One month before the 2018 draft, everyone knew that the Cleveland Browns were going with one of two players with the first overall pick. Mike Mayock, Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks, Mel Kiper,Matt Miller, Charles Davis, Peter Schrager, Peter King,Todd McShay and our own Albert Breer and Robert Klemko were all in agreement: either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen would be the Browns’ pick.
It seems we’re traveling down a similar path this year. Nearly every major outlet—including this one—is predicting Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray to the Cardinals with the draft’s first pick. But based on last year’s twist, should we really be so sure?
This is the height of misinformation season, and it’s difficult to parse what’s the truth and what teams are putting out there to purposely send us chasing down the wrong the story. Every time I’m working on a mock draft and I think about all the tidbits I’ve gathered in my reporting, I feel like I’m in the Friends episode, “The One Where Everybody Finds Out,” where Phoebe utters the famous line, “They don’t know that we know they know we know!” (And then I have to take a walk outside in the fresh air to clear the clutter in my brain and get past my existential mock draft crisis so I can file the dang thing on time.)
One scout told me that last year, those in the know knew Darnold was never going in the first two picks. For both teams that held the first and second picks, the Browns and the Giants—it was Mayfield and Barkley all the way.
The Murray hype could be part groupthink among us in the media and part smokescreen from Arizona. The fact that we’ve all glommed onto the narrative leads me to believe there’s at least a chance Murray won’t go No. 1. There’s certainly good reason for the Cardinals to be misleading us, through severalpubliccomments from head coach Kliff KIngsbury and general manager Steve Keim. If other teams think Arizona is serious about Murray, it will drive up the price of the first pick for a team that desperately wants to trade up and get him.
While in Indianapolis for the combine, a scout I know posed an interesting theory that supports the idea that Murray will go first overall. Why else would he walk away from baseball money and a team he’d already committed to, if he didn’t already know he was going to be the top pick? Obviously, there were other factors influencing Murray’s decision, like his love of football outweighing his love of baseball, but this idea got me to think. It is possible Murray already knows he’ll go No. 1? Would any team make that kind of promise to a prospect? I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s another idea to consider.
Because of what we saw last year with Mayfield, who no one was mentioning as the Browns’ preferred option this time last year, don’t be surprised if draft night doesn’t start with Kyler Murray to the Cardinals.
NEWS AND NOTES: At Mississippi State’s pro day on Wednesday, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, six weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL, put up 28 reps on the 225-pound bench press. Simmons will be an interesting player to watch in this draft. He’ll slide because of his inability to play next season, but he could still go in the first round to a team that doesn’t have the urgency to play him in 2019 . . . Arizona State’s Wednesday pro day benefitted from the fact that the owners’ meetings wrapping up nearby—not to mention ASU head coach Herm Edwards’s NFL connections—and drew more scouts and NFL personnel than it has in a long time. Broncos GM John Elway and 49ers GM John Lynch attended. According to Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, many in Tempe were speculating it was the most well-attended pro day since Terrell Suggs worked out, 16 years ago. The headliner was WR N'Keal Harry, who is projected to be picked in the late first round or second round.
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