Mike Mayock is one of the more well-respected analysts in the game and in a similar fashion to Greg Cosell, is known for watching a lot of tape, watching more tape, watching a little more tape then going home and watching the rest of the tape. Then he watches it again. He's articulate - doesn't posit crazy notions, goes off of his study and what he's hearing from high level personnel execs, and most importantly, seems to have a very high-level understanding of the current NFL and schematics, philosophy - all that. So, as you could guess, I find it interesting to get his take on players in this year's NFL Draft, and if you were on twitter yesterday, your timeline should have been filled with NFL beat writers across the world disseminating his most recent conference call. With a week (less, now) to the Draft - here are some nuggets from that call that might relate to the Seahawks.
Mayock starts by sharing some statistics on quarterbacks:
"Let me give you a couple of numbers on the quarterback history because I think it's really intriguing and I think it says a lot about this class. 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. So I think what's happening in this quarterback-driven league is we are getting a frenzy towards these top guys and it's pushing value up. Last year [Jake] Locker went eight and [Christian] Ponder went 12; I thought that was too high for both of them.
Part of that equation is helped by the fact that the rookie wage scale, it's not as expensive as it used to be and you can sit a quarterback for a year conceptually, like Locker did last year in Tennessee. So with that as a backdrop, it's intriguing to look at this and go, [Andrew] Luck and [Robert] Griffin, how good is [Ryan] Tannehill; if you take him at face value today with 19 starts, he shouldn't be a Top-10 pick. He's got a lot of potential, I love the kid, I love his work ethic, I love his potential but he shouldn't be a Top-10 pick. Maybe not a Top 15 or 20 pick.
But, in today's NFL, there's a good chance he will be. And then you look at [Brandon] Weeden, how high will he get pushed up at age 28? I've got him at the top of the second round, but I would not be stunned if somebody pushed up into the first round to get him.
That's a long way of saying, that 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 could go in the third round. Kirk Cousins could go in the third round.
Nothing really new there if you've looked into the statistics or odds for finding a starting QB outside the first round, but it's certainly something to bring back up heading into next weekend, especially with the general consensus that the Seahawks won't be looking at a quarterback with their first pick. It's easy to get caught up in the hype, but at the end of the day, it's highly unlikely any of these guys past Andrew Luck and RG3 will amount to much. Yes, that even includes Ryan Tannehill, in my opinion.
Mayock goes on about a player that I'm personally very intrigued with, Marvin Jones:
Regarding Marvin Jones, I think he's a real solid football player. On average there are 14 wide receivers taken in the first three rounds over the last five years. I would say he's going to fit into the third round. And I do believe that has been a slow, steady rise for him. But I don't see him going higher than that. Although, some people may.
He's a good blocker. Matter of fact, I pulled out a bunch of blocking plays off of his tape. I think he ran 4.45 to 4.50. He's got good speed, good size. He's a smooth receiver. What I like is he fights for the ball; come back to the football; he attacks the football. I think he's a good, solid, mid-round receiver and third round pick that ultimately has some upside.
We saw Derek list Marvin Jones as one of his 'big receivers to keep an eye on' yesterday, with Derek noting that "Jones is one of the more underrated receivers in the class this season, in my view. A smooth, precise route runner with good sideline awareness and soft hands, Jones is deceptively fast and displays the ability to adjust his body on throws off stride. He'll need to improve his strength to get better at beating press, but he is a guy who could come in and challenge for a 3rd or 4th receiver role on a team right away. Could even end up starting for a receiver-starved team like Cleveland."
Mayock addressed some things that relate directly to the Seahawks and some of the players they've been reportedly or indirectly linked with by analysts and writers. With the Seahawks defensive scheme being fairly ambiguous and variable, plus their penchant for looking at guys that are so-called 'scheme transcendent', Mayock's commentary on this kind of thing is interesting. First, on scheme versatility:
I think Shea McClellan, No. 1, very much a scheme-flexible guy. Whitney Mercilus, 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. I think those five guys are all off the top of my head, all are college and defensive ends all of whom are being considered by 3-4 teams.
Also, incidentally, every single one of these players has been mentioned as a Seattle target - whether nationally or here at Field Gulls.
Mayock went on to talk about something we've addressed here, particularly with many reports saying the Hawks will look to take either Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw with the 12th pick: The problem with players that have short arms:
From an offensive tackle perspective, you are typically looking for about 33, 33 and a half inches, especially if he's going to be on the left side. Remember, Robert Gallery several years ago had 32-inch arms? Struggled on the outside. And where it shows up most is in pass protection. The longer your arms are, the better your ability to shoot the hands, get them on somebody and just continue to push a defensive end away from your quarterback.
The shorter your arms are, mathematically, the quicker that defensive end can get the edge on you. Doesn't sound like much, a difference in an inch or two, but it really is the difference between sometimes being able to push or rush a quarterback; who gains the edge. From an offensive tackle perspective, it's much more important for that tackle than it is the guard because the guard is in the middle of all that trash on the field and there's nowhere near as much room for the defensive player to maneuver.
As far as a defensive person is concerned and the two guys on defense this year, [Melvin] Ingram and [Courtney] Upshaw that are shorter, what do we do with them type defensive end, outside linebacker guys, it's the same question, but just a different perspective with the added issue of the run game: Can you disengage, how quickly can you disengage; how quickly can you control an offensive tackle. Especially if you're Ingram, for instance and you're going up against 6-7, 320-pound offensive tackles with 35-inch arms.
Now all of a sudden you're 6-1 with a 29-and-a-half-inch arm, and if you don't win with speed, you're going to get enveloped.
It's certainly one of the main concerns for a lot of us and quite possibly with the Seahawks, who are looking to upgrade their pass rush, ostensibly as their number one priority in this offseason.
Because of that, UNC's Quinton Coples has been one of the 'big three' after Upshaw and Ingram that has been linked to Seattle, and Mayock addressed the boom or bust player, plus a few other pass rushers:
From a league wide perspective, most guys think Quintin Coples is a Top 15; so from Seattle's perspective they have to be looking at him. He had a huge year as a defensive tackle the year before, and he's gifted enough and looks like Julius Peppers, which is ironic given the fact they both go to North Carolina. He's a big, good-looking kid. I didn't like his production as a senior but Pete Carroll is the kind of guy that can get production out of this guy because he does have Pro Bowl potential.
Now the guy I like is the Syracuse player, Chandler Jones. People think 12 is way too high for that, and it probably is. I think his best football is ahead of him as he gross into his body; 35-and-a-half-inch arms; I think he'll be 280 before it's done. He's only about 265 now.
So from Seattle's perspective as pure defensive ends, Coples, Chandler Jones and some people would say Courtney Upshaw; I think that's too early for him. And then you can talk about some of those outside linebacker conversion types, like Ingram from South Carolina, who I don't think is quite the fit for them, or Whitney Mercilus, and that's a little high for him. But still Whitney would have to be considered because he can put his hand in the dirt and rush the quarterback.
Hand on chin...
Mayock on Melvin Ingram:
Ingram is a tough question here and his versatility is a plus. However, it forces teams to try to figure out what he's going to be. And for me, 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. You start asking all those kind of questions because you don't know the answer whenever you move a kid from one position to another in a different type defense. The entire league is trying to figure out where he fits in their particular defense.
To me I keep going back to what I saw on tape which is using a variety of different ways and I think you have to use them kind of like the Giants do with Tuck and that's move them around, protect them a little bit, let them rush from the inside, let them rush from the outside, but don't just fit them one place. I think the 3-4 teams can be a little more flexible that way and the teams -- from first down where does he line up.
On Whitney Mercilus:
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 I would say, so he's one of the most gifted natural pass rushers in this draft. What I would say is that even though he repped out 225 27 times and the numbers look good, on tape he can struggle at the point of attack in the run game.
And I think that's the biggest concern that if you draft him today in the first round, how many snaps are you going to get out of him. Maybe it will be similar to what [Aldon] Smith did in San Francisco; a situational pass rusher that's disruptive and effective, and he will grow into that point of attack role where he'll be a three-down player. But I think that's really the only side is can he be stout enough at the point of attack down the road to justify being a first-round pick.
Hand still on chin, deep in thought. Pondering, pondering...
As far as another top defensive priority, Pete Carroll and co. have also mentioned the need to upgrade speed at the linebacker position. Because of this, North Carolina's Zach Brown has been in the discussion.
Mayock doesn't offer a glowing review of Zach Brown:
You caught one of my hot buttons here. I'm not as impressed with Zac Brown as most of the league is. And I guess the most impressive attribute he has is obvious, which is his speed. You rarely see a linebacker that's faster than most of the corners in a draft.
So from a height, weight, speed perspective, he's a first round pick. When you watch the tape, he makes a lot of plays, but they are almost all in space. If he diagnoses a screen pass, and drives on it between the guard and tackle, he looks beautiful. Makes plays all over that way in space.
However, 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.
In the pass rush game, he gets stung by running backs; he's got to be a space player that you cover up and you allow him to run free. That's his effectiveness. I have him going in the third round. He could go in the second just because of his height, weight and speed.
Zach Brown is particularly interesting to me - and if he falls to the 2nd round you have to believe the Seahawks might give him a look. Kip Earlywine put together a very interesting look at Brown over at Seahawks Draft Blog that I'd recommend going back and reading, and Ben Harbaugh wrote a scouting report on him here at Field Gulls that is also worth another read.
On Vontaze Burfict, formerly a fairly highly projected middle linebacker but now likely to go undrafted:
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. You can see some ability. He went to the Combine and did as poorly as any linebacker at the Combine in literally every measurable.
So from my perspective, I had a poor performance on tape followed by a poor performance at the Combine. If it's up to me, he's a non-draftable kid. Somebody could take him late but they are asking for all those headaches. Does he have upsides? Sure, he's a recruited high school kid and is a big, good-looking kid. For the most part he's either late draftable or free agent, and for me, he's a free agent.
On 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.
So on the third down, when the sub package comes in the game, he's going to stay in the game a lot like a Sean Lee in Dallas. I think there's real value there because he's a three-down, inside linebacker. He'll occasionally give get enveloped by a big body but the NFL is a pass-first league and there is value in Luke Kuechly.
I haven't been all that high on Kuechly at pick #12, but Mayock makes a strong argument for why so many people have mocked him to the Seahawks. He might not be the sexiest pick - he's not going to get sacks and he's not flashy, but the Sean Lee comparison is very intriguing.
Finally - Mayock on a couple of cornerbacks in this year's Draft:
I'm a big fan of Gilmore. I think he's a Top-10 or 12 player in this draft. So to me he's a top half of the first round. Not sure where he's going to end up yet but he'll be one of at least three first round corners.
The kid from Furman, Ryan Steed, kind of like him. I think he has some upside. I think he'll probably go somewhere in that fifth round. For a small school corner, he's competitive and tough and I think he acquitted (ph) himself well in the All-Star Game.
Charlie is high on Steed and has broken down his game a few times, so make sure you head over and re-read his scouting report as well.