As baseball season gets underway, the NFL’s subterfuge season has kicked off, as well.
With a little more than three weeks remaining before the draft, expect to see a lot of smoke (some of which might be accompanied by fire) and hear a lot of murmurings from unnamed sources (some of which might be true) as teams try to disguise, mislead and, in some cases, leak #fakenews about their draft intentions.
Things got rolling last week with a tweet from a San Francisco writer who was hearing “lots of talk/rumor” about the Panthers trying to trade up from No. 8 to obtain the 49ers’ No. 2 pick (presumably to take Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas).
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman has never shied away from trading up during the draft, but it has always been during the second or third days. And Gettleman said recently getting the Patriots’ second-round pick in exchange for defensive end Kony Ealy and a third-round pick gives Carolina a lot of flexibility.
But trading into one of the top overall selections takes a whole lot of currency, the specifics of which the Browns and Eagles laid out last year in this very scenario.
Philadelphia sent the Browns five picks – the No. 8 overall pick, third-round and fourth-round picks in 2016, a first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018 – to move up six spots to take Carson Wentz at No. 2.
The Eagles also received a fourth-round pick in 2017 from Cleveland.
These are the kind of blockbuster deals teams make if they want to draft a quarterback. It’s tough to envision the Panthers giving up that much for a guy who’s not even the best edge rusher in the draft.
The same day the Carolina “trade up” rumors surfaced, Panthers coach Ron Rivera met with the media at the owners meetings and shared a couple of pre-draft tidbits.
Rivera said he was attending Leonard Fournette’s pro day this week at LSU, and also discounted the notion that running backs shouldn’t be taken too high in the draft.
When discussing Fournette, Rivera also pointed out he had attended Stanford’s pro day and was impressed with Thomas (Rivera mentioned him first) and running back Christian McCaffrey.
Rivera also said he was comfortable with the Panthers’ tight end depth behind Greg Olsen, which – further reading the tea leaves – seemed to suggest Carolina would not use the No. 8 pick on a tight end.
And yet ... the top two tight ends in the draft – Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Miami’s David Njoku – have visited or will visit (in Howard’s case) the Panthers for private workouts by the end of this week.
What does it all mean?
The Panthers will spend another week or two evaluating prospects and then set their draft board. In the meantime, fans will continue to hear lots of speculation about what player or players will be at the top of the board.
Enjoy the ride – and proceed with caution.