It is less than three weeks before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes to the podium and announces that the Tennessee Titans are on the clock. But will Tennessee still own the first pick of the draft once the event commences? Here's the latest draft buzz circulating around the league:
1. The word from league insiders is four teams have inquired about the first pick of the draft. One of them is a bit of a surprise - the Dallas Cowboys. While the Cowboys rank quarterback Carson Wentz of North Dakota State as one of the best players in the NFL Draft, I'm told they've had defensive back Jalen Ramsey as the top player on their board for more than two months. The only way Dallas can be assured of acquiring Ramsey is moving ahead of the Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers.
2. Opinions on where defensive end Kevin Dodd of Clemson ends up in the draft are wide and varied. I've heard everything from potential top 10 choice to early second-round selection. Teams who've graded him as a second-round prospect are unimpressed by his body of work as Dodd totaled 21 tackles prior to this season. He had 62 tackles, 23.5 for loss and 12 sacks in 2015. They are concerned he will need a bit of work before he's NFL ready. Conversely, those who grade Dodd as an early first-round pick believe his upside is enormous and he could potentially develop into one of the better defensive front seven players from this year's draft. So will Dodd be selected early in round one or does he fall out of the first frame all together? As is usually the case, I believe the answer is somewhere in between.
3. I'm told right now it's a 50/50 split leaguewide as to where Su'a Cravens will line-up on Sunday. Half of the teams believe he'll play outside linebacker while the other half think he'll stay at safety, the spot he manned at USC. Most of the insiders I speak with feel Cravens compares favorably to Deone Bucannon of the Arizona Cardinals and believe the USC junior is best suited for the same "moneybacker" position Bucannon plays. Listed on the Cardinals' depth chart as $LB, moneybacker is a hybrid safety/linebacker position which emphasizes stopping the run. Cravens is likely to end up in the late part of round one as a team in the 20s could select him or another franchise may trade up from the early part of round two to acquire his services.
4. Cincinnati receiver Chris Moore is graded by most analysts as a late-round pick, but scouts feel differently. The senior caught 40 passes for 870 yards (21.8 yards per catch average) and seven touchdowns last season for the Bearcats. Scouts love Moore's combination of size (6-1, 206 pounds) and big-play ability. The fact he ran one of the best times in the 3-cone drill (6.76s) at the Combine makes scouts believe he'll be a scissors-sharp route runner once properly coached. Most people I've spoken with feel Moore grades as a middle-round (fourth) choice with a few believing he could slide into the late part of day two.
5. Despite the fact the draft is less than three weeks away, two players are still awaiting word from the NCAA on their eligibility for the upcoming season - tight end Dillon Gordon of LSU and defensive end Drew Ott of Iowa. Both saw their 2015 campaigns end early due to injury and each want to play another season on the college field. Gordon, a blocking tight end, would not have been drafted even if he had completed the season, but it's a different story for Ott, who entered the campaign stamped as a mid-round prospect by scouts.
Ott collected five sacks in six games last season before tearing a ligament in his right knee. Earlier in the season, he was sidelined with a dislocated elbow. Iowa filed paperwork for a fifth year of eligibility for Ott, who never redshirted. The word circulating around the Hawkeyes' Pro Day on March 21 was Ott would wait another two more weeks to hear a final decision from the NCAA before entering the draft. But as of last Friday, he had yet to publically announce his decision and had not signed with an agent according to the NFLPA. Many feel it's too late for Ott or Gordon to enter April's NFL Draft in large part due to the way the NCAA has dragged out the appeal process. Expect to see Ott or Gordon in July's supplemental draft if either have their appeal denied by the NCAA.