The smoke is about to clear, allowing reality to finally set in.
The first day of the NFL draft has arrived, which means the end of rumors and misinformation put out by front offices in attempts to confuse the opposition. It's now time to put up or shut up for organizations that have spent the last few months playing the mind games that go along with having a first-round pick.
The Cleveland Browns have been in the middle of the chatter. One day receiver Braylon Edwards is all but gone to the New York Giants in a trade, and the next day there are reports the deal is dead. Quarterback Brady Quinn has supposedly been on the trading block, but a Denver Post report Friday stated team officials told the Broncos that Quinn isn't available.
It's no wonder why the NFL draft is the top non-sporting event in the country. It has all the drama of "American Idol," plus a little more.
The Browns have three of the first 50 picks - numbers five, 36 and 50. Th ere isn't much left for them after that other than one pick each in the fourth and sixth rounds.
Coach Eric Mangini and general manager George Kokinis have a chance to make a quick splash, but there's not much of a chance for late-round magic. Unless, of course, the Browns make a couple of trades that will gain them more picks.
The plan at team headquarters is obvious - virtually every player on the roster is available for the right price. Rebuilding is in full swing, and Mangini and Kokinis are expected to try everything within their powers to begin the process via the draft.
Unlike previous seasons when the Browns were a major player in free agency, no big acquisitions were made. Mangini, formerly the head coach of the New York Jets, attracted several ex-Jets to Cleveland to fill backup roles and add depth at the bottom of the roster, but no big-ticket contracts were given out.
The Browns are building with college kids, which make the events of today and Sunday so important. They can't afford to swing and miss in retooling a roster that is void of quality frontline talent.
A deal involving Edwards to the Giants appears to still have some legs. The Browns won't get defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka or receiver Steve Smith, but they'd like to get their hands on the Giants' first-round pick, which is 29th overall.
A deal involving Quinn appears less likely. Perhaps Mangini and Kokinis realize the danger of trading a quarterback who hasn't been given a chance for a full season. If Quinn were to go to another team and become a star, the coach and GM might as well begin packing their bags.
It wouldn't be surprising if the Browns trade out of the fifth spot and move down to acquire more picks.
If they've convinced enough people that they're interested in USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, some team - perhaps the Denver Broncos or Washington Redskins - might be willing to move up.
Moving down to the middle of the first round would give the Browns a chance to still select a quality pass rusher like Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo or a run-stuffer like USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. It's possible that Boston College nose tackle B.J. Raji, whom the Browns supposedly covet at number five, might still be on the board.
Sifting through all the rumors and conjecture, my feeling is that the Browns won't use the fifth pick on receiver Michael Crabtree - you can always get good receivers in later rounds. They need a running back, but it's a reach to pick Ohio State's Chris Wells that high.
Orakpo is a possibility because of his intriguing pass-rush ability, but stopping the run is the top priority. Unless the Browns trade out of the fifth spot, I'm going with Raji as the choice.