Making sense of April subterfuge in the NFL draft

In 2005 the Panthers gave no indication they were interested in Thomas Davis before taking him #14 overall.

There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and teams lying about the draft in the 11th hr; and two of these come in April. The amusing thing about the late breaking rumors is that they assume organizations really don't have their boards set by now. The fact of the matter is that teams start scouting players 2-3 years in advance, getting an initial feel for the player early and then slowly building a dossier on the prospect. This isn't the kind of process that is thrown out the window two weeks before the draft to take a flying leap on a hunch... well, unless you're the Oakland Raiders.

As it pertains to the Carolina Panthers it's a little trickier to work out just how much of their draft plans are organized duplicity solely because the only reason to create confusion would be to bait a trade down, and hide who the organization are really interested in. However, we do have three solid drafts where the Carolina Panthers sold the rest of the league their interest in a player, only to leave him on the board and go another direction. We'll explore those examples, and what the rest of the league is saying...

After the jump

2005

In April of 2005 the Carolina Panthers had the whole league believing they wanted a linebacker, and they sold the world on the idea they wanted Texas LB Derrick Johnson. This was the one name we heard over, and over, and over again both from mock draft gurus and 'sources' who said the Panthers were 'in love' with Johnson.

- With the 14th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft: The Carolina Panthers select Thomas Davis, Safety, Georgia.

Johnson was left on the board and ultimately taken #15 overall by the Chiefs.

 

2008

Granted, there were a few shrewd analysts who pegged Jonathan Stewart to the Panthers, but they were in the vast minority. The entire league believed the Panthers would look to get an insurance policy in case DeAngelo Williams couldn't be a feature back, but in April sources kept saying the Panthers loved Illinois RB Rashad Mendenhall.

- With the 13th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft: The Carolina Panthers select Jonathan Stewart, Running Back, Oregon

Mendenhall was left on the board and ultimately taken #23 overall by the Steelers.

 

2010

"There are strong indications out of Carolina indicating that if he's there at #48 the Panthers will take Tim Tebow"

Chris Mortensen

"I'm told the Panthers have been working the phones all night to trade up with St. Louis for the 1st pick of the 2nd round so they can take Colt McCoy"

Adam Schefter

- With the 48th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft: The Carolina Panthers select Jimmy Clausen, Quarterback, Notre Dame

Okay, so maybe the Panthers were really interested in Tim Tebow but had to change their direction when he was taken #25, but that doesn't explain selling ESPN on Colt McCoy before passing on him and taking Jimmy Clausen. The pick came out of left field for many analysts who said even while the Panthers were on the clock:

"Jimmy Clausen would be great here, but I just don't see the Panthers pulling the trigger. I'm told they like McCoy more."

 

2011

Like I said before, this year operates a little differently because the Panthers would only be selling a player they had no intention of taking for the purposes of pushing a trade, but the possibility is there. I know all the mock drafts are in agreement now that Carolina will stay put and take Cam Newton, and that is a possibility; but don't rule out the Panthers' propensity to operate from the shadows right before the draft. It wouldn't neccesarily fly in the face of this new, honest  front office, because the fact is that all 32 teams are engaged in their own lies one way or another.

 

Around the league

 

Washington: The Redskins are really selling this idea they are contemplating either Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett with the 10th overall pick. Personally, I don't see it. These rumors only started two weeks ago, and I think their end game is trying to prevent teams from leapfrogging them via trade to take a prospect they really like.

Projected Targets: WR Julio Jones, CB Prince Amukumara

 

Cincinnati: The Bengals started a big QB push in March, then April rolls around and they're not interested anymore and think Palmer will return? C'mon now... 

Projected Targets: QB Cam Newton, WR A.J. Green

 

Buffalo: Much like Cincinnati the Bills were heavily invested in scouting QBs through this process and then magically April rolls around and they're believing Ryan Fitzpatrick can get them through.

Projected Targets: QB Cam Newton, DT Marcell Dareus

 

Arizona: See above, and two above. Though the Cardinals aren't selling the idea they're no longer interested in a QB quite as badly as BUF and CIN, ultimatelyI think Arizona are feeling safe that Blaine Gabbert will fall to them at #5.

Projected Targets: QB Blaine Gabbert, OLB Von Miller

 

I concentrated here on the four teams I think are the most likely to try and move up in the draft to secure one of their targets. What do you think Panther nation? At this point do you think the Panthers are 100% sold on Cam Newton, or is this part of a larger plan.

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