NFL Media Senior Analyst Mike Mayock spoke to the national media Tuesday morning in advance of the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He addressed numerous topics from team specific needs to the viability of the Combine itself.
“I mean, we haven’t gotten to free agency yet, but I would say where we stand today it would be either the highest rated defensive back on the board at that time, or the highest rated offensive lineman on the board at that time. [Jack] Conklin from Michigan State and [Tyler] Decker from Ohio State, whether or not they’d be there at 14, vs. who would be the highest corner or free safety with the retirement of Woodson. You start looking at that whole defensive back situation, I don't think there's a safety justified at 14. I think [Florida State’s Jalen] Ramsey and [Florida cornerback Vernon] Hargreaves will both be gone, so then you start to talk about [Clemson cornerback] Mackensie Alexander, who he's an interesting conversation right now. Zero interceptions in two years. You don't see corners get drafted with zero interceptions, let alone in the first round, but he's a talented kid. Eli Apple from Ohio State, would he be worth a pick that high. So as the board unfolds, and before free agency, it wouldn't surprise me if you ended up with an offensive lineman.
If the Raiders want to shore up the offensive line, plenty of right tackles are available in this Draft…
“Well, at this position I would tell you that for instance Jack Conklin from Michigan State would be the perfect right tackle. I think he can handle speed off the edge. He's a tough guy, gets movement at the run game. I think Taylor Decker could play left or right. Then you start to get into a guy like [Indiana’s] Jason Spriggs, who I think you could get in the second or third round, and I like him on the right side better than I do on the left.”
“The good news is we’re so deep on defense, the defensive tackles and the corners especially, it’s going to be a good year for those groups. I think what you’re going to see happening with that interior defensive line group, you could wait until the third or fourth round this year and get a defensive tackle, that in past drafts was a first or second rounder. A lot of teams are going to wait until the third or fourth round to get that defensive tackle they need, because he’s still going to be on the board, and you’re going to get a second rounder instead of a fourth rounder.”
Despite recent criticisms, the Combine is still relevant…
“The most over-hyped thing is the 40-yard dash. It’s fun, it’s easily calculatable so we can sit there and compare everybody. It often doesn’t matter what these guys run at the end of the day 95 percent of it, 99 percent of it should be about their tape and what they’ve already done. I think the most underlooked piece of it is a combination of the interviews and the medical. That’s why this thing started 30 years ago anyway was to get unified medical reports on all these kids.
“First and foremost I feel horribly for the kid, injuring the knee especially when he injured it in the bowl game. Secondly, if he did not get hurt he’d be in the conversation for the first pick in the draft, that’s how good his junior season was. A little bit like [UCLA’s] Myles Jack in the sense that I saw him take a big leap forward as a full three-down linebacker this year, sideline to sideline with speed, he’s as exciting a linebacker prospect as I’ve seen since Luke Kuechly as an inside or off the ball linebacker. That’s how excited I was for him. He could’ve been the first pick in the draft. If he has clean medical and you know you’re going to get him for a half season plus and he’s going to be fine. Yeah, I think you pull the trigger on a kid like that. ”
Ezekiel Elliott will be first running back taken…
"I think it’s a solid running back class like usual. We devalue this position. [Ohio State’s] Ezekiel Elliott will go in the first round, after that I don’t think anybody will. People will either love [Alabama’s] Derrick Henry or not like him that much, one or the other, and there’s a bunch of those third round change of pace guys, maybe even second round.”