With the NFL Draft Combine just days away, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock chatted with reporters during a conference call about the quality of the draft as a whole, can’t miss prospects, Pac-12 players and even a few former Oregon Ducks.
First off, Mayock holds this draft class in extremely high regard.
“This is the deepest and best draft class I’ve seen in 10 years. One general manager told me having a top 20 pick this year is similar to having a top 10 pick last year,” Mayock said.
He believes the top 10 is oozing with talent and three quarterbacks and three offensive tackles could be drafted in the top 10, leaving room for teams with mid-first round picks to snatch up some of the uber-talented skill and defensive players.
Mayock is especially smitten with the wide receiver crop. He raved about former Clemson Tigers Sammy Watkins rare size, speed and hands.
“Watkins is a special player,” he said. I don’t usually get excited about wide receivers in the top ten, but this guy is different,” he said.
He also really likes Jarvis Laundry, commenting that his toughness is comparable to Hines Ward. Additionally, he said Mike Evans size and leaping ability are uncanny and that the New York Jets, “can’t go wrong with selecting Marqise Lee,” with their first round pick.
“I’m interested to see Lee’s 40 time,” he added.
However, though he remarks that there are five teams in the top eight with significant quarterback needs, he isn’t completely confident about this year’s QB crop.
‘The more time I watch these guys, the more questions I have. I can pick apart these guys. I could not pick apart Andrew Luck,” Mayock said.
Though he isn’t sold on any quarterback, he thinks that Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles are clearly the top three QB prospects.
He believes Manziel must make better reads in the pocket to have success at the next level, but he has high hopes for the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.
“He reminds me of a combination between Fran Tarkenton and Doug Flutie. With his arm strength, athletic ability and drive to succeed, he’s a top 10 pick and maybe a top five pick,” Mayock said.
He also likes Bridgewater’s ability to move around and outside of the pocket with the goal of finding an open receiver instead of tucking and running.
As far as Chip Kelly’s Eagles are concerned, Mayock thinks they leave a lot to be desired in terms of defensive talent.
“The Eagles defensive coordinator and staff did a phenomenal job last year. They went from a below average defense to a playoff level defense throughout the season without much talent. They need people everywhere, especially on the back end. They need a safety or two and a corner or two,” Mayock said.
However, he thinks the Eagles should select a defensive end to complement Trent Cole in the first round.
(Anthony) “Barr will be off the board before the Eagles pick, but Dee Ford from Auburn is an edge rush guy who is comparable to (Seattle Seahawks DE) Bruce Irvin,” Mayock said.
Under the rushing the passer/outside linebacker mold, Ford recorded 10.5 sacks and 29 tackles last season, but it was his performance in the Senior Bowl that really vaulted his draft position. Ford received MVP honors after accumulating two sacks. He is listed as the third best DE in this draft class according to Mayock.
The Oregon Ducks have a few players who are likely to hear their name called in April. But it is the guy who left the team in the middle of the season, TE Colt Lyerla, that Mayock is most enamored with.
In fact, Mayock named Lyerla as one of the most intriguing players in the draft and called him a “first round talent.”
“I’m interested to see how he reacts to people. I watched a little tape of him, he’s a gifted, gifted kid but has a lot of off the field issues,” he said.
Additionally, In Mayock’s eyes, former UO RB De’Anthony Thomas is a fourth round pick.
He commented on a number of Thomas’ fellow former Pac-12 players as well.
“Oh my god does Austin Seferian-Jenkins have a great throwing radius, but is he gonna run a 4.7 or not,” Mayock wonders. He is built like Gronkowski,” he added.
Seferian-Jenkins is slotted as the number two tight-end on Mayock’s positional rankings.
Former Washington Husky teammate Bishop Sankey has the potential to make an impact in the NFL according to Mayock, if he proves to posses one particular skill.
“He can be a lot like (Cincinnati Bengals RB)Giovanni Bernard if he can catch the football,” he said. According to Mayock, if Sankey can prove to be sure-handed at the combine, he could be a second round pick.
Mayock has Sankey ranked third on his list of best running backs in this draft class.
Though he doesn’t have any Ducks cracking the first round, he believes one Oregon State Beaver could do just that.
“OSU’s Scott Crichton is a good fit for Denver with the 31st pick. He’s a poor mans Chris Long,” Mayock said. Crichton is the third ranked DE on Mayock’s positional big board and had 7.5 sacks for OSU last season.
He also mentioned Colorado WR Paul Richardson.
He said that Paul Richardson will likely go in the third round and that the Ravens could be a possible suitor.
He added that he likes WSU S Deone Bucannon and Stanford S Ed Reynolds.
Mayock has Bucannon slated as the fifth best safety in the draft.
Finally, Mayock believes former Stanford DE Trent Murphy, “is a poor man’s Mike Vrabel.”
Murphy is the number five DE in the draft according to Mayock.
Though Mayock didn’t mention them, other Ducks to receive a combine invite include: Taylor Hart, Josh Huff, Terrance Mitchell and Boseko Lokombo.
For these guys and other NFL Draft hopefuls, performance at the combine can decide the difference between millions of dollars and a foot in the door toward making an NFL roster or free agency status.
The combine schedule is as follows:
Saturday, Feb. 22: Placekickers, special teams, offensive linemen, tight ends
Sunday, Feb. 23: Quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs
Monday, Feb. 24: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Tuesday, Feb. 25: Defensive backs