NFL Draft Smokescreens Abound

Grab your wading boots because the B.S. is going to get pretty thick this week.  I personally like to refer to the week before the NFL Draft as “Smokescreen Week”.  Every year, teams try their best to spread false information through the media in an effort to deceive other teams drafting around them.  The purpose of such deceptions is to either inspire bait for a trade down, or to convince other teams not to leapfrog them and take “their guy”.  This year is no different, and Smokescreen Week as already begun.  I’m sure there are more out there, but three pieces of news over the weekend immediately struck me as misdirection ploys.

Detroit

The first smokescreen is the most obvious because they’re not taking any steps to hide it.  Detroit announced on Friday that they will begin negotiations with the agents of LB Aaron Curry, OT Jason Smith, and QB Matthew Stafford.  The problem with that statement?  Tom Condon represents both Stafford and Smith, so how do you negotiate one against the other?  I personally believe that Curry isn’t even an option for Detroit, but he was brought into this conversation because the Lions needed someone to keep Condon honest.    

The other interesting wrinkle in this is that it’s in Condon’s best interest for the Lions to take Stafford first.  If Detroit took Smith first, there’s no telling who would select Stafford; it could be as late as San Francisco at 10.  Draftees are paid according to the number of the pick in which they were selected in the draft, almost regardless of position they play.  If Stafford is taken first, the lowest Smith would be taken is likely fourth to Seattle, thus making more money for Condon.  In the end, I think Detroit will end up taking Stafford because they’ll realize that the big three (Stafford, Sanchez and Freeman) will be gone by their second first round selection at 20.  It also doesn’t hurt Stafford’s chances that it’s in the best interest of the man representing his competition that Stafford is taken first.

Cleveland

Eric Mangini loves to think of himself as Machiavellian.  Two years ago he tried to screw his former employer and mentor, Bill Belichick, by unleashing the Spygate scandal.  Since he’s taken over the Browns, he’s kept such a tight lid on communications that it’s alienated Browns players and the media charged with covering the team.  Now it seems as if he’s trying to pull a fast one on everyone.

Last week, Action 19 News of Cleveland reported that the Browns had limited their choices for their first round pick to QB Mark Sanchez and WR Michael Crabtree.  On the surface, this makes sense because there are rumors circulating around trading current Browns Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn and Braylon Edwards.  If any of those trades occur it would their way of starting over with “their guys”. 

Here’s the rub though.  Cleveland’s pass rush is anemic, and Mangini is a defensive-oriented guy.  Why target two of the most sought-after offensive stars in the draft?  Because they’re sought-after. I think that Cleveland is trying inspire someone to trade up and get either Sanchez or Crabtree like Oakland (for Crabtree), San Francisco (for Sanchez) or Jacksonville (for possibly either).  Cleveland would still be in position to get a dominant pass rushing LB or D-lineman, and would gather more picks as a result.  Sneaky.

NY Jets

For weeks I’ve been speculating that the Jets would be in the market for a QB, which might inspire someone to leapfrog them to grab the last viable first round QB, hopefully trading with the Texans in the process.  I’m not alone in the thought that the Jets need to draft their QB of the future, as no one seems to have faith in current signal callers Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff.  QB is the only major position of need besides maybe WR for the Jets, so it seems obvious that they’d be in the market for a QB in the first round.

Now all of the sudden, the Jets are madly in love with Clemens.  That’s right.  After just two days of minicamp, Rex Ryan (a career defensive coordinator) thinks that Clemens looks like the second coming of Joe Namath.  This by the way, is the same Clemens that is 3-5 as a starter, has a 52% completion percentage, and a 5/11 TD to INT ratio. 

The Jets are simply trying to throw it out there that they’re happy with what they’ve got and are not interested in Josh Freeman, who is the only QB with a chance of making it to them, and therefore there is no need for a team to trade above 17 to grab him.  This is the most obvious smokescreen in my opinion, but worth a shot nonetheless.

If you have any disagreements with my thoughts, feel free to tell me in the comments.  Also, if you see any pieces of news or rumors that you think are smokescreens, throw them out there.

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