Here is a recap of the media conference call that took place Friday with NFL Network Lead Draft Analyst Mike Mayock.
On Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis)
-”The reason I like Poe is twofold: He’s a physical freak and he’s got a good motor. The problem is he’s just a very average player right now because he doesn’t know how to play the game of football.”
On Tannehill to the Dolphins
-”Again I’m on the record as saying Tannehill is at least a year away and if the Dolphins believe he is a franchise quarterback, they have to either take him at eight or make sure they get him at six, if somebody is going to trade up, or whatever. But they have got to get Ryan Tannehill. That’s the most important delineation in that building.
If we get — if we need to get him, let’s go get him. If not, we can feel comfortable in the second or third round, there’s a guy there, we are going to pass this year entirely, we are not comfortable with any of the quarterbacks. But that’s going to shape your philosophy.”
2nd-3rd Round Best Nose Tackles?
-”I would start with Alameda Ta’amu from Washington, if you’re talking about pure nose tackle for either a 3-4 or 4-3. So Ta’amu would be a late 2 to 3. He’s massive and may only be a two-down defender but those downs are going to be really good.
“Mike Martin from Michigan, and the appeal to Martin as a potential third round pick is he’s not as big, but he probably offers as much or more pass rush than any of the second or third round defensive tackles in this draft in those positions”
On Melvin Ingram (DE/OLB, South Carolina)
“I think the 3-4 teams look at him as an outside linebacker but they worry about him on first down; can he disengage and sack the run. I think the 4-3 teams say can he be a Sam or a Mike linebacker; is he smart enough.”
Regarding the Miami Hurricanes, beyond (RB) Lamar Miller, what draft prospects catch your eye this year?
- “I think the guy that’s driving the fastest is Oliver Vernon, the defensive end/linebacker from Miami. I think he’s going to go in the second or third round, which is the same area where I think Lamar Miller is going to go.”
How would you characterize this entire quarterback draft? Is it going to be like 2004 where you get a number of guys that are successful, or is it just a focus on Luck and Griffin that’s drawing everybody’s attention?
-”In the last eight drafts, there have been 23 quarterbacks taken in the first round; 15 of them are starters. In that same time frame there have been 82 quarterbacks drafted in rounds two through seven. Out of those 82, seven have become starters. So, from a statistical perspective, you’ve got less than a ten percent chance of drafting a starting quarterback outside of the first round…because of the value placed on the franchise quarterback in this league, because the salary cap is now friendly in the first round towards these quarterbacks, and because everybody is in a feeding frenzy to get one, guys’ values are getting pushed up. I think [Brock] Osweiler (ASU) could go in the third round. Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) could go in the third round.”
Is [Coby] Fleener (TE, Stanford) a possibility at 34?
-”I have him at the top of the second round. The Giants could take him at 32. Who knows. But he would make a lot of sense.”
How have the Patriots impacted the draft?
-”It’s a copycat league and there’s certainly no one right way to go about drafting. But when you have as much success as the Patriots have had, everybody in the league self-scouts, look at what they do right and wrong. And they look at New England and you’re right, there’s position versatility. There’s a premium put on football intelligence and IQ and work ethic. And Bill [Belichick] is a bit of a poker player who likes to move up-and-down the board based on what his value is; not what he perceives the rest of the league is.”
Curious about the Browns. We just talked to Tom Heckert and he made it sound like a two-horse race but he didn’t tell us which two horses it was. Are you leaning strongly in one direction for them?
-”I think they have to take Trent Richardson (RB Alabama), and they have got needs and you can talk about the corner and you can talk about the wide receiver. I happen to think from a positional perspective, the corner, [Morris] Claiborne (LSU), and the tailback, Richardson are the next two players in the draft. Forget the tackle for a second. You can make an argument there. But I don’t think the wide receiver should be in this conversation, which a lot of people in Cleveland do.”
Would there be any little tiny part of you that’s thought if you were the Browns, that maybe you would take Blackmon, too?
-”No. Consistent with my philosophy is I’m taking the tailback at four. I’ll go out and get the wide out at 22 and Weeden, or if you want to get Weeden at 22, fine. But I want the tailback.”
Wanted to ask you about the Bay Area wide receivers rising up.
-”Regarding Marvin Jones (Cal), I think he’s a real solid football player…I think it’s going to be very difficult for (Chris Owusu, Stanford) to be drafted.”
Looks like the Vikings are leaning towards Matt Kalil (OT USC), and they have a lot of holes to fill, particularly receiver and quarterback. Give us some names that would stand out that would be around in the second round?
-”I don’t think they will take a receiver at three. I believe Matt Kalil is the choice and if it’s not, it’s got to be [Morrsi] Claiborne. They are the two that make the most sense to me at three.
Regarding later Round prospects: “(LSU WR) Rueben Randle is a vertical threat that flies, and Alshon Jeffrey is not as fast. I worry about what his weight is going to be. But you can throw it outside the numbers, jump balls, red zone, he’s a gifted kid that doesn’t run very fast. (Montana CB) Trumaine Johnson would fit what Minnesota does athletically but I’m not sure, he’s another guy you’ve got to be really careful that high in the second round with his off-the-field issues.”
The Bengals have never taken an offensive guard in the first round. Do you see [David] DeCastro (Stanford) there, or between DeCastro and [Cordy] Glenn (Georgia), which one do you like better?
-”Two different animals. And DeCastro to be there. A lot of people have pushed him up pretty high at the guard position. I worry a little bit about whether or not how well he’s going to handle a big body directly over him. But obviously I really like the kid. Cordy Glenn is very different. He played left tackle and he’s massive. He’s a right — I think in the NFL, he’s either a right tackle or a guard and he is a massive and very talented player. But they are two different animals.”
On the defensive side of the ball, with the hybrid fronts and the way schemes are becoming more flexible, can you talk about some of the more flexible players in the front seven?
-”I think Shea McClellan (Boise State), No. 1, very much a scheme-flexible guy. Whitney Mercilus (Illinois), very much scheme flexible. Ingram from South Carolina has played everywhere. Branch from Clemson, scheme flexible. Ronnell Lewis from Oklahoma, a little bit later, second or third round, scheme flexible.”
How about [Quinton] Coples (DE UNC) moving from outside to in; do you see any potential for him being a 4-3 3-technique or potential for 5 at the 3-4?
-”He already played 4-3 3-technique as a junior and had his best year at North Carolina. He can do that and play the 5 technique and play the base end in a 4-3. Yeah, Coples is very much that guy.”
The Rams need to get a starting defensive tackle, just wondering of the top guys if you see any of the top defensive tackles worthy of being Top-10 picks and why?
-”Sure. To me, if you’re talking Top-10, there’s only two names you can put in there, and there’s different risk/reward. One is Fletcher Cox from Mississippi State. I think he could end up going nine to Carolina if he doesn’t go earlier. He can play on the edge. He’s a 4-3 end but I think he’s better suited in a 4-3 as a defensive tackle. He’s stout and can push the pocket. The other guy is a wild-card and that’s Dontari Poe. From a talent perspective, he’s in the Top-10. He’s 350 pounds and moves like had a Haloti Ngata.”
Your thoughts on Dre Kirkpatrick?
-”From Alabama, like most Alabama kids, he’s got a strong football IQ. He’s physical and he tackles and he can play zone. He’s instinctive and he’s tough. Now, having said all those things, the downside is that he only runs in the 4.5 range and he has off-the-field issues. I have him as my third corner in this draft and as a potential first round pick and as somebody that would make sense for what Detroit does.”
Which quarterbacks are the best fits for a West Coast offense?
-”Luck could very easily be a left coast. Tannehill would be a West Coast. Weeden could be a West Coast. Cousins a West Coast. I think Osweiler likes to get it down the field and sling it a little bit more. As does Nick Foles. I think Kellen Moore (Boise State) has to play in a West Coast offense for him to have a chance, timing precision and accuracy.”
What do you think of (UNC LB) Zach Brown when you watch him on film and how good of a pro do you think he can be?
-”You caught one of my hot buttons here. I’m not as impressed with Zach Brown as most of the league is…any time a big body gets on him, actually any time anybody gets on him, his feet stop and he’s not physical at all. I don’t see the toughness and the physicality. He’s a run and chase linebacker that’s going to make plays with his speed. But I think he’s going to get enveloped by anybody.”
Thoughts on (ASU LB) Vontaze Burfict?
-”Burfict is interesting for me because I put his tape on without absolutely zero preconceived notions. I heard he was athletic, explosive, off-the-field issues, anger issues, but I didn’t care. I was just curious as to what kind of football player he was before I delved into everything else. I watched three tapes and really didn’t like him as a football player. I thought he was highly inconsistent. When he had a chance to make a splash play and a big hit in the open field, it was beautiful. Everything else was highly inconsistent.”
The Browns need to find a starting right tackle. Can you break down some of the guys you think could be logical targets for them?
-”Cordy Glenn from Georgia I think is a starting right tackle. He could be sitting there at 22 and he would be a very logical pick at 22.”
The Raiders don’t pick until the very end of the third round. From what you know about their roster and with your early read of Reggie McKenzie as a GM, do you think they have any chance of trading up into the second round or even the first?
-”Well, they don’t have any picks they can use, because the third round pick, and I think the fourth round pick are both compensatory and you can’t trade compensatory picks.”
Could (Notre Dame WR) Michael Floyd go ahead of Justin Blackmon?
-”Michael Floyd to me is very similar, or I should say, very comparable to Justin Blackmon. I don’t really think he’s going ahead of Justin Blackmon. However, Michael Floyd is a big, physical guy that’s a natural hand snatcher, one of the best, maybe the best wide receiver blocker in this draft.”
On Whitney Mercilus (DE/OLB Illinois)
-”I think on the positive side, there’s production, albeit one-year production which scares some teams, crazy numbers for one year, which begs the question, where were you before then. However, when you look at what he is on tape, he’s a natural pass rusher. He’s a natural edge rusher. He’s got excellent take off. He understands how to work up the field. Does he need to learn technique and more pass rush moves? Yes, because right now, like a lot of gifted college kids, he depends on his speed to win.”
What’s your analysis of T.Y. Hilton, the Florida International University and what type of offense you see him working best in?
-”He’s really an exciting player because he’s one of those guys that’s not just quick, but fast. He ran in the 4:30s on his pro day and very quick with the ball in hand and added value in the return game. So when you add all those things up, I think he’s going to be a late two to a mid three. He’s going to be a return specialist.”
What direction do you see the Steelers going in the draft?
-”Well, I think you have to look at their offensive line, and I think what a great job the coach has done there with the injuries the last couple of years. They are going to kick Gilbert from right tackle to left tackle. Willie Colon has played one game in the last two years which he’ll stop at right tackle so you have to be nervous about that.”
Your thoughts on (Wisconsin QB via NC State) Russell Wilson?
-”Russell Wilson, I enjoy watching his tape and he’s not typical and he’s too short and all those things. However, to me, he’s a winner. Doesn’t matter where you plug him in; he finds ways to win. I think he’s going to go in the fourth round, and I think he’s going to be a backup, developmental-type quarterback.”
Thoughts on (Boston College LB) Luke Kuechly?
-”Yeah, he’s one of the ten best players in this draft. The intriguing thing about Luke is that historically inside linebackers are not valued, mostly because they get replaced on sub-downs in sub-packages and nickel packages. He’s the opposite and his strength lies in the pass game. He’s the best pass-dropping inside linebacker from the inside I’ve ever seen in college football. He has instincts and speed.”
The 49ers have gotten a lot of production out of the last couple drafts. I want to see your thoughts on how their personnel department.
“-I’m really happy for Trent Baalke because a couple of years ago when there was all of the turnover and nobody knew what was going to happen and who was going to be the head coach and would the head coach bring in his own general manager. I think the 49ers ownership group stood tall and said: Look, we like this guy and we are going to tie him at the hip with our new coach. You know, when you do look at their draft, you know, and you see what they did, for instance, with Aldon Smith, I got fooled last year, I was at the Missouri workout, Jimmy Harbaugh was there and I know the Harbaughs pretty well, and I assumed he was there for the quarterback and of course, ended up taking Smith at seven; they take Chris Culliver in the third round who became a good player; Kendall Hunter in the fourth.
Wondering what you thought the ceiling was for a guy like (Georgia Tech WR) Stephen Hill?
-”He’s one of the most intriguing players in this draft because from a height, weight, speed perspective and from a talent perspective, he’s probably a Top 15-type player. I was at his pro day, and what really surprised me for a tall player was his ability to get in and out of breaks. That’s rare to have a guy that big not be stiff. He’s fluid getting in and out of breaks. His hands were good, although he had some key drops last year at Georgia Tech, but he’s a little bit of a lightning rod.”
On (San Francisco GM) Trent Baalke saying they have one player at No. 30.
-”Well, boy, if you look at — you have to look at who is available versus what their needs are, and you know, Stephen Hill would obviously be a wide receiver that could be available. And interior offensive lineman, could David DeCastro slide that far? I doubt it. He would obviously be a great fit for a lot of reasons. Amini Silatolu and are Kevin Zeitler, two linemen that are ticketed for the top of the second round, both are tough, nasty physical players which fit what the 49ers do.”
Your thoughts on that receivers are high risk — and looking at this perfect the perspective of the Rams and Blackmon and they have two early second rounders.
-”I think every year is different and I think that perception is changing a little bit. Just because of the rule changes in the NFL and the way the league has gone towards a pass first league. I’ve always kind of contended that had two biggest issues for rookie wide receivers are No. 1, learning how to get off aggressive press coverage which we rarely see in college; and No. 2 just the complexity of all the routes and the progressions and the hot routes and everything else”
First Round Boom or Bust?
-”Okay. In the first round, boom or bust kind of guys, Tannehill the quarterback. He’s a boom or bust, franchise guy, but you’ve only seen 19 starts. I would say that a couple of the tackles, Mike Adams (Ohio State) and Jonathan Martin (Stanford), significant upside. Don’t see much consistency. Stephen Hill, the wide receiver from Georgia Tech; how, does he have upside, but you’re betting a lot on his athletic ability and not a whole lot on college production. On the defend side of the ball, Quinton Coples. He could be an All-Pro but has bust potential written all over him. Dontari Poe, I talked about him, All-Pro, but his college is average, even though he’s got a great motor and he’s a physical freak.”
Robert Griffin being called selfish?
-”From my perspective, A, I did not see the report. And B, I have not seen any of those red flags.”