" Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech.
Whether they pull the trigger and actually go after Benjamin remains to be seen. Still, because of the absence of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, this rumor can't be dismissed.
Fiction: Teddy Bridgewater Will Fall Out of the First Round
Teddy Bridgewater entered his junior season at Louisville as the consensus No. 1 quarterback on most people's draft boards.
Since that time, the 21-year-old signal-caller has seen his game shredded by scouts and media personalities alike after a tough pro day workout.
Credit Grantland's Bill Barnwell, who tried to put the whole performance in perspective:
The entire pre-draft process — but most notably the pro day quarterback workout — is designed to make guys like Bortles look good while hiding the strengths of a player like Bridgewater. It plays up physical tools at the expense of actual football skills. The tools help, but you need the skills to succeed. And Bortles might very well be a better quarterback than Bridgewater when all is said and done, but I strongly doubt what happened last week gives us any reliable data on whether that’s the case.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller got some inside information on what scouts don't like about Bridgewater.
One scout told Miller, "Biggest concerns on him are the mental and inconsistencies in mechanics. In my opinion you don't see him go through many progressions, a lot of primary target only reads."
NFL Media columnist Adam Schein has even suggested that Bridgewater isn't a top-32 prospect. That would mean come May 8, no team would take him in the first round of the draft.
I get that Bridgewater's pro day may have raised a few red flags.
But the fact is, he's got a ton of tape that shows off good decision-making, first-rate awareness in the pocket and a sensational amount of toughness.
There's no doubt that scouts and NFL teams are wary when it comes to Bridgewater. But to throw away all of the positive things he does under center isn't justified at this point.
Could he end up falling into the middle of the first round? Sure. Will he tumble all the way back into Round 2? If he does, that would be one of the biggest storylines to come out of the 2014 draft.
Fact: The St. Louis Rams Are Open to Trading the No. 2 Pick in the Draft
Once again, the St. Louis Rams have put themselves in a great position to have a monumental draft in 2014.
Having two first-round picks has opened the door for general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher to take the next step as a franchise.
If you go by Snead's word, the Rams are already fielding offers for the second overall pick.
Talking to Greg A. Bedard from MMQB.com, the Rams GM opened up about the possibility of trading back in the draft.
"They’re more flirtatious calls than anything. We have numbers 2 and 13, but Houston has number one. Nobody can really seriously chat with us until they are happy with at least two players," Snead said.
However, unlike the 2012 draft, it's tough to gauge the value of that No. 2 pick in a convoluted quarterback class.
Sometimes the best course of action is to stay where you are and land a marquee player that will help improve your roster.
Snead and Fisher are both smart guys. Whatever they decide to do will be in the best interest of this franchise.
But having the chance to potentially draft a game-changer like Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins or Greg Robinson makes trading the No. 2 overall pick an even tougher decision.
Fiction: Indiana Wide Receiver Cody Latimer Will Be Drafted in the First Round
Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer is one player who has seen his draft stock erupt over the last couple of weeks.
If you don't know his story by now, Latimer is a 6'2", 215-pound wide receiver who uses his impressive speed to inflict damage in the open field.
Derek Stephens of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com) wrote about some of the best traits Latimer is bringing with him to the NFL:
Possesses thick, athletic-looking frame and an impressive speed/agility combination that enable him to separate consistently as a route-runner, and extend plays after the catch both in space and on contact. Flashes soft hands and good coordination when asked to extend and pluck the ball off his frame, and positions his body nicely when adjusting to balls thrown off stride.
In a draft laden with talent, the Indiana speedster has become one of the fastest risers amongst a talented group of wide receivers.
Bleacher Report's Luke Easterling tweeted that Latimer has already been informed by three NFL franchises that they would draft him in the first round.
Unfortunately, it's a numbers game. When you look at guys like Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr. and Marqise Lee, the odds of being selected in the first round are stacked against Latimer.
Regardless of what round he goes in, whoever lands the Indiana product will be getting one heck of a football player.
As B/R's Gary Davenport put it, "Latimer is going to open some eyes in the NFL."
Fact: Zach Mettenberger Will Be an Early 2nd-Round Pick
On tape, LSU's Zach Mettenberger is a big, strong quarterback who can push the football downfield and attack defenses vertically.
A prototypical pocket passer who can make every throw, teams that are looking for a field general to sit in the pocket and rip the football will instantly fall in love with the LSU standout.
The biggest concern over taking Mettenberger early in the 2014 draft is his health.
Though Mettenberger tore his ACL in November of 2013, he came out and threw at his pro day.
The reviews surrounding the 22-year-old's performance were mixed.
While he displayed good zip on the ball and moved well for a guy coming off a serious knee injury, Baton Rouge sports anchor and reporter Matt Boudreaux (NBC 33 and Fox 44) tweeted that at least one scout had questions about his arm.
It's hard to rag on Mettenberger for his footwork considering he's just a few months removed from surgery on his knee. But it's another aspect of his game that needs to be polished.
While there may be some concerns over his knee, LSU trainer Jack Marucci told NFL Network's Albert Breer, "If there was a game this week, Mett could play."
Hyperbole or not, all that tells you is that his rehabilitation process is going swimmingly at this point in time.
Mettenberger is projected right now to be a third-round pick.
But because of his size and the fact that he evolved tremendously as a passer over his last two seasons at LSU, Mettenberger should be viewed as an early second-round pick for any team looking to draft a young quarterback.
Fiction: A Deep Draft Class Means There Will Be Fewer Trades
The NFL draft serves as a breeding ground for teams looking to swap picks in order to put themselves in a better position to rebuild their respective rosters.
Last year, there were five trades in Round 1 of the draft. The year before that, NFL franchises pieced together a remarkable 19 trades in the first round alone.
This year's class is deep. All you have to do is go down the list of names at each position and you'll realize there's a plethora of talent to be had throughout the draft.
But great depth doesn't necessarily mean teams won't be able to move around the board and land players they covet.
Remember, for all of the programs currently undergoing a "rebuilding" process, there are plenty of franchises just a few players away from taking that next step and competing for a championship.
We talked about the Rams potentially trading the second overall pick, but don't be surprised if you see a bunch of NFL general managers make moves on draft weekend.
Discussing this topic, B/R's Erik Frenz brought up an interesting point about teams looking to move around during the draft:
Another thing to consider: teams that are in tight salary-cap constraints, who were priced out of adding top-notch talent to their roster through free agency. The Dallas Cowboys always come to mind as a team that would be willing to move up the board to grab a talented player they covet. After spending just $11.8 million total and $1.865 million guaranteed this offseason (according to Spotracpremium), Jerry Jones could be itching to add talent.
As always, the NFL draft will be one of the biggest events in all of professional sports.
Getting to watch your favorite team put in work this May is just enough to hold fans over until training camps get underway this summer.
All 2014 draft projections provided by NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com) unless noted otherwise.
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