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NFL Draft 2011: Get Ready For Smokescreens. Like - Dallas is "Not In Love" in Prince Amukamura

We’re exactly one month away from the NFL Draft. I will promise you that I will never claim to be anything close to a scout or to have any special knowledge about whether a player is going to be a bust. I may offer opinions over the next month, but they are just my opinions.

What I do think I can keep an eye out for, though, is the annual “silly draft” stuff that floats around all April. I may not be a scout, but I’d like to think I can detect B.S., and my background has taught me to look at evidence and determine who has bias and motivation and incentive to say certain things.

Last year at about this time, I became convinced that the Kansas City Chiefs were going to draft Eric Berry if he was still there when they picked 5th. I based that on this piece by Peter King, where he discusses Eric Berry, and how Thomas Dimitroff relayed a conversation with Scott Pioli, which cast doubt that Pioli would have any interest. It was a little too convenient (and was a well-placed smoke screen using Peter King, by the way). The Chiefs needed a safety. They had none on the roster. Pioli said, “you know how I feel about safeties that high,” when I looked through the draft record … it became obvious.

The ruse worked, as the Chiefs got their man at #5, and the blogosphere spent much time discussing whether a safety was really worth a top five pick and buying into the myth that safeties are more of a risk at the top of the draft.

This item, then, from Tony Pauline, a well-respected draft insider for Sports Illustrated, writing on his blog at TFY Draft Insider last night, piqued my attention:

Where will the Dallas Cowboys go in round one?  Evidently the team is not in love with Prince Amukamara and won’t use the 9th selection on him.  This on the heels of sources telling us the team will cut veteran Terence Newman. All signs continue to point to an offensive tackle, specifically one that can play the right side . . . Sources have told us there is already a plan in place with a team that holds a mid-first round pick if either Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton are still on the board when Dallas is called to the clock.

And what I hear is “the Cowboys are in love with Prince Amukamara, and really would love it if another team traded in front of them to get one of the quarterbacks because they believe this trade leak, so Amukamara slips to Dallas.”

It’s possible that the Cowboys organization has written off Amukamara on their board, and then allowed this information to be leaked. I have no doubt that Pauline is accurately passing along some rumors that he is hearing. Without knowing the source, though, I would be more inclined to believe it if it came from the janitor than someone associated with the Cowboys’ front office.

Let’s review. Would it make strategic sense for a leak of this type to come out if Dallas truly wasn’t interested in Amukamara? I don’t think so. Why tell people that you are not interested in a player who is projected on most boards to go before or right near your pick.

Now, the reverse. The #1 reason that Dallas fell so far last year, more than an injury to Tony Romo, and just ahead of interior offensive line play (which you don’t spend a early first or even a mid-first on), was the collapse of the defensive secondary. They must upgrade there. Now, it is separately rumored that the team will part ways with Terence Newman (a separate leak I do believe because any number of parties may have a motivation for leaking that). Newman was far from the worst player in that secondary, though his contract may be prohibitive. Removing him would make it just that much more likely that Dallas needs to go cornerback.

Then, you have one guy who may be on the board, if he gets to you, at that exact position of need. (Patrick Peterson is not making it anywhere close to Dallas). In some ways, it’s obvious, much like the Chiefs’ need of Berry was obvious last year, so the only reason to leak such a thing is to make it less obvious. One guy fits that bill. And you leak that you “are not in love” with him. Riggggghhhht. On Pauline’s site, he lists Amukamara as #7 on his board. That’s about where I see him going. So leak a story, try to plant seeds in other organizations that he may have flaws, without actually saying that, and then hope he drops to #9. I doubt he’s getting past that slot.

[photo via Getty]

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