NFL Draft Rumors: Fletcher Cox, Ryan Tannehill, Trent Richardson & More

With just two days before the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, here are a couple of interesting storylines circulating the rumor mill.

Browns to draft the best overall receiver available at No. 22?
Take it for what it’s worth but TFY Draft Insider Tony Pauline hears from league insiders that the Browns will select Trent Richardson with the No. 4 overall pick and the best available wide receiver at No. 22. As Rotoworld.com points out, I’m not sure how these so-called league insiders would be privy to the Browns’ draft plans but this is noteworthy none the less. I’ve had Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams slated Cleveland at No. 22 in my first two mocks, but Baylor’s Kendall Wright arguably makes more sense for the receiver-needy Browns.

Bills to take Barron or Gilmore at No. 10?
The consensus among mock drafts is that the Bills will select Iowa OT Riley Reiff with the No. 10 overall pick but WGR 550 in Buffalo says that the team is interested in Alabama safety Mark Barron and South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore. I would be surprised if the Bills took Barron over Reiff but then again I don’t have access to Buffalo’s big board. If they have Barron and Gilmore rated ahead of Reiff, then obviously one of those players will be the pick. That said, with Demetrius Bell gone, my money is still on Reiff landing in Buffalo.

Cox moving into the top 5?
This rumor is surprising but not altogether shocking – NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora is reporting that some teams are considering trading up to No. 5 to take Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. LaCanfora tweets that teams want to jump up ahead of the Rams, who could take Cox at No. 6. Viewed as one of the more versatile defenders in this year’s draft based on his potential to play either defensive tackle or as a five technique in a 3-4, Cox could definitely go in the top 10. But the top 5? That seems like a reach although hey, the Chiefs did take LSU DE/DT Tyson Jackson with the third overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and he was slated to go somewhere between No. 10 and No. 15. I’m not ruling out anything at this point.

Tannehill not a first-round pick?
NFL.com is reporting that one high-ranking personnel chief believes that a lot of teams don’t view Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill as a first-round pick. “I can see a situation where he doesn’t go at all in the top 20,” says the unknown source. My response to that is: It doesn’t matter if 31 teams don’t consider him a first-round pick. All it takes is one (*cough* Miami *cough*) and he’ll be a first rounder.

Spielman fanning the trade flames again
Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman has been highly entertaining the past few weeks. He’s now insisting that trade talks for the No. 3 pick have heated up and a deal could potentially get done by Thursday evening. “We’re going to be very open to the trade scenario,” Speilman said. “That front has really heated up over the last 24 hours and I’m sure it’ll continue to heat up as we head into Thursday night.” I don’t doubt that the Vikings will consider Matt Kalil, Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne with their selection, nor do I dispute the notion that they could trade out of that spot. But at the end of the day they’re guaranteed to get Kalil and their current left tackle is Charlie Johnson. Unless they receive a sweetheart deal from a team wanting to get ahead of the Browns at No. 4 (who probably want Richardson), I doubt the Vikings will be able to trade out and thus, they’ll wind up with Kalil.

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2012 NFL Draft: Five prospects that the experts can’t seem to agree on

No matter which NFL draft analysts you follow, the consensus pretty much agrees on which prospects in this year’s class belong in the top 5.

But which players are the so-called experts having a hard time agreeing on?

Analysts unanimously concede that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Kalil, Morris Claiborne and Trent Richardson comprise the top 5 in this year’s draft. Some may rank the prospects in a different order, but those are the five names that you see listed atop the media’s version of a big board. (Justin Blackmon is generally listed as the sixth-best prospect for those scoring at home.)

But the names below are some of the prospects that, for one reason or another, the analysts just can’t seem to agree on.

1. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Depending on the analyst, Tannehill lies somewhere between Jay Cutler and whatever JaMarcus Russell ate this morning for breakfast. The overall consensus is that Tannehill is the third best quarterback prospect behind Luck and Griffin, but the majority of analysts can’t agree on whether or not he’s worthy of a top-10 selection. And seeing as how the Dolphins (who own the No. 8 pick) have been the team most linked to Tannehill, his situation has made for an interesting debate over the past few weeks. Dan Pompei of the National Football Post suggested that Tannehill isn’t ready to start at the NFL level because he only played 19 games at quarterback for A&M. NFL Network’s Charley Casserly also said in early April that most teams view Tannehill as a late first-round pick at best. But former Colts GM Bill Polian called Tannehill a “unique talent” who “merits a high pick,” and there have been others who claim he has the skill set to succeed at the next level. We’ll see.

2. Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe is one of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s draft. Some analysts view him as a top 15 prospect while others don’t even rank him among their first 32 picks. In fact, SI.com’s Peter King recently reported that Poe is drawing the “widest disparity of opinion” among first-round prospects. He has drawn comparisons to both Haloti Ngata (good) and Ryan Sims (bad), with most of the positive comparisons coming after his dazzling combine workout. Analysts can agree that he’s extremely athletic, has excellent size and strength, and has plenty of upside. But he’s not a very good interior pass rusher, he wasn’t productive in college and he may be this year’s poster child for “workout warriors.” The media just can’t get an accurate gauge on where Poe will be selected and at this point, nobody should be surprised if he goes somewhere in the first 15 picks or drops into the second round.

3. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill was largely considered a second-round prospect when he announced that he would forgo his senior season at Georgia Tech back in January. But after he ran an average of 4.32 in the 40-yard dash at this year’s scouting combine, analysts started to suggest he would be taken in the first round. When you consider he’s 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and can run a 4.32 forty, it’s hard to argue with that line of thinking. The problem, of course, is that Hill played in the tripe option offense under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech and thus, he’ll be behind when he enters the NFL because he’s limited as a route runner. Some believe that Hill isn’t NFL-ready and his rising draft stock is based on his combine workout alone. What’s interesting is that if a team selects Hill in the bottom of the first round, they may get scrutinized but if someone takes him in the second, they would likely be viewed as a team that found value. (Just one more example of why all the pre-draft talk is rather silly. Fun as hell, but silly.)

4. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
There’s no question that Coples is a first-round prospect but where in the first round he’ll be selected is certainly up for debate. Many analysts view him as the best defensive end in the draft but there are questions about his motor. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, people are enamored with his size but he isn’t viewed as an elite pass rusher so you almost have to buy the rumors that he’ll fall into the teens come Thursday night. But yet you look around and some analysts can’t help but put him in the top 10 of their mock drafts.

5. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
In the case of Jenkins, the disagreements have been whether or not he’ll be too much of a risk to take in the first round – not whether or not he’s talented. From a talent standpoint, there’s no question that he’s a first-round prospect. But he was kicked off the team at Florida because of multiple drug arrests and an assault charge, and also has four children born to three different women. There was a report that came out a few weeks ago that stated Jenkins admitted at the scouting combine that he continued to smoke pot last year while playing at North Alabama. But he has since denied that claim so it’s hard to know what to believe at this point. What we do know is that it only takes one team to fall in love with Jenkins to make him a first round pick. But given his off-field transgressions, it’ll be interesting to see if some analysts are correct when they think he’ll drop into the second round.

NFL Scout: Stanford’s Coby Fleener “might be most overrated guy in the draft”

At least one NFL scout is suggesting that Stanford tight end Coby Fleener is overrated, this according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

“He wasn’t even the best tight end on their team,” another scout said. “No. 11 (sophomore Levine Toilolo), that’s the real deal. He might be the most overrated guy in the draft. He’s awful as a blocker. Despite his workout numbers he’s really not a quick-twitch, dynamic-moving guy. He’s a straight-line, build-up player. All these reports about him being an athlete and this and that, they’re assuming that because he ran fast. He’s really just a red-zone, jump-ball player.”

Ah, we must be getting really close to the draft when these types of reports start come out. All of a sudden every prospect is a bust-in-waiting and nobody can play.

In no way am I trashing McGinn’s report. If I had spoken to a NFL scout and that’s what he told me about Fleener, I would print it, too. But a standard NFL scouting staff is made up of three senior-level guys and then a slew of younger scouts trying to move up the ranks by gaining experience on the road. Thus, did McGinn talk to someone with over 20 years of experience or was it some younger scout trying to make a name for himself?

It’s no secret that Fleener isn’t a very physical player and doesn’t block well in the running game. So nobody should be taken aback by what the scout said about the tight end’s inability to block. But in terms of Fleener being “just a red-zone, jump-ball player,” I couldn’t disagree more.

Fleener does a very good job of using his 6-foot-6, 247-pound body when matched one-on-one with defenders. He’s also a natural pass catcher and a very good route runner, which would dispel the notion that he’s just a “jump-ball player.”

Is he the best prospect in this draft? Not by a long shot. But he’s clearly the best tight end and given the pass-happy offenses that teams are running in the NFL, he’s a bona fide late first-round pick. There’s no question a team that employs a creative thinker as an offensive coordinator would absolutely love to draw up plays for a versatile pass-catcher like Fleener.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this particular scout is using the media to sully Fleener’s on-field reputation because his team is thinking about drafting the tight end in the late first or early second. You just can’t trust anything that comes out between now and the draft because teams will say anything in efforts to throw their opponents off.

Is Brandon Weeden a first-round prospect?

Outside of whether or not the Vikings and/or Browns will pull off a surprise in the top 5 and seeing if any team will touch Janoris Jenkins in the first 32 picks, one of the biggest questions heading into the 2012 NFL Draft is whether or not Brandon Weeden is worth a first-round selection.

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Browns’ Heckert disputes King’s report about Justin Blackmon

In his latest edition of “Monday Morning Quarterback,” SI.com’s Peter King recently reported that Browns GM Tom Heckert “loves” Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon and if Heckert wasn’t overruled by president Mike Holmgren, Blackmon would be Cleveland’s pick at No. 4.

But Heckert states otherwise.

I haven’t spoken to Peter King in years so I have no idea where that came from,” Heckert told reporters on a conference call. “Everything you have heard is complete nonsense. It’s just this time of year and I understand that.”

In defense of King, he could have received that information from a trusted source that knows Heckert. But it’s easier to dismiss King’s report when you hear Heckert say, “I haven’t spoken to Peter King in years…”

If the Browns were to take Blackmon at No. 4, it would be extremely interesting to see what the Rams do at No. 6. Listening to Jeff Fisher’s comments this week at Rams Park, it definitely appears that St. Louis is fully committed to Steven Jackson as its primary back. But if Blackmon was off the board at No. 6 and Trent Richardson fell, I have a hard time believing the Rams wouldn’t take the Alabama running back with their first selection. After all, St. Louis would only have to worry about having Jackson and Richardson on the same roster for one year. If Richardson looked like he could handle the full-time rushing load in his rookie season, then the Rams could part ways with Jackson next year when he turns the dreaded age of 30.

But I was at Rams Park earlier this week and like he always seems to be at this time of year, Jackson is in tremendous shape. Thus, the hope for St. Louis is that Cleveland takes Richardson at No. 4, Blackmon falls to the Rams at No. 6, and Sam Bradford finally gets his big-time weapon in the receiving game.

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