The Cleveland Browns, owners of the No. 1 overall pick heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, reportedly are split about whether to draft Myles Garrett or Mitch Trubisky. This is just one of the many NFL draft rumors that is dominating headlines as the annual extravaganza draws near.
We’ve already examined the reasons why you can’t really believe anything you read in the months leading up to the NFL draft. Disinformation is spread in mass quantity as teams attempt to outmaneuver each other and land coveted players.
Still, there may be nuggets of truth to discover among the lies. That’s what we’re going to decipher.
So, which NFL draft rumors are we buying? Which ones should we disregard as pure fabrication?
Buying: Browns split on Trubisky/Garrett
Let’s get this out of the way first. The Browns should not be split on this subject.
Myles Garrett is, by far, the best player in the upcoming NFL draft. The work he’s done the last three years at Texas A&M, combined with his prototypical size (6-foot-4, 272 pounds) and freakish speed/athleticism (watch here) makes him a slam-dunk pick at the top of the draft.
This is not up for debate.
That being said, given this team’s history as it concerns the quarterback position, we absolutely must buy the report indicating the Browns are in fact internally debating whether to draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
The smart thing to do is either trade out of the top spot or use it to draft Garrett. But nobody ever accused the Browns of being particularly smart when it comes to the draft.
The Browns own the No. 12 overall pick, and if they are truly building for the long haul and don’t like any of the quarterbacks left at that spot they should simply wait until next year when more promising prospects will become available.
Selling: 49ers will take Leonard Fournette at No. 2
Recently a report emerged that the San Francisco 49ers are “seriously considering” using the No. 2 overall pick to select former LSU product, running back Leonard Fournette.
In the same report, the 49ers were said to be ready to move on from Carlos Hyde, who was drafted in 2014. First off, we’re not buying 49ers being done with Hyde. While it’s true he has struggled with injuries, he is still one of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL when healthy and should be a great fit within Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Secondly, we’re not buying the 49ers as being sold on Fournette that high in the draft. Shanahan’s offense excelled in Atlanta partly because it featured two running backs who are excellent at catching the ball out of the backfield. And while Fournette did look great catching balls at his pro day, he wasn’t particularly reliable and this capacity during his tenure at LSU.
Then there’s the aspect of Fournette’s health. He suffered chronic ankle problems at college, missing half of this past season as a result. When healthy, no doubt this is a tremendously talented running back. Given the fact Fournette was banged up an awful lot during his playing days with the Tigers, just seems insane to invest a second overall pick in a guy who might not last three years.
Buying: DeShone Kizer will see draft-day tumble
Kizer could be this year’s Geno Smith, though we expect him to be better in the long run than the former West Virginia product has been. It’s likely he’ll experience a similar draft-day slide.
First off, Kizer just didn’t have a good season in 2016 for Notre Dame. He completed under 59 percent of his passes, made late-game mistakes and led a team that went 4-8.
Then he was the least impressive top quarterback at the combine, coming out of it as one of the biggest losers from the extended weekend in Indianapolis. Not surprisingly, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports is reporting Kizer could slip out of the first round entirely, “with execs not sold on his attitude and maturity.”
On top of all that, his college coach Brian Kelly made comments indicating Kizer isn’t ready for the NFL yet and should have stayed in school — comments the quarterback actually agreed with a week later.
Kudos to Kizer for being honest with himself about all this. But it’s looking more and more like the quarterback will end up sliding pretty significantly come draft day.
Selling: Davis Webb is first-round QB
One of the biggest NFL Draft rumors going around right now is that Davis Webb is going to be selected in the first round.
It must be noted that I actually likes Webb quite a bit. In fact, I’ve argued in the past that he deserved more respect than he was getting. That being said, none of that is to say i’m of the belief that Webb should be drafted in the first round this April.
Yet based on conversations Webb has had with NFL teams, he is being told he’s a first-round quarterback.
The only way this works is if a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers or New York Giants — teams that have franchise passers but which also need a successor — end up selecting Webb later in the first round.
Throwing this kid onto a team that has no quarterback, letting him play and expecting him to survive the first few years, then blossom into a franchise passer is just nonsense.
Webb has zero experience operating in an pro system. He’s a product of the Air Raid system Sonny Dykes ran at Cal, which is the same system he came up in during his time with Texas Tech. This system, generally speaking, is horrible at preparing quarterbacks for the pro game. Just take a look at what the spread has done for guys like Robert Griffin III or even Jared Goff, who played for Dykes at Cal before becoming the first overall pick last year — disaster.
Webb has plenty of arm talent, has ideal size (6-foot-5, 229 pounds) and the athleticism to develop into a fine NFL quarterback. But he’s nowhere near ready to step onto the field and lead an offense against an NFL defense.
Buying: Steelers “love” Jabrill Peppers at No. 30
Dick LeBeau is no longer the man at the helm of Pittsburgh’s defense, but his fingerprints are still all over that unit with Keith Butler — a LeBeau disciple — in charge. One of the players that made LeBeau’s defense so great for so many years in Pittsburgh was safety Troy Polamalu, who retired after the 2014 season. Since then, the Steelers have yet to find his replacement.
Pittsburgh’s pass defense in general needs a major overhaul, and NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala recently reported general manager Kevin Colbert will use the No. 30 overall pick to select a defensive back. She also reported the Steelers “love” Peppers, who is a linebacker/safety hybrid.
Opinions on Peppers as an elite defensive prospect are split. Some believe he’s going to be the next big deal, while others, including this scribe, think he’s the product of excessive hype.
That being said, given Pittsburgh’s desperate need for an impact defender who can roam the field like Polamalu used to in such excellent fashion, we’re definitely buying the Steelers’ interest in Peppers at the bottom of Round 1.
Selling: Bills’ interest in top QBs a “smokescreen”
The Buffalo Bills recently made a decision to stick with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, which was most definitely the smart move. Going into the 2017 season without at least a serviceable option at quarterback would have signaled complete concession at a rebuild. As it stands, there is enough talent on the roster that the Bills’ offense should be formidable, provided Sammy Watkins, Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy are all healthy.
That said, Buffalo has also been doing some serious investigating as it concerns the top quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft. We’re talking about individual workouts with the likes of Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer, with owner Terry Pagula in tow.
Yet rookie head coach Sean McDermott is trying to convince folks all this interest, time and effort is potentially just a “smokescreen” we shouldn’t take too seriously (more on all that here).
We’re not buying it. Not even a little.
Now, if the Bills hadn’t made Taylor take a huge discounted salary to come back, then we might buy this as a smokescreen. But the fact remains there was some serious doubt about whether he’d return at all. Then when he did his contract had been hacked, and not just a little bit.
With the No. 10 overall pick in the first round, you can bet the Bills are seriously considering one of the top quarterbacks. They’ve struck out at this position ever since Jim Kelly retired, but they must continue their quest to find the next Kelly or all will be lost.
Buying: Joe Mixon will be drafted in Round 2
This is a tricky subject. Joe Mixon was viewed as a highly intriguing prospect during the 2016 college football season as he split carries with Samaje Perine at Oklahoma. Then, video from 2014 emerged that showed Mixon punching a college student so hard she broke multiple bones in her face. It was brutal.
Now, the fact Mixon had hurt this woman was known. He was suspended that entire year. Then he came back to play in 2015 and 2016 when he became an integral cog in the Sooners offense. In those two seasons, Mixon put up 2,921 yards from scrimmage and scored 26 total touchdowns.
But when that video came out, the national perception of Mixon changed drastically. At one point, it was reported that the running back wouldn’t even be draftable. He wasn’t invited to the combine because of his violent action.
Then Mixon held his pro day at Oklahoma and stunned scouts.
“(He) impressed everybody that was there. There were a handful of running backs coaches there. I spoke with a scout who was in attendance. … He said ‘That was a Round-1 workout in any draft class.’ He said he was phenomenal,” said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “So Joe Mixon did everything on the field. Now it comes down to sorting his issues off the field and if a team will be comfortable or not making him a selection in the 2017 draft. But when you stack him up with the other running backs in this draft, I think he’s right in the discussion to be considered the top player at the position. I compare him to (Arizona Cardinals RB) David Johnson. That’s the kind of skill set he possesses.”
After that, Jeremiah said every person around the NFL he’s talked to said Mixon will end up going in the second round. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report agreed, noting he’s heard a lot of Frank Clark comparisons (Clark went in Round 2 back in 2015).
As we’ve seen too many times in the past, the NFL is hypocritical. It says it’s against domestic violence and violence towards women, yet time and time again, players with elite talent end up being welcomed into the league. The same will happen with Mixon, who almost certainly will go off the board in Day 2.
Selling: Reuben Foster combine snafu will cause draft-day slide
From one red-flag player to another, Reuben Foster was one of the biggest losers at the NFL combine. He never even made it onto the field. Instead, while he waited in line for his medical check, the former Alabama linebacker got into a fight with one of the medical workers, resulting in a swift exit from Indy.
Apparently, despite our ignorance on the subject, this isn’t the only off-field red flag concerning the linebacker. According to one report, Foster has a background that could give teams pause about selecting him where his talent says he should go.
“Foster’s difficult past came into focus Saturday when it was reported by ESPN that he was sent home from the combine after a ‘heated argument’ with a hospital worker in Indianapolis,” wrote Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee-Wisconsins Journal Sentinel. “‘This guy is fast, explosive, the real deal,’ another scout said. ‘He may slide because of background. He’s got all kinds of stuff.’”
That being said, Foster’s pure talent and game-changing abilities on the field likely won’t affect where he lands too much. While he might not go in the top five, it’s conceivable that he’ll be selected in the top 10.
This is a guy who absolutely flies to the ball and is a three-down inside linebacker.
Had high-ranking personnel exec say that two best players graded off tape for this draft: Garrett then Foster. https://t.co/f5eDQFtIqu
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) April 12, 2017
Again, as we’re seeing with Mixon — whose red flag is significantly more troubling — Foster’s talent will keep him from falling far, if at all, on draft day.