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News

NFL Draft Quick Hits with Mike Mayock

Posted May 1, 2014

NFL Draft Analyst Mike Mayock took questions from national media regarding the 2014 NFL Draft via conference call. Here are a few of his answers...

Q. I want to ask you about the second tier of receivers in this draft. Everyone talks about Watkins and Evans. Who do you see coming out of the second tier of receivers?

MIKE MAYOCK: I think there's a chance six wideouts go in the first round. After Watkins and Evans, the next two are going to be wideouts people would say wouldn't go so early, Odell Beckham from LSU and Bradin Cooks from Oregon State. Beckham is an explosive kid with return skills. Gets in and out of breaks as well as any receiver in this draft. Has good size. Cooks is a smaller receiver, but maybe the most explosive of the entire group. He's tough. He also is a good route runner. I think their value is going to start somewhere in that 13, 14 area. I think they'll be gone by plus or minus 20. Then Kelvin Benjamin and Marqise Lee come into play after that. You could see up to six wideouts go in the first round.

Q. With no running backs selected in the first round last year, possibly none this year either, some of the struggles like Trent Richardson, do you see the position being devalued? Are the days of a running back being picked among the top few picks dwindling? In your mock drafts, who do you have going to the Raiders at number five?

MIKE MAYOCK: In one of them I had [Johnny] Manziel and the other one I had [Khalil] Mack. This is just me messing around last night. It's not official. It's just me trying to run through a whole different group of permutations. As far as the running back position, I don't think there's any doubt it's been devalued. I just think it's become a pass-first league. Because of that, it's flipped upside down. Thirty years ago tailbacks were the most important thing controlling the football, controlling the clock. Now everybody is throwing the ball 40 times a game. I think it's really intriguing. Football is a cyclical game. I think it's intriguing the two best teams in the last year, Seattle and San Francisco, in my opinion, what was their recipe for success? They played great defense, they ran the football, they asked their quarterbacks to make a less percentage of plays than Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The two best teams in the league utilized the tailback and the run game. I wouldn't be surprised to see that come back en vogue. Right now I don't have a running back that I think is going to go in the first round. There might be a couple with first-round grades, I don't think any of them are going in the first round.

Q. We might be splitting hairs, but with Evans and Watkins, in terms of NFL readiness, how they were used in college, whose college résumé caters to them, making a smoother transition knowing the challenges young receivers face.

MIKE MAYOCK: At wideout, the way I look at those two kids, it's vanilla and chocolate. They make different flavors for different reasons.  The Watkins kid is explosive. He's a great route runner, great hands, tremendous run after catch. More than anything, he's a competitor. In addition to all the natural gifts he has, he has an edge about him every game he plays, and I love that.  Mike Evans is more a product of what today's NFL environment is. Today's NFL environment, with the advent of the back shoulder throw, has opened up the game for the big wideouts, the 6'5" wideouts. Why? They basically can play outside the numbers and they don't have to run as many routes and they don't have to get in and out of breaks like the smaller ones.  They're running a bunch of outside the number fade routes that become converted back shoulders. Any time you get a one-on-one with a defensive back with his back turned, you get a big, superior athlete, the odds favor the wide receiver.  Mike Evans I think, along with Kelvin Benjamin, some of these other guys, are what today's NFL is all about. They're outside the number guys and red zone guys.  However, I happen to think that Watkins is a better football player and that's why he's rated higher

Q. Do you have any thoughts on the 40-yard dash? Do you like the attention it gets these days? How significant is it? Do you think the attention is appropriate?

MIKE MAYOCK: It's an interesting question. I think sometimes the biggest mistakes are made by teams that concentrate too heavily on the measurables. Now, having said that, there are certain measurables that are important for NFL teams, and the 40 is one of them. When they run at the combine, everybody is on the same surface with the same type of spikes, whatever, it's an apples-to-apples comparison. That's important to these guys. You've watched nine million tapes, you're trying to say is this wideout as fast as I think he is, why did this wideout run 4.42 when it looks like on tape he's 4.45.  I think we make mistakes. The Oakland Raiders have traditionally been a height, weight, speed team. They've made a bunch of mistakes, especially at wide receiver because they've picked big, fast guys. You can go throughout the league and pick mistakes.  I think the best drafting teams are the ones that put the heavy emphasis on the tape and use the measurables just as a cross-check to make sure they've got everything where they want it.

Q. Anthony Barr, you've mentioned a couple times you don't think he's going to be there in the early 20s. It seems like lately he's a guy who is sliding. What do you think accounts for that?

MIKE MAYOCK: I don't think he's sliding. I think that's more of a media perception. I think he could go as early as 11 to Tennessee. I think Dallas would love him at 16. This draft is not deep in edge rushers. The bottom line with Barr is I think his best football is ahead of him. You might have to wait two years. He only played the position for two years. He needs to get stronger at the point of attack, he needs to learn the position from a perspective of learning how to pass-rush. Every rush can't be a speed rush. But the kid has great talent. He's the prototype 34 outside linebacker. I don't think there's any way he gets into the 20s.

Q. About quarterbacks, do you think the fact that some teams had success with non-first-round quarterbacks and/or the mistakes that were made in 2011 will cause any sort of market corrections that teams might not reach for quarterbacks high in the first round as much as they have in the past because of those things?

MIKE MAYOCK: I don't think there's any doubt that last year was the first time we saw true value at the quarterback position in a bunch of years. Only one quarterback was drafted in the first round. Rather than push quarterbacks up higher because of need, I think teams put them on their boards and stay true to their boards. I think because of the second and third rounders playing well, Russell Wilson, [Andy] Dalton, [Colin] Kaepernick, Nick Foles, because those guys have played well, it opens the door even more and reinforces that philosophy. I think it's going to be intriguing this year to see how these quarterbacks are spread out. I have 10 quarterbacks with first, second or third round grades this year, which is more than I've ever had. It's mostly because I'm getting feedback from teams that believe in that many kids. The average number of quarterbacks that go in the first three rounds over the last five years has been five. Yet I have 10 with those kinds of grades. It's pretty intriguing. Philosophically it's going to be interesting to see if that holds up.

Q. Bridgewater, when you saw him live and the pro day was disappointing by all accounts, what has been your process when you go back to the tape? To the question of the face of the franchise, when you talk to teams about this in your own experience, how do you define as a quarterback what the face of a franchise should be?

MIKE MAYOCK: They're good questions. I'm struggling myself internally with this whole Bridgewater thing. I'm a coach's son and I've always believed the tape tells everything. I struggle with this a little bit because I like them on tape. I think it was four games prior to the Combine. I saw him throw live and I didn't like it at all. Went back and watched three or four more games.  To be honest with you, it's from a different prism. I am questioning arm strength, I am questioning accuracy. I watched him take three sacks consecutively against I think it was the University of South Florida. His stats were outstanding in that game. He threw the ball well, but he took three sacks I couldn't stand.  It bothered me that he took those sacks. Did it bother me more because I was at his pro day? Maybe. I didn't think he was as athletic. He's a narrow-framed guy. So it was one instance where I struggle tape versus live, and I think a bunch of teams feel the same way. I've talked to teams that have been unnerved by it. As far as the face of the franchise, sometimes that's not definable. I look at Johnny Manziel. Whatever it is, he has it. I know on Saturday, Sunday, whatever day you play on, he's going to show up with an edge about him thinking he's the best guy on the field and he's going to elevate the play of those around him. I believe that. I also struggle with him a little bit with his off-the-field antics. With Bridgewater, I don't feel an 'it' factor. I see a really good kid. But I don't know if he's ready to be the guy. Because of that, I think he's going to need at least a year to get used to that environment. He needs a redshirt year, in other words. If you need a redshirt year, you're probably going to get drafted at a different level. So that's a long way of saying that the Bridgewater thing has confused me, it's confused teams. But I'd be surprised at this point if he goes in the first round.

Q. Clearly everybody has their own opinion about different guys. The disparity of the opinion of Clowney is amazing. What do you attribute that disparity to?

MIKE MAYOCK: Whenever a guy is blessed with as much ability as he's blessed with, and I've made the statement that he woke up this morning with more physical ability than any defensive lineman on the planet, and I believe that, anywhere on the planet. With that ability comes certain responsibilities or perhaps expectations. There are times when he just kind of disappears. The Clemson tape, the left tackle from Clemson, Brandon Thomas, I thought got the best of him the entire game. If you're that good, why do you disappear for a full game? It's not as much technique, double-teaming or triple-teaming. It's just sometimes he gets blocked and he stays blocked. What I'd like to see is a little bit more of an edge about him. When he was pissed off at Tennessee, their left tackle was chirping last year, he killed Tennessee's entire offensive line for the whole game. I think when the kid is motivated, he's special. The downside to it is coaches are looking at each other saying, ‘Are we going to have manage that every day for four or five years?’ You'd like to see a self-starter and not somebody you have to start.

Q. A question about the second and third day offensive tackles. Where do you see the value in that position and do you expect a run in the second day on that position?

MIKE MAYOCK: It's a good question because it's not as deep a tackle draft as some people might have you believe. I think there's going to be a couple separate runs. The first is in the first round. I think you're going to see five tackles go. Then I have four guys before kind of the ground falls away and there's a big drop. So Joel Bitonio, who a lot of people like inside. Morgan Moses. Mewhort from Ohio State, who a lot of people see inside. And Jiwan James from Tennessee, who I think is a starting right tackle. Those are the guys on the second day, second and third round guys. Then there's a significant drop-off. So I do think there's going to be a run on those four guys. Then the questions become, you know, Seantrel Henderson has first-round talent from Miami, but he's had so many issues off the field. Tiny Richardson from Tennessee. Schofield from Michigan. Cameron Fleming from Stanford. They're all right tackles. I think Hurst is a swing tackle from North Carolina. They're all a drop-off ability-wise with the exception of Henderson. I think there are going to be a couple tackle runs.

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