Dec 31, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) scores a touchdown against Duke Blue Devils safety Jeremy Cash (16) during the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft Chatter: Mock Drafts, Johnny Manziel Consensus and More

This will be the first in a regular series of random thoughts on the NFL Draft from around the web, which will include looks at mock drafts, player profiles, and draft news.

The NFL Draft is still months away, but it’s the primary topic of conversation in Tampa Bay. Fans of the Buccaneers are eager to see which young stars will join the team in the draft, with a special focus placed on the seventh pick the Bucs earned by finishing 4-12.

Here are some of the NFL Draft stories being talked about around the web today.

ESPN Mock Drafts Updated

Both of ESPN’s primary draft experts, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr., updated their Insider (subscription only) mock drafts, which can be found here. Both experts feel the same way about the Buccaneers’ pick, as they both have Tampa Bay selecting Khalil Mack from Buffalo.

Mack is an intriguing prospect who wouldn’t fit perfectly into Lovie Smith’s ideal scheme on defense, but he has all the tools to provide Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier with a dynamic pass rusher who is also capable as a linebacker.

The main disagreement I have with these mock drafts was Kiper Jr.’s in particular, which featured, the Buccaneers passing on UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. As I wrote in my profile of Bortles, I believe he’s a worthy first-round selection and has Andrew Luck/Ben Roethlisberger upside. The Buccaneers won’t have another chance at a QB like Bortles for a while, unless they somehow manage to have a worse season in 2014 despite a much improved coaching staff. It would be foolish to pass on him.

Johnny Manziel, the Consensus “Best Quarterback?”

In another frustrating moment from Kiper Jr., the long-time ESPN draft analyst told the media the following during a conference call today.

 

Personally, I believe that Manziel isn’t even among the top-5 quarterbacks in this draft, and that he doesn’t belong within the first few rounds and should be drafted as a project who could develop into something resembling Jeff Garcia.

The bigger problem with Kiper’s statement is that it’s almost certainly untrue. As Pro Football Talk mentions, there’s no way any player is a “consensus” anything in February.

Buccaneer fans will be familiar with Johnny Manziel’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, who represented Josh Freeman and was a key figure in the drama surrounding the former Bucs’ quarterback.

Burkhardt’s job is to make Manziel as much money as possible so that his paycheck grows as well. Planting this information with ESPN would be a step in the right direction to continue to grow the myth and legend around “Johnny Football.”

Teams could also be spreading noise about Manziel in hopes of hyping him up to allow their franchise to select other players that fall down the board because of Manziel’s inflated stock.

Overall, I don’t believe that Manziel belongs in the first round of this draft, but if Kiper Jr.’s report is true at all, I will likely be proven wrong by at least one NFL executive.

Improving the Buccaneers’ Offensive Line

Dan Kadar at Mocking the Draft has released a three-round mock draft, and he, like many others, has Khalil Mack putting on a red and pewter hat in the first round.

But since his mock draft extends into the second round, we can learn that he feels another top priority for the Buccaneers is to add an offensive lineman. He mentions having previously mocked an offensive tackle to the Buccaneers, and for this instance of his mock, has changed that to guard.

He alludes to the injury status of Carl Nicks and the large contract due to Davin Joseph, and he’s right to believe that the Buccaneers may look to add a guard to replace one or the other. His pick is Gabe Jackson from Mississippi State, who I have heard nothing but good things about.

Have an NFL Draft topic you want to discuss? Leave your thoughts in the comments, or e-mail the editor at  [email protected] with your questions that may be answered in this column in the future.

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