NFL smokescreen

Where there's smoke there's ... the National Football League Draft.

If you've ever watched the 1937 film footage of The Hindenburg going up in flames, you surely remember how a massive cloud of gray smoke engulfed the grounded zeppelin. Well, that's roughly the same amount of smoke that engulfs the NFL Draft each year.

If you're looking for truth, don't look to NFL scouts, coaches and general managers for it. They're masters of misdirection at this time of year - dishing out lies by the dozen in an effort to keep secret which players they really, really covet. It's the ultimate smokescreen.

Most people understand that NFL folks will tell you anything - except the truth - as the draft approaches. One who apparently doesn't is Russ Lande of Sportingnews.com. Here's a tidbit he posted this week regarding Tennessee's Eric Berry, the consensus No.1 safety in this draft:

"Nearly every personnel man and scout we have spoken to tells us he has been passed by Earl Thomas as the top safety. Teams are very concerned with figuring out whether he's a corner or safety and how Berry can be a productive player in an NFL secondary."

Wow! Who would want a guy so talented that he can play safety AND corner? Who would want to have to figure out where a guy like that fits best?

For what it's worth, Lande's mock draft has Berry going to the Miami Dolphins with Pick 12 in Round 1. Here's Lande's explanation: "Berry is the explosive and athletic safety who could help make the secondary the strength of the Dolphins' defense."

With the exception of Lande's, every other mock draft on the planet seems to have Eric Berry going among the top 10 picks. Several have former Vol defensive tackle Dan Williams in the top 10, as well.

Here's what I found during an extensive tour of the Internet:

Charley Connerly of NFL.com has Berry going No. 5 to the Kansas City Chiefs, with Williams going No. 9 to the Buffalo Bills.

Pat Kirwan of NFL.com has Berry going No. 6 to the Seattle Seahawks, with Williams going No. 15 to the New York Giants. (Kirwan's three-round mock draft also has ex-Vol tailback Montario Hardesty going to Green Bay in Round 3 with pick No. 86 overall.)

Mike Mayock of NFL.com ranks Berry No. 9 among his top 20 draft prospects, with Williams No. 14.

Former Vol Charles Davis of NFL.com has Berry going No. 8 to the Oakland Raiders. He does not list Williams among the top 10 picks.

Michael Lombardi of NFL.com pegs Berry No. 5 to the Chiefs and Williams No. 9 to the Bills.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com sees Berry going No. 7 to the Browns.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com has Berry listed in Tier 1 (top 10 prospects), Williams in Tier 2 (top 11-20 prospects) and Hardesty in Tier 7 (top 61-70 prospects).

Solomon Wilcots of NFL.com has Berry going No. 7 to the Cleveland Browns and Williams No. 9 to the Bills.

Peter King of SportsIllustrated.com also has Berry going No. 7 to the Browns and Williams No. 9 to the Bills.

Todd McShay of ESPN.com has Berry going No. 5 to the Chiefs and Williams No. 7 to the Browns.

Mel Kiper of ESPN.com has Berry going No. 5 to the Chiefs and Williams No. 26 to the Arizona Cardinals.

Bill Simmons of ESPN.com has Berry going No. 4 to the Browns (in a trade-up with the Redskins) and Williams going No. 8 to the Raiders.

ScoutInc.'s top 32 lists Berry No. 4 and Williams No. 15.

Matt Hayes of SportingNews.com has Berry going No. 5 to the Chiefs and Williams No. 14 to the Seattle Seahawks.

Clifton Brown of SportingNews.com has Berry going No. 5 to the Chiefs and Williams No. 9 to the Bills.

Dennis Dillon of SportingNews.com has Berry going No. 7 to the Browns and Williams No. 9 to the Bills.

Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews.com has Berry going No. 7 to the Browns but does not have Williams going in Round 1.

ProFootballWeekly.com pegs Berry No. 6 among its top 375 prospects and Williams No. 19. Hardesty is rated No. 93, offensive tackle Chris Scott No. 240 and guard Jacques McClendon No. 274. Not listed among the top 375 are ex-Vols Jonathan Crompton (No. 21 among quarterbacks), Jeff Cottam (No. 27 among tight ends), Rico McCoy (No. 43 among outside linebackers) and Dennis Rogan (No. 69 among cornerbacks).

The NFL Draft begins tonight at 7:30 with Round 1. Rounds 2 and 3 are scheduled Friday, with Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.

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