Takeaways From Mike Mayock’s Pre-Draft Conference Call

Draft expert Mike Mayock of NFL Network held his annual draft press conference on Friday, and as usual it included some excellent insight and information. Here are a few tidbits followed by the full transcript and a link to the audio segment, in case you would like to listen.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]On Alabama LB Reuben Foster

Q: Mike, Rueben Foster has had a less than ideal predraft process. You recently still had him as your top inside linebacker. I’m just curious how far these red flags of both the character and injury issues rechecked at the combine could have him sliding in your mind?

MIKE MAYOCK: Yeah, there are some red flags there. I think the combine incident has been wiped clean by almost every team. I think that was way overdone, and the kid should not been sent home. That’s my opinion. And most people in the league believe that.

As far as the diluted sample at the combine, that’s always really disappointing. It has to be taken into consideration. I think the shoulder is apparently going to be okay from a re-check perspective. I don’t see him sliding all that far. I think he’s a top 20 pick all day long in any draft. Could he have been a top 10 pick? He still might be a top 10 pick.

So I think the interesting thing is that Haason Reddick has made up so much ground in this process that the two of them are considered pretty closely together at this point. But I still think Foster is a top 20 pick all day long.

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On this Year’s Wide Receiver Class

Q: I’m curious about this receiver class. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus in terms of who is the best receiver in this class. Who, in your mind, is your favorite, and for the Lions who makes the most sense there at 21 if one were to fall?

MIKE MAYOCK: You see the question is difficult this year because there’s only one that’s right now clean. When I say clean, I mean no injury concerns or character or anything, and that’s Mike Williams. He’s the big body, 6’3″, 218-pound guy that ran 4.55, and that’s plenty.

I don’t have any speed concerns about him. And I think he’s today’s NFL’s next receiver. He can throw the back shoulder fade, red zone, et cetera, quick slants. I love what he brings from a competitive standpoint to the game.

John Ross, I don’t care if he runs 4.22 or 4.32 or 4.42, I mean, he flies. The concern there, and there are some teams that have pushed him down the board or off the board because of injury, he’s got the surgery on his shoulder, he’s had surgery on both knees, and he’s got a small frame. So the durability is a big issue with him right now.

But I love the fact that he can step in day one and help both as a return guy and as a receiver. He puts the ball in the end zone. And I’m a huge fan of John Ross.

And then Corey Davis hasn’t been able to work out because of his ankle. And there are some concerns about the ankle, the fact that he comes from a midmajor conference, which doesn’t bother me at all. I think you watch the tape, I don’t think he’s a 4.4 guy. I think he’s 4.48, 4.50. But all three of those guys are going to go somewhere between 10 and 22 or 23.

So I don’t think you’re going to have a choice of three receivers in Detroit. I think if you’re Detroit, you just kind of take a look at all three of these guys and decide what you think that you’re seeing best.

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On this Year’s Quarterback Class

Q: As you look at the top four quarterbacks available in this draft, how would you compare them from a scouting standpoint to Christian Hackenberg coming out last year, just in terms of what you noticed? Those four guys and what you noticed in Christian?

MIKE MAYOCK: Hackenberg last year, his tape from his last two years in college was not very good. It was highly inconsistent at best. You can go back to that first year under Bill O’Brien and say look what he was, and you could also say that Penn State didn’t protect him, he got hit too often.

What I said about Hackenberg a year ago is you could find a throw or two or three off every one of his tapes where you go: Wow. That’s a big-time NFL throw. But the majority of the tape was poor from a decision-making perspective all the way through — accuracy, consistency, decision-making. So Hackenberg to me was like this puzzle that had to be unravelled, and I don’t know if it will ever happen.

As far as the quarterbacks in this year’s class, I’m not banging the table for any of them. I think there’s talent in the class, but I think it’s going to take a year for most of these guys.

I’ve got Deshaun Watson ranked number one. I think he plays his best football when the lights are brightest. I love the kid’s attitude, his leadership and the way his teammates respond to him. What I don’t like is 17 interceptions on a National Championship team. Throws way too many interceptions, and he’s also going to have to deal with the whole spread quarterback conversion to a pocket NFL quarterback. That’s a big challenge.

Mitch Trubisky, ironically, might be the most ready to play quarterback in this class. And he’s only a oneyear starter. Like his pocket awareness. Think he has good feet and quick release. Don’t think he’s got a ceiling as high as some of the other guys, but I think he can become a solid NFL starter.

Pat Mahomes is a pure gunslinger. Makes a lot of mistakes. Technique breaks down, throws interceptions. But every single play something either really good or really bad is about to happen. I think he’s an exciting talent. I like the fact that he’s an athlete. He was a high school baseball player that was drafted. He was a high school point guard. I think he’s got an innate feel for the game. And if you can coach out some of the incompetent consistencies, I think you could have a special player, but it’s going to take time.

DeShone Kizer I’ve got as my fourth guy. I think he’s a late 1 to mid 2. I think he’s a year or two away from playing, but he’s the prototypical NFL starting quarterback — size, arm strength, athletic ability. I just think his pocket awareness and pocket mechanics break down too often at critical times.

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On this Year’s Running Back Class

Q: This is said to be a deep running back class with three possibly going in the first round. Are college teams doing a better job of developing running backs for the NFL, or is the NFL just getting better at developing what the colleges are presenting to them?

MIKE MAYOCK: I just think it’s a confluence of a couple different things. If you look at recent history, there’s only been six first round running backs in the last five years. Ezekiel Elliott, Gurley, and Gordon were the last three taken, and I would say all three of them are high-level running backs. I like all three of those guys. Nobody was drafted in ’14 or ’13.

You go back to ’12 and it was Trent Richardson, I think, Doug Martin and David Wilson. So all three of those — I mean two of them are out of the league I think and one of them is on suspension.

So you look, it’s either been a hit or miss thing with first round running backs. I think the talent this year is Fournette, who is an old-school guy, and McCaffrey, Cook, and Mixon are all kind of today’s NFL backs.

So to answer your question directly, I think what we’re getting out of college football is more of the scatbacks that can catch the ball well. They’re 200 to 210, 212 pounds. They catch the ball well in the pass game. They understand the pass game, and they’re all space players.

I think the NFL has done a nice job of understanding what that is and adapting to it because there aren’t a whole lot of Adrian Peterson‘s and Leonard Fournette’s out there.

You can view the full conference call transcript here.

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