* Speak to NFL executives and almost to a man they will tell you if Johnny Manziel is selected in the first eight picks tomorrow it will be by decree of the owner rather than the scouting department or general manager, something I’ve mentioned for a while. One insider told me the feeling amongst the 32 general managers is the hope Manziel is gone before they are called to the clock so there’s no discussion or distraction of selecting the signal caller. I’m told nowhere is this more apparent than Tampa Bay where owners are pushing for Manziel but wish of head coach Lovie Smith is defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
* I’m told while the Cleveland Browns like Manziel they don’t like him enough to use the fourth pick of the draft on him. The name that continues to pop up for the franchise at that selection is receiver Mike Evans. Over the past week there are three scenarios I continue to hear for the Browns at four:
1) Receiver at pick four (likely Evans) then a trade back into the middle of round one if Manziel slides out of the top ten.
2) Receiver at pick four and a quarterback and cornerback with the next two selections. Trading back into the first round to select a quarterback is a consideration. I can confirm Cleveland has contacted teams in the bottom half of round one about making the move if necessary.
3) Blake Bortles the dark horse at pick four.
* Speaking of Bortles, if he slides past the Minnesota Vikings at the eight spot look for the Arizona Cardinals to work the phones in an attempt to move up for a chance to select the quarterback.
* For the second year in a row I’m told the Oakland Raiders are shopping their first round pick. And while there’s been interest no team has matched Oakland’s asking price. Right now the players they would like at number five would be one of the following; Khalil Mack, Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins. If they are able to trade down the pick is likely to be quarterback Derek Carr, who’ll give them a long term option at the position and would bring a lot of local interest.
Back on April 23rd I first reported Joel Bitonio as a prime target for the Carolina Panthers in round one. That’s becoming clearer as a number of team executives have penned Bitonio to Carolina at pick 28. I’m told the San Diego Chargers at number 25 will also consider Bitonio. There’s a feeling Carolina could attempt to trade up for a receiver or offensive tackle, should one fall. The obvious trade partner is the Miami Dolphins whom I’m told will entertain offers for the 19th pick if Zach Martin is unavailable. Carolina would assure themselves receiver Brandin Cooks or Marquise Lee, whichever is available. If that’s the case Bitonio could then land with the Seattle Seahawks as the first round closes out.
The San Francisco 49ers have let it be known they plan to be aggressive on draft day and use their arsenal of top 100 picks to move up. Sources tell me right now they believe the target is receiver Odell Beckham. The price to move up for Mike Evans is a little steep and Beckham fills a need. Sources also tell me the Niners may not want to meet Michael Crabtree’s price tag in free agency next March, so Beckham would also offer a safeguard in that respect.
On Monday I mentioned the name of tight end Eric Ebron as a first round target for the Baltimore Ravens. Immediately relevant questions came back why Ebron with Dennis Pitta on the roster as well as the recent signing of Owen Daniels. Sources made three points on why Ebron is their target; 1) Daniels signed a one year deal 2) Pitta will be 29 years old at the start of the season 3) no offensive coordinator uses the tight end more, or uses as many tight ends as newly hired Gary Kubiak.