Conflicting reports galore point to the Falcons rolling out a carefully calibrated strategy to throw the other 31 teams off.
The Falcons have traditionally held their cards close to their chest when it comes to the NFL Draft. In years past, they've successfully kept everyone in the dark about their plans until days or hours before they're scheduled to make their first pick, and sometimes they catch everyone off guard entirely.
This year, Thomas Dimitroff took the unusual step of admitting there were certain positions he liked, and there was a highly unusual amount of chatter around the team trading up. Whether this was their plan all along or it's a corrective measure after those rumors came seeping out of Flowery Branch,
Either way, it's pretty clear what's happening here: The Falcons have rolled out the mother of all smokescreens.
Here's a sampling of some of the reports I've seen in the last few days:
- Jason Cole at Yahoo! reports the Falcons are after Bjoern Werner
- Peter King at Sports Illustrated reports the Falcons want Sheldon Richardson
- Jason La Canfora says they're in for Dee Milliner or Xavier Rhodes
- And on and on. Others have said Tyler Eifert, Desmond Trufant, Tank Carradine, Jamar Taylor, etc.
There's only one good explanation for a raft full of nationally respected sports reporters coming away with such drastically different players, and that's this: They're being played like furiously Tweeting fiddles. And it's working like a charm.
The fact that some of these reports have leaned heavily on rival general managers tells you that no one has a clue what the Falcons are trying to do. There's a general agreement that they're moving up, which might damage their leverage if A) there weren't so many teams desperate to trade down and B) teams had a vague inkling of who the Falcons are trying to get. This smokescreen ensures that very few people outside of the Falcon organization are going to be 100% certain what position Atlanta's targeting, even though it should be blindingly obvious that cornerback is their first choice.
This shows us that the Falcons remain masters of keeping outsiders in the dark about their plans, and it shows how easy it is to dupe overworked reporters who are already basically just chasing shadows around all April. If I were a betting man, I'd actually go with the Falcons drafting someone in the first round who they've hardly been linked to at all, because that's just how Thomas Dimitroff and his team roll. The smokescreen ensures there will be plenty of surprised pundits, team executives and fans if that does happen.
Ironically enough, I've written up a predictions post that has some general thoughts about where the Falcons will be going in this draft. Be sure to check up on that at 11 a.m.