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Rumor mill on overdrive

Draft King Analysis
April 21, 2016
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

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The first round of the 2016 NFL Draft will take place one week from tonight. Now we're into the territory of frenzied posturing, dirty tricks, poker game style negotiations, and of course rabid speculation.

Just yesterday, respected reporter Charles Robinson of Yahoo! reported that the Chargers are shopping the #3 overall pick to teams interested in FSU DB Jalen Ramsey. He noted that Ramsey is Dallas' "top target" at #4 overall.

It makes sense for San Diego to test the market, or perhaps even entice the Cowboys to trade up one spot to ensure that they will land Ramsey. One would think that Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil would be a lock for the Chargers at #3, but that's based on an assumption that San Diego management rates Tunsil as highly as most draft evaluators. But regardless of that, the Chargers are smart to find out what they could potentially get for that pick before they lock in on Tunsil or Ramsey or whomever else they might target at #3.

There was a leak this morning of the purported Wonderlic test scores of the high-profile quarterback prospects in this year's draft. I have no way of independently confirming the numbers, but if they are true it's not a good sign for Memphis QB Paxton Lynch.

As for Michigan State QB Connor Cook, he has also found himself a target of one of the more unsavory elements of draft season: the dreaded anonymous NFL coach quote. Per USA Today, one NFL QB coach said "There's something off" about Cook.

These sorts of comments can be maddening, both for analysts and for players. The validity of the reporting typically isn't in doubt, and I don't mean to imply that about Tom Pelissero's piece, but the motivation behind such comments from an anonymous source can be a difficult thing to peg. And while there has been the questioning of certain things with Cook that seem strange, like not being named captain last season despite filling the traditional senior QB leader role, it's not like anyone is burying the guy as a bad kid or something similarly negative.

Speaking of Michigan State, the university announced today that it has signed a 15-year, $150M+ deal with FOX Sports in exchange for "marketing and corporate partnership rights associated with its 25 varsity sports programs." They were the last remaining major college to handle that work in-house.

This is a good time to note that the NCAA's rules preventing athletes from profiting from their own likeness remains one of its most unconscionable restrictions, and there are plenty of them to list. But, as always: when in doubt, follow the money. I understand the difficulty in paying college players, especially with Title IX rules, but preventing players from making money off of their own likeness is a disgusting business practice.

It has been curious to follow the recovery process of UCLA LB Myles Jack, who tore the meniscus in his right knee in practice this past September. Just figuring out which knee he had hurt was a chore (and the "left or right" specification is often maddeningly left out of otherwise well-written stories on injuries), and recent there has been some strange speculation about his right knee being a timing time bomb, which is a rather dramatic way to describe it.

That speculation was met by a sharp rebuke from other league sources. And, perhaps more importantly relative to draft analysis, respected draft evaluator Mel Kiper Jr. reportedly noted that the Jaguars seem locked in on drafting Jack, presumably at #5 overall.

A player with concerns of another variety is Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche. Once seen as a top five talent, a combination of reported off-the-field problems (including a high-profile arrest in Atlanta last year) and alleged bad interviews at the NFL Combine have really sunk his stock.

To point, just this afternoon Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn noted the concerns his organization has about Nkemdiche as a prospect.

It's rare for a team to outright slight a prospect like that before the draft, particularly since you never know who might fall and who might end up being there as a late-round bargain. The fact that Quinn outright said Nkemdiche is a red flag player speaks volumes, and perhaps reveals thoughts that other teams share.

But as always, there is a sliding scale when it comes to behavior relative to talent, particularly when that talent is being an elite-level pass-rushing lineman. Someone will give Nkemdiche a shot, quite possibly selecting him on day two of the draft, and Nkemdiche should have an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong.

One note not directly related to the 2016 NFL Draft was the curious move by the Carolina Panthers to rescind the franchise tag it had placed on CB Josh Norman. It's very rare that a team does that, particularly with Norman coming off a great season at a key position.

It's noteworthy that Norman has since fired his old agent and hired a new one, but it's rather baffling why Carolina would suddenly decide that one year of an elite-level cornerback at $14 million was no longer tenable. Something tells me the full story of what happened hasn't hit the public yet, but in the meantime Norman is suddenly a red-hot free agent rumored to be pursued by the Buccaneers, 49ers, and Jaguars, among others.

It will be interesting to see how much the 28-year-old Norman will be able to command on the open market, but it has been suggested that he could be looking at a five-year deal worth more than $62.5 million. And presuming he signs somewhere ahead of next Thursday's draft, he could have a direct impact on cornerback demand in round one.

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