War-Room Rumblings

With the time between first-round picks cut from 15 to 10 minutes, many teams will look to work out potential deals before the draft even begins. With this draft class lacking an established top prospect, the combination has led to unprecedented pre-draft rumblings and smoke-screens by team decision-makers.

Among the interesting war-room rumblings with more than a week remaining until the draft:

--While insiders maintain the Dolphins have Jake Long as the highest-rated prospect in the draft, their grade on the All-American offensive tackle is only slightly higher than that of pass rushers Vernon Gholston and Chris Long. The Dolphins are so torn as to whom to select, they're essentially auctioning off the pick -- for the lowest contract.

Insiders tell me the initial offer sent to Jake Long's representatives was $10-15 million less than what the first and second picks of last year's draft (Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell and Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson) stand to earn with their rookie deals. Should one of the three be willing to sign for a significantly lower sum, the Dolphins could find themselves drafting a player who they don't necessarily have ranked at the top of their board.

--Several teams in the top 10 are looking to make a trade, but none more so than New England. Owners of the seventh overall pick due to their trade during last year's draft with the San Francisco 49ers, the Patriots aren't opposed to the idea of moving up to secure a unique pass rusher like Vernon Gholston. They may look to swing a deal with Kansas City at No. 5 to leapfrog ahead of the rival Jets.

A significant trade-down possibility also looms, as there is a lot of smoke coming out Dallas that Jerry Jones is willing to package his two first-round picks to move into the top 10. So who would the Cowboys be packaging the picks for -- since running back Darren McFadden is considered a lock to be among the first six players drafted? Sources wouldn't specify, but the Cowboys are thought to be quite high on the versatility of Troy cornerback Leodis McKelvin and Michigan state wide receiver Devin Thomas, prospects who also happen to be two of the elite kick returners in this draft.


The last Bolts-Falcons trade landed LaDainian Tomlinson
Harry How/Getty

--The team most likely to jump back into the late first round would appear to be the Atlanta Falcons. Thought to be considering Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan with the third overall pick, the Falcons are more likely to address their needs at quarterback with one of their three second-round picks. With Miami reportedly considering taking Chad Henne with the first pick of the second round, the Falcons may elect to jump ahead of the Dolphins to secure the strong-armed passer's services. If trading up, the San Diego Chargers, owners of one pick before the fifth round -- the 28th overall -- may be willing to trade out of the first round to add extra selections.

--If the Falcons draft someone other than Ryan with the third pick, could it spark an Aaron Rodgers/Brady Quinn-like drop down the board for the BC passer? Some teams seem to think so. Three general managers mentioned Ryan as the likeliest "surprise faller" of 2008's first round. "He's a good player," one GM told me, "I'm just not sure he's a great player. Some of the teams we thought would jump all over him now we're hearing may not." Despite the hype, Ryan hasn't been a legitimate candidate for the first overall pick for weeks and may be growing out of favor in the Atlanta and Kansas City front offices, as well. Some suggest Baltimore, with the eighth pick, is the earliest Ryan may now go.

--One player who appears well on his way toward recovering his once falling stock is Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart. In visiting with several teams over the past two weeks, Stewart is reassuring clubs that his turf toe injury is healing as expected. Speculated by some as falling out of the first round, Stewart is now a possibility to make the top 15, and could leap back ahead of Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall as the second running back selected.

Meanwhile, LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey continues to be a hot topic because of lingering concerns about a 2006 stress fracture in his leg. Dorsey skipped the medical re-check in Indianapolis in early April, but one team said, "We checked him and our doctors believe he is healing well." Considered a top three pick, the perception on Dorsey's leg among teams with high selections will help shape the first hour of the draft.

Considered a late first-round prospect, Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves is also trying to steady his stock. He sent a letter to all 32 teams following heart surgery March 27 to treat his Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome. WPW is an abnormality in the heart's electrical system that can lead to rapid heartbeats if left untreated. Said a source from one team, "The procedure is effective. There is no concern."

--The news that Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham and Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib admitted to testing positive for marijuana during their collegiate careers is certain to have a negative impact on their draft stocks. The question is just how much -- and is it the same for both players? Both are first-round caliber athletes, but some insiders would be stunned if either was selected that high. "I don't know how you could justify to your owner that you're taking one of those two," one source explained. "On the one hand (Manningham) you've got a guy who lied to your face. On the other, you have a guy (Talib) who's failed multiple tests."

Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.


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