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Buccaneers, Johnny Manziel and NFL draft smoke screens

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly love Johnny Manziel, but it's hard to take these reports at face value.

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

Last Friday, one report came out that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers "love" Johnny Manziel -- oddly enough, this stemmed from a (national) draft analyst based in Houston. Today, Matt Williamson of ESPN declared the same thing on a Football Today podcast (via JoeBucsFan).

This isn't the first we've heard of the Buccaneers and Lovie Smith, and other quarterbacks. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Lovie Smith praised both Manziel and Blake Bortles, noting that "most outstanding players in college, a lot of them, wind up being very good football players in the NFL."

The conclusion seems simple: two reports and a quote from Lovie himself, all pointing toward the Buccaneers selecting Manziel with the seventh overall pick. Let's pencil him in there, assuming he even falls that far.

In reality, though, we don't know what this means. Lovie Smith could simply be giving his opinion, or he may be engaging in purposeful misdirection. Because we can't tell deception from truth, and no one outside the organization really can, nobody knows what's up.

This is NFL draft season, after all. The time when even the best of friends lie to each other, most leaks turn out to be nonsense, and all the speculation goes into hyper-drive. This is as applicable to the Johnny Manziel leaks as it is to any other leak. Whether you love or hate Manziel, it's hard to take any new information out of these reports.

For all we know, the Buccaneers truly love Derek Carr and are doing their best to avoid being linked to him. Or maybe they actually like Johnny Manziel, and are pretending to be throwing up a smokescreen to hide their real interest. Again: no one but the Buccaneers really know what's going on.

This has led to a hilarious situation: Lovie Smith can effectively say and leak anything he wants, and no one will believe him.