NEW YORK — Will the St. Louis Rams use the No. 2 pick on USC quarterback Mark Sanchez?
Some NFL teams are privately speculating that might happen.
As the Detroit Lions continue to zero in on Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, there is a growing belief in league circles that the Rams -- who already have quarterback Marc Bulger -- are taking a serious look at the former Trojans standout.
With two days to go before the NFL draft, Sanchez is rapidly becoming the man of the hour, the linchpin player who figures to determine the direction of the draft from the top.
"Teams have been doing more and more work on him," said an NFL personnel executive -- but not with the Rams. "They're starting to realize that he may be worth the risk to move up."
Although Sanchez turned down the NFL's invitation to attend the draft and plans to watch it from Southern California with friends and family, he is in New York this week. He told a reporter Wednesday night that he was going to a Broadway show but cordially declined to say whether he had plans to meet with the New York Jets, who pick 17th.
"I'm kind of on lockdown on all that stuff," he said, noting that he does plan to make a New York appearance today as part of his sponsorship deal with Sprint.
This is the season of rampant speculation, when mixed messages and deception emanating from teams rival any kind of disguise and misdirection that happens on the field. What is real? What is a smoke screen? Only the Lions have the ability to choose any player on the board.
That said, the conjecture is the Rams could take Sanchez second and, A) allow him to learn behind Bulger for a season, B) trade Bulger to a quarterback-needy team, or C) trade Sanchez after selecting him.
So if the Rams pass on Sanchez, who might take him?
There's a fairly widespread belief that the quarterback -- who started only 16 games at USC and was at his best in a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State -- won't slip past Seattle at four.
It's highly unusual for a team to trade into the top five to grab a player because of the cost of doing so, but Sanchez could inspire such a move.
Both Jacksonville at eight and San Francisco at 10 are in the market for a quarterback, as is Denver (12 and 18), which sent coaches to L.A. on Tuesday for a private workout with Sanchez.
Washington too could be considering a move up from 13. The Redskins fell short in their bid for Jay Cutler, traded from the Broncos to Chicago, and Sanchez is the type of quarterback Redskins Coach Jim Zorn favors because he's a quick and accurate decision-maker who can move in the pocket.