Squashing 10 pre-draft rumors, Calvin Johnson falls, JaMarcus Russell trade rumors, Brady Quinn rumors

Squashing 10 pre-draft rumors

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“Who the hell is Mel Kiper?”Colts GM Bill Tobin in response to ESPN Analyst Mel Kiper criticizing Indianapolis for selecting linebacker Trev Alberts fifth overall in the 1994 draft

Besides being draft related, the above quote has nothing to do with this article, so don’t rack your brain trying to draw a connection. I just laugh my ass off every time I see or hear it and thought this is the best time to sneak it into one of my columns.

Anyway, who doesn’t appreciate good NFL Draft fodder? Rumors and speculation are why people (this columnist included) do multiple mock projections and dedicate hours to pre-draft research. Without speculation, what fun is it to talk about the draft for three-plus months prior to the first name being announced by commissioner Roger Goodell?

It seems draft rumors get more outlandish and ridiculous with each passing year, however. Let’s face it: we as fans care solely about how the draft affects our team. Only in a fan’s world does swapping one pick for another team’s first, second, 2 thirds, 3 fourths and fifth round selections make sense. Not many fans look at the big picture of why another team would be willing to give up so much for so little.

Below are 10 draft rumors that have been baking in the speculation oven for weeks. I’m a firm believer in anything is possible – especially in terms of the draft – but let’s put down the favorite team Kool-Aid for a second and look at these rumors as objectively as possible. For at least a moment, let’s shoot down what we love most about the NFL Draft, “Mr. Speculation,” and take a look at why these rumors hold little water the closer we get to the big weekend.

Rumor #1: The Detroit Lions will select Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson
If Oakland takes Johnson with the number one pick, then this rumor gets squashed immediately. However, it’s a strong possibility the Raiders will select LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, leaving the Lions to mull taking a wide receiver for the fourth time in five years. Even though Johnson is a super-freak, Roy Williams showed last year that he’s a bona fide number one weapon, while Mike Furrey excelled in Mike Martz’s system as a possession receiver. Detroit has many needs, and needs not even the super freak can fix. One could argue you don’t pass on a talent like Johnson, but his talent won’t be a factor if Jon Kitna can’t even get a pass off or the defense can’t stop the opposing team from lighting up the scoreboard. Detroit did the right thing last year in passing on Matt Leinart for linebacker Ernie Simms. Simms became an immediate starter and should be a mainstay on the Lions’ defense for years to come. General manger Matt Millen and head coach Rod Marinelli have to believe both lines need more work before adding another wide receiver. Oh boy, I just signed the death wishes of Lions’ fans by including Millen in that previous sentence.

Rumor #2: The Atlanta Falcons will trade up for Calvin Johnson
Heard a rumor on the radio the other day that the Falcons are going to trade their first, third and a pair of second round selections to Detroit for the second overall pick. From there, the notion is Atlanta will select hometown product Calvin Johnson. This is a prime example of a rumor where people don’t think about the entire picture. Why would the Falcons – a team in need of a defensive end, safety, left guard and running back – trade four potential starters for one player? Because Michael Vick needs a true number one wide receiver, right? Based on his career completion percentage, Vick hasn’t shown he’d even know how to utilize a number one receiver. Yes, Michael Jenkins and Roddy White have underachieved, but they deserve another season, especially in new head coach Bobby Petrino’s pass-happy offense. Joe Horn is also in the mix now and Brian Finneran is healthy again. Plus, the new coaching staff really likes ’06 sixth round pick Adam Jennings. Throw in the fact that the Falcons have limited cap space to pay a top-five pick like Johnson and this rumor makes even less sense.

Rumor #3: The Cleveland Browns will take Brady Quinn
I’m playing with fire here, but I don’t see the Browns taking Quinn with the third overall pick. If JaMarcus Russell falls, I could absolutely see Cleveland taking him, but not Quinn if Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson is still on the board. Jamal Lewis only signed a one-year deal, so assuming the Browns filled their running back need might be a mistake at this point. Sure, hometown product Antonio Pittman or Penn State’s Tony Hunt are options in later rounds, but wouldn’t teaming Lewis with a dynamic runner in Peterson (ala New England’s Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney in ‘06) make more sense? Head coach Romeo Crennel needs to win now with his job in jeopardy, so taking Peterson is arguably his best option. The only problem is that it’s general manager Phil Savage’s decision, not Crennel’s. If Savage wants to give Crennel the best opportunity to win in ’07, he’ll give him Peterson and let Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson develop for at least one more year. But if Savage gets GM-wood for a franchise quarterback, Quinn will be the pick and Rumor #3 will be validated.

Rumor #4: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will draft a quarterback at No. 4
Jon Gruden has said multiple times that he would take JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn with the fourth overall pick. That would leave Jeff Garcia (signed through ‘08), Chris Simms (signed through ’08), Bruce Gradkowski (promising late round pick in ’06) and a rookie all vying for roster spots. Like a true veteran, Gruden is just blowing smoke up everyone’s ass. Does anyone think for one second that Gruden would pass on Calvin Johnson or Gaines Adams to take a fourth quarterback? As always, anything is possible, but it’s highly doubtful.

Rumor #5: The Vikings are set at quarterback and therefore won’t draft Brady Quinn
Minnesota head coach Brad Childress has stated several times this offseason that he’s set at quarterback with Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger. I’m not buying it, and therefore think that if Quinn falls to No. 7, he’ll be wearing purple for the foreseeable future. I don’t doubt that Childress likes what he sees in Jackson and could certainly understand supporting his quarterbacks publicly, but Quinn is going to be mighty tempting where Minnesota picks.

Rumor #6: Ohio State wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. will fall out of the top 16
I’ll be the first to admit I thought Ginn’s stock was sinking fast after he didn’t work out at the combine or his first pro day. Also, with a number of receivers changing locations in free agency, teams have been filling their needs outside with proven veterans. I was wrong, though. Ginn’s not going to get past Minnesota, Miami, San Francisco or Green Bay in the first round. Due to his playmaking ability and return skills, his stock has rebounded nicely. Devin Hester proved how much a playmaking return man is worth to an NFL team and after running a 4.4 40 for scouts at a recent workout, Ginn dispelled any thoughts that he’s not recovering from the foot injury he suffered in the national championship game.

Rumor #7: The Bears will select a tight end in the first round
Once again, I’m guilty of another pre-draft sin. A month ago I figured there was no way the Bears would pass on either Miami’s Greg Olsen or Arizona State’s Zach Miller in the first round. But didn’t the Bears teach everyone a lesson last year when they didn’t chase tight ends Leonard Pope or Mercedes Lewis in round one? General manager Jerry Angelo is a mastermind in the later rounds, so he’ll find a tight end such as Delaware’s Ben Patrick or Western Oregon’s Kevin Boss if he feels that is a need. If last year was any indication of how Angelo runs his draft, he’ll surely stockpile depth on defense in round one or trade out of the round altogether.

Rumor #8: It’s taboo to draft a safety early in round one
This is more of a thought process than a rumor, but it’s amazing how many teams pass on quality safeties early in the first round. Last year, Oakland (Michael Huff) and Buffalo (Donte Whitner) selected back-to-back safeties in the top 10, but that was an aberration, not the norm. It seems like the premium on safeties has been as valuable to some teams as the backup fullback. However, review the safeties of recent Super Bowl teams: Rodney Harrison (Patriots, ’03 and ’04), Brian Dawkins (Eagles, ’04), Troy Polamalu (Steelers, ’05) and Bob Sanders (Colts, ’06). That list doesn’t even include the versatile Ed Reed of the Ravens or Washington’s Sean Taylor. Give a defensive coordinator a heat-seeking missile like Reed or Polamalu, and watch his game plan go from cautionary to destructive. So take note teams, grabbing an all-around safety could be a better move than selecting a highly rated wide out.

Rumor #9: Adrian Peterson will fall out of the top 10
More than a handful of mock drafts say Peterson will fall all the way to the Bills at No. 12 in the first round. Fat chance. Smart money is on Cleveland, Arizona, Minnesota, Atlanta or Houston taking him before Buffalo’s personnel even sniffs the former Sooner.

Rumor #10: The Raiders will trade for Lions backup quarterback Josh McCown and draft Calvin Johnson first overall
This rumor actually holds a lot of water, but it still seems unlikely Oakland would be settled with McCown and Andrew Walter next year at quarterback. Plus, Randy Moss, Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry are still on the roster, so if Johnson is selected, that’s a lot of money invested in one position. Sure, Moss and Porter could be cut or traded, but that still leaves an unsettled quarterback position for ’07. Coupled with this rumor is another one stating the Raiders will select Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards with the first pick in round two. That would sort of shore up their quarterback situation, but doesn’t that seem like a whole bunch of speculation with the draft only a week away?

Questions or comments? Send them to astalter@bullz-eye.com.