It happens every year and from the looks of things over the past 48 hours, it has begun in earnest – the art of lying and subterfuge that goes on in the days leading up to the draft.
It's interesting to watch from a distance as organizations plant stories and work reporters to get "the word out." For example, last year the Vikings convinced the Cleveland Browns that they were getting interest in the No. 3 pick and fleeced additional ammunition out of the Browns so they could move up one spot to take Trent Richardson and the Vikings could still take the player they wanted anyway (Matt Kalil). The Rams opened the sweepstakes for the No. 2 pick (and Robert Griffin III) and the Washington Redskins went into a conniption that led to them giving up three first-round picks and a second to move up to get RG3.
Lying is an art form in the NFL at this time of year. The idea is to keep their draft board secret – along with their true intentions. Anything is in play, including fibbing about their plans and sending out red herring stories. It can be the team that does it. It can be an agent dropping hints that a star client is being courted by multiple teams in hopes of driving up his draft stock. The extent to which some people will go is incredible.
When the Vikings wanted to work out Tarvaris Jackson (Minnesota was the only team that felt T-Jack was a second-round talent), in order to prevent other teams from being alerted to their presence, they resorted to Cold War-style spy tactics. They took a plane to another city and drove the rest of the way to get to Jackson. They checked into hotels under assumed names. It was real cloak-and-dagger stuff.
On the flip side of that coin was when the Vikings drafted Kevin Williams in 2003. Mike Tice made a big deal – too big a deal – about bringing fellow defensive tackle prospect Jimmy Kennedy to Winter Park and paraded him around. However, the team's true intention all along, which Tice freely admitted after the fact, was to draft Williams. Years later, when Kennedy became a Viking, Viking Update asked him how he felt about that experience and, years later, he still carried some resentment. He said he got the clear impression that the Vikings had no serious interest in drafting him and he felt used in the process – to the point that he refused to even wear anything purple for years. He hated the Vikings because he felt like he had been duped and his reputation besmirched because the Vikings took a player at his position and it wasn't him.
Over the next few days, stories will come out as hot rumors and be taken wildly out of context. That process has already begun. Thursday, one of the stories that dominated the NFL's official website was that the Vikings were looking to trade up and were targeting a wide receiver. Nothing can be predicted when it comes to Rick Spielman. He'll trade up. He'll trade down. It doesn't matter. He likes to wheel and deal on draft weekend. But leaking the story makes no sense.
The headline on the front page of the league website made it sound as though the plan is in full swing. Yet, when someone clicks on the story itself, the headline now has a question mark with it, asking whether they may be interested, going to so far as to site a companion video piece from reporter Ian Rappaport along with the claim that the Vikings might be targeting Tavon Austin and would be willing to trade up to No. 11 and San Diego.
There were a couple of obvious and significant problems with that story. First, there aren't many people who believe that, if the Vikings want to draft a wide receiver like Austin they would have to move any higher than New Orleans at pick No. 15. Secondly, the Rappaport video on the site never mentioned San Diego by name. Instead, he stated the obvious – the Vikings have the ammunition of two first-round picks to move up as high as they want to in the draft. He said the Vikings had what they needed to move up "a few spots" – presumably to get ahead of St. Louis at No. 16. Thirdly, the Chargers have been subject of first-round trade rumors, but those have centered on them using the 11th overall pick as bait to move higher (not lower) in order to land one the of the three left offensive tackles that are expected to be gone by the time the Chargers are slated to pick.
Over the course of the next few days, there will be speculation and rumors that will surface concerning several teams – many of whom will include the standard anonymous "unnamed source with knowledge of the situation."
The simple fact of the matter is that over the course of the next week, fans should put everything they hear and read about the draft through their own sniff test and apply logic to their conclusion. Rumors can simply be lies and half-truths instead of the real deal.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Open season on rumors, half-truths, even lies
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