Lies, lies and (darn) draft coverage

NFL teams don't have to inject deceit into draft coverage given the volume of misinformation that is created by media members themselves.

I don’t think NFL teams spend that much time lying in the lead-up to the draft.

They don’t have to. The coverage of the draft — or more accurately the lead-up to the draft — manufactures more than enough mistruth on its own without NFL front offices having to add anything to the process.

So I believe Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane when he proclaimed his team’s innocence in propagating the rumor the Bills were smitten with Breece Hall, the Iowa State running back.

“I don’t know where the reports come from,” Beane said. “I know they don’t come from our building. We don’t put out smoke screens. Like it’s not something we do.”

Who needs to send out a smokescreen when you’ve got chuckleheads like Chris Simms looking at you knowingly and providing insight like this in a mock draft on his podcast "Unbuttoned": “I’ve got a little bit of a curve ball. And this is a little bit because I’ve heard this, too. Breece Hall … I heard there’s a little love affair. Through the grapevine up there in Buffalo that I’ve heard they like Breece Hall a lot.”

Now someone more sarcastic than myself would wonder why we should trust Simms’s forecast of who the Bills would choose at No. 25 this year when he couldn’t accurately predict who the 49ers would pick at No. 3 last year given the 49ers are coached by Kyle Shanahan, such a close friend of Simms’s that each has the other’s initials as part of a tattoo.

But I’m not that sarcastic so I will simply say that Simms’s intimation of Buffalo’s underlying affection for Hall might have carried more weight nationally than was warranted. An ESPN.com compendium of last-minute notes added a little more fuel, saying that if a running back were to be chosen in the first round it would likely be Hall and that if Hall were to be picked in the first round, Buffalo was the most likely team given the overall strength of the Bills roster.

So were the Bills considering Hall in the first round? No, they were not. That was made eminently clear not just because Buffalo traded up two spots, selecting Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam with the 23rd overall pick, but afterward when Beane said Elam was the only remaining player with a first-round grade on Buffalo’s draft board.

As for the reports of the love affair with Reece?

“For whatever reason it picked up a trend so maybe that’s what happened,” Beane said. "I’m not sure. But we don’t really get into trying to put out smokescreens. I think it’s a waste of time.”

Why would he take time to plant the sort of things that are already blossoming without any help from him? The system works perfectly.

In my time covering the NFL — and talking to executives not just with the Seahawks but other teams — I am aware of exactly one time in which a member of a front office blatantly misled a reporter. It wasn’t me, however. It was the inimitable Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, a former player and beloved sports writer with Sports Illustrated.

In 2002, there were plenty of rumors the Seahawks were interested in a tight end in the first round, and they were. Ken Dilger, a veteran tight end, had turned down the chance to sign with Seattle as a free agent. Mike Holmgren was then in charge of football operations in addition to being head coach, and he said in a press conference before the draft he was willing to trade up in the draft order to get the right guy, which many presumed was a reference to Jeremy Shockey. Then, privately, Holmgren told Zimmerman that his real target was Daniel Graham of Colorado.

The Seahawks held the No. 20 overall pick. They did not trade up to take Shockey, who was selected 14th overall by the New York Giants. When it came time for Seattle to pick, Graham was on the board and the Seahawks traded back to No. 28. The Patriots picked Graham at No. 21, and the Seahawks wound up taking Jerramy Stevens at No. 27.

Afterward, Holmgren made a veiled reference to the misinformation as “pulling a Normandy.” I assume this was a reference to attempts to conceal the actual landing point of the World War II invasion that would become known as D-Day.

Zimmerman remained forever miffed at being misled, but I like to think it was an example of being charmingly grumpy, which Zimmerman was, as opposed to an actual grudge. Zimmerman died in 2018.

It’s a fun story, and one I’ve always enjoyed telling about the draft. However, the fact that remains the only verified example that I have of a member of the Seahawks front office deliberately misleading a member of the media is telling.

Far more common is the sports-industrial complex creating misinformation entirely on its own without provocation, and in that regard, I will close this newsletter with a special shoutout to Tony Pauline, who is a former scout and someone I met in Mobile, Ala., covering the Senior Bowl more than 10 years ago. Totally nice guy, but someone whose track record on predicting Seattle’s draft-day moves specifically leaves quite a bit to be desired.

A further breakdown exists here on “Seaside Joe,” a daily newsletter dedicated to the Seahawks.

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