NFL Draft rumors 2014: Falcons exploring trades, Cowboys still targeting Johnny Manziel

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Reports indicate Atlanta plans on trading the No. 6 pick, but whether the Falcons will move up or down is still uncertain. Meanwhile, the Johnny Cowboy rumors are still going strong and the Browns are heaping praise on Sammy Watkins.

After the Atlanta Falcons visited with Jadeveon Clowney for a second time last week, it was clear that the team was considering a move to the top of the NFL Draft. Given that Thomas Dimitroff is the same general manager who traded up 21 picks to grab Julio Jones in 2011, it isn't hard to believe he'd attempt a jump from No. 6 to No. 1 to grab the top prospect in the draft.

But Monday brings the news that while the Falcons are considering moving up to No. 1 -- or anywhere within the top four, for that matter -- they're also open to moving back. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports that the team is unlikely to keep the No. 6 pick and that the Falcons could opt to either move up into the top four or down toward the back end of the top 10.

Rapoport tweeted on Monday that the Falcons have not yet opened negotiations with the Houston Texans -- who are reportedly shopping the No. 1 pick -- but the team "will be creative" on draft day.

"When you talk to people around the league, especially people who have picks up in that top-10 area, they really think the Falcons are a team to watch to move up, and maybe move all the way up," Rapoport told NFL.com last week.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King put the odds of the Falcons trading up to the top spot at 40 percent in his latest installment of The MMQB.

Johnny Cowboy rumors continue

The notion that the Dallas Cowboys brain trust is enamored with Johnny Manziel isn't exactly new. The team interviewed him at the combine and there have been separate reports of both team owner Jerry Jones and his son and GM Stephen Jones fawning over the quarterback prospect. For what it's worth, Peter King is buying the rumors.

In his MMQB, King cited two primary reasons he believes the Cowboys would draft Johnny Football were he to drop to No. 16: 1) Manziel is a "Jerry Jones kind of guy" and 2) Tony Romo just turned 34 and is coming off his second back surgery.

At this point, it seems safe to say that Dallas would take Manziel at No. 16. But seeing as the chances of the Texas A&M phenom dropping that far aren't getting any better, the real question becomes: are the Cowboys willing to trade up for him, and if so, how high?

Browns GM heaps praise on Sammy Watkins

Cleveland Browns GM Ray Farmer held a pre-draft press conference on Monday, and he wasn't shy about his interest in former Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer.

"It would be big, big, ginormous (to get him),'' Farmer said. "He's a good football player. He has really good hands, can run all the routes and can be productive. Saddle him on the opposite side of Josh Gordon -- wow!''

For starters, let's not read too far into all that salivating. GMs have an interest in cloaking their draft intentions and misleading their peers. Farmer said last month that he hoped to keep other teams "in the dark," so public praise could be no more than draft gamesmanship.

But let's assume the Browns really are interested in Watkins -- there's no guarantee he would even be available when Cleveland goes on the clock at No. 4. It seems unlikely the Texans would take him with the first pick -- they're probably deciding between Clowney or one of the quarterbacks -- but the St. Louis Rams could use a playmaker on offense. Even more likely is the possibility of another wideout-hungry team jumping in front of the Browns. The leading candidates for that move are the Detroit Lions, who met with Watkins two weeks ago.

Brandon Thomas expects October return

Clemson offensive line prospect Brandon Thomas, who tore his ACL while prepping for the draft in early April, is targeting an Oct. 1 return to football activity, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net.

Rated as the 14th-best offensive tackle prospect by SB Nation prior to the injury, Thomas mangled his knee during a private workout for the New Orleans Saints, becoming a cautionary tale for other prospects. Following the injury, several other key draft hopefuls, the most notable being Clowney, announced they would not be holding private workouts.

The first of October means Thomas wouldn't even begin working out with the team until at least Week 5 next season, and there's no telling how long it will take him to work himself into game shape from there. Throw in the fact that he's missing offseason workouts and his first training camp, and his chances of seeing an NFL field at all next season are in doubt. That doesn't bode well for his stock on draft day.

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