Mike Mayock's defensive positional rankings & conference call notes

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

The Combine is now over, so perhaps publishing some of Mike Mayock's pre-Combine rankings and conference call notes is foolhardy. It's possible that opinions formed by watching tape may have changed after watching workouts, - but maybe that's why I am still inclined to take note of what Mayock said prior to all the hype about 40 times and short shuttles and the like. I previously published Mayock's notes on the offensive players and their rankings by positional group, so here's where Mayock ranked the defensive groups prior the the Draft. I just wanted to get this out there for you guys, so I'll keep the segues short and sweet.

Defensive End
1. Bjoern Werner, Florida State

2. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M 

3. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU 

4. Sam Montgomery, LSU 

T-5. Datone Jones, UCLA 

T-5. Margus Hunt, SMU

It should be interesting to see if Mayock adjusts his rankings after this past week -- Damontre Moore fell on his face in the physical testing portions of the Combine, and has seen his perceived stock tumble. Here's what Mike had to say before all this went down:

"Yeah, I have a little different opinion than what I'm hearing a lot of people have on these quote 4-3 defensive ends. I'm not as high on these guys as some people are. For instance, I don't think Bjoern Werner or Damontre Moore are top-10 players. They might go in the top 10, but I don't see it that way. As you start dropping down later, what happens is Ezekial "Zeke" Ansah from BYU, he's got as much upside as anybody in this draft. I don't think he gets to [pick number] 30. Sam Montgomery, the defensive end from LSU is a guy that could be there."

"And Barkevious Mingo gets a lot more of the attention, but I feel like Sam Montgomery brings it every snap more than Mingo does. He's not as quick, he's not as gifted, but he's very physical and tough. As far as Mingo is concerned, he's 230 pounds. He's got a little stiffness to him. He obviously runs very fast. When the ball goes away from him, he's fantastic. He's a run and chase linebacker. He's got upside as a pass-rusher. There is nothing about the kid I don't like. I just don't see a top 10 guy today. To me I'd feel much more comfortable with him as a developmental 3-4 outside linebacker. Somebody that would go somewhere between 25 and 40. I know everybody's got him in the Top 10, but I just don't see it right now."

Does that mean Seattle's in the picture? Perhaps.

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Mingo, Bennie Logan, Sam Montgomery, via USA Today Sports

As for guys that are outside of Mayock's top-5:

"A couple other names to keep an eye on, whether it's the first round or a little later after that. Tank Carradine, the quote "other" defensive end at Florida State who had a medical issue, he probably had first-round talent. He's probably going to go in the second or third round, and somebody's going to get a steal with this kid because of his natural upside. Alex Okafor from Texas is a second or third-round guy. But sitting there at 30, that's a tough place, because I think Werner, Moore and Ansah, are going to be gone, and you start to get into Sam Montgomery and some of these other guys."

On Oregon's Dion Jordan, who blew the Combine up with his speed testing:

"I kind of like Dion Jordan who I think is two years away from being an Aldon Smith-type player. He's only about 240 pounds, but he's 6'7. He's got frightening athletic skills, and he's a year away. He would be a situational pass-rusher year one, and if he puts 20 pounds on, I think he's going to be a perennial All-Pro. I really like the kid. But, again, that's a little bit of a risk-reward. You're betting on this kid two years from now."

Mayock follows that up with a quote that will stick with me:

"That's why I wouldn't want a top 10 pick this year. I think the fifth pick in the draft and the 25th pick in this draft are very similar."

I'm ok with this, Mike. Very ok with this. Now, on to a player that fits the LEO mold for Seattle, the underrated Corey Lemenier (pronounced, I've found, "LEMON-wah).

"Now, [Corey] Lemonier is an interesting prospect. I think his best football was probably his sophomore year and maybe a little bit at the beginning of this year. Everybody knows he's talented, but he hasn't played up to what he should play at. But he's a talented kid. He's probably still a second- or third-round kid."

Maybe he's a 2nd or 3rd rounder, and I could see the Seahawks' showing interest - but if he's still sitting there in the 4th round, you have to think that's a value pick in the making. Lemonier's downside is that he's been inconsistent, and he disappeared toward the later part of the season, but the physical potential is there.

I wouldn't want a top 10 pick this year. I think the fifth pick in the draft and the 25th pick in this draft are very similar.- Mayock

Another guy that has been generating a little bit of buzz for Seattle is Texas' Alex Okafor - who also fits the LEO mold to a T. Mayock's take:

"Okafor is a solid base 4-3 end. I don't see him as a first rounder. I see him as a mid to late second-round pick. He's tough. He's got some natural pass rush ability. He does everything pretty well, but I don't think he does anything elite. I like him better with his hands in the dirt going forward. I don't doubt that he probably could play 3-4 outside linebacker, but I think he's better going forward than he is backwards."

On Jarvis Jones, a guy that some believe may fall to the late first, based on his medical red-flags:

"I'll give you another name. Jarvis Jones from Georgia. Now that's a good football player. Jarvis Jones is playing in the 4-3. He is an impact, explosive football player, and he's ready to play now. Now, he had some medical issues, potential stenosis in his back. If he checks out medically, he's a top 10 player, and hopefully an impact player."

"Unfortunately, there is nothing he can do to alleviate the medical concerns. He either has stenosis or he doesn't, and it's either continuing to narrow his spine or it isn't. Coming out of the Combine in a month or so we'll have a better idea of that when teams begin to share all that medical information. So let's take that off the table for a second and let's assume it's not a problem. Let's talk about what kind of football player he is. He's explosive. He's a play maker. He fits in a 4-3, which is what he already played. But some teams that are in the 3-4 will like him. The teams like Pittsburgh, they don't care as much about length as some of the other 3-4 teams do."

"Pittsburgh looks at an outside linebacker and says, hey, he needs to be explosive, he needs to be able to disengage from blocks, and he needs to be able to pressure a quarterback. LaMarr Woodley, that's who their guys look like. So some of the 3-4 teams will say, yes, he can play in what we do."

On Devin Taylor, a guy that absolutely blew up the physical speed/strength/agility testing at the Combine:

"Devin Taylor really had a good East-West week. Love his frame at 6'8". Was almost unblockable in the game. And people are going to look at him and say, boy, there is a frame we can put some more weight on. Some of the 3-4 teams might like him as a five technique."

For me, with the Seahawks - because he's so stiff on the outside and just frankly looks a bit awkward moving around in space, right now he seems more like an interior pass-rusher in the mold of Jason Jones. Now, there are some that view him as a potential LEO or strong side defensive end, and I'm not going to argue that strenuously, but when I see Devin Taylor, I see a hybrid between Jason Jones and Desmond Bryant. I like his potential based on his absurd athleticism and a potential to gain some weight. Remember, Henry Melton was a fricking running back in college.

All in all though - Devin is a bit of a mystery for me. Maybe a LEO, maybe an interior guy, maybe a five-tech strong side DE. Definitely a freak athlete.

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Taylor's DL-best 10'8 broad jump, via Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

On William Gholston:

"Gholston I kind of like. I think he's got a lot of ability, great frame. The biggest issue with him is he's hot and cold. If he were a more consistent football player, I think you'd see him listed higher on most team's charts. He's a base 4-3 end. He should be a second or third round pick. He's a kid that could be a good NFL player. It's just got to happen every single snap, not every other snap."

On to Defensive Tackles...

I think a lot of teams are going to look to move down, but I'm not sure there are a lot of teams looking to go come up. I think most of the value in this draft is later. - Mayock

Defensive Tackle
1. Sharrif Floyd, Florida 

2. Star Lotulelei, Utah

3. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri 

4. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina

T-5. Kawann Short, Purdue
T-5. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State

Naturally, Mayock was asked about defensive tackles when it comes to Seattle at the 25th spot. What he said wasn't super surprising:

"Pete [Carroll] loves those big guys that can run. You start talking about especially when I look at their depth chart and just mentally go through it. Brandon Mebane is good against the run, and Alan Branch is an unrestricted free agent, and Bruce Irvin, obviously, was drafted in the first round as an outside-edge guy."

"But I'd love to see him get somebody inside that can push the pocket with some kind of pass-rush ability. So sitting where they are I've got six guys, six defensive tackles with first round grades. I think Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei, and Sheldon Richardson are going to be gone by then. By the way, I think Sharrif Floyd is a top 5 pick, or he should be, the kid from Florida. Anyway, Sylvester Williams from North Carolina, Kawann Short from Purdue, and Johnathan Hankins from Ohio State, those three guys all offer at 300 pounds, an ability to push the pocket with power, and also have some quickness and finesse and gain in edge. So they're three guys that make a lot of sense for them."

So - per Mayock, the guys to keep an eye on for #25 include Sylvester Williams, Kawann Short, and Johnathan Hankins. Of those three - I personally am highest on Short; Williams is a fantastic player and an absurd athlete at the defensive tackle position, but he's also going to be a 25-year old rookie. Seattle has already invested their 2012 first-round pick on a 25 year old, and I'd hate to see that become a pattern. Now, Short is already 24 as well, so he's not a spring chicken as far as rookies go, but it's a year's difference.

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Short and Sheldon Richardson, via Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sport

I've got six guys, six defensive tackles with first round grades. - Mayock

As for guys that will likely be gone at 25?:

"The Richardson kid is exciting. At 300 pounds, to me, he had movement skills of a 250-pound linebacker. Missouri actually stood him up. How often do you see a defensive tackle standing up and playing a linebacker position at 30 pounds? So, obviously, Missouri and Dave Steckel were highly impressed with this kid's athletic ability. He's really gifted. I mean, he's probably more gifted than the Utah kid [Star Lotulelei] also.

I think his natural position is the three-technique, which is that defensive tackle and the four-man front. But it's not the only position he can play. You can move him around and I think just about all 32 teams in the league could find a way to utilize his skill set. He's really exciting. He's got a ton of upside, and he's as physically gifted a defensive player as there is in this draft."

At five-technique?:

"There are some really good kind of nose tackle, five-technique guys out there right now. If San Francisco has a couple aging guys at that position, though they're really good players. So when you start getting down toward the end of the first round at that five technique, Datone Jones from UCLA is a late one to a mid-two. Margus Hunt from SMU, you might get him in the second round. But he's a big, impressive kid that I think down the road will be a heck of a player. They're the logical guys. And William Gholston in the second or third round also from Michigan State in that 3-4 to play defensive end."

But...

"I think the five-techniques, you can probably get them later in the draft.".

Nose tackles?

"John Jenkins, the 350-pounder from Georgia, you could get him with the fourth pick in the second round, I believe. That's about where his value is going to come into play. Brandon Williams, I like him a lot. He's got some upside to him. I think Jenkins and Brandon Williams make a ton of sense even in the second or third round."

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John Jenkins, via Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

On to the linebackers...

Outside linebacker
1. Dion Jordan, Oregon 

2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia 

3. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
4. Barkevious Mingo, LSU 

5. Arthur Brown, Kansas State

Inside linebacker
1. Alec Ogletree, Georgia
2. Manti Te'o, Notre Dame 

3. Kevin Minter, LSU 

4. Kevin Reddick, North Carolina 

5. Kiko Alonso, Oregon

A couple of these LBs have been linked to Seattle, and I included Mingo above with the defensive ends group, simply because he'd be a LEO in Seattle's scheme, most likely. One guy that may see his stock fall come April is Alec Ogletree, who frankly would look awesome in the Seahawks' defense at weakside linebacker. Mayock:

"[Ogletree] is going to be a polarizing figure. You want to talk about a kid that's made for the NFL game with an ability to drop and cover, a former safety. He's fun to watch on tape. He flies. He's explosive. He's not great against the run, but, boy, in today's NFL spread offenses, he's a great fit. But given the off-the-field issues and the D.U.I. recently he's going to be one of the more intriguing guys to follow throughout the draft.

Another name that's been linked to Seattle? Zavier Gooden, who checked a lot of boxes for Seattle, who unashamedly target 'fast' guys at linebacker (see Malcolm Smith, Korey Toomer, Mike Morgan, Bobby Wagner, Allen Bradford, etc). Gooden, at 6'1, 234, ran the 40 in 4.47 seconds with a 1.53 10-yard split (explosive), with a 34" vert, a 10'11" broad jump, a 6.71 3-cone, and a 4.18 short shuttle - all elite times for his positional group. Mayock's take:

"The Gooden kid, as you know, played some defensive back. He's a linebacker. His biggest attribute is that he runs well. Now I don't think he has great instincts. The more tape I watch, the more I go I'd love to see him see things more quickly. But once he identifies and lets it go, once he allows his athletic ability to let it go, he's really good. It's just I don't like his instincts as much as some other people, and it's nothing you can do at the Combine to show that. What he needs to do is run real fast and open some eyes, because he's a height, weight, speed specimen."

Cornerback
1. Dee Milliner, Alabama 

2. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State

3. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
4. Desmond Trufant, Washington 

5. Jordan Poyer, Oregon State

Here's what I'll say: Never count the Seahawks out when it comes to drafting cornerbacks. Mayock's take on a few standouts:

"I tell you what's interesting, I like that other corner too, Darius Slay. I put the tape on to watch Banks who plays in the boundary for the most part, and my eye kept going to the other kid, and I liked him a lot. I think [Slay is] a guy that's a third- our fourth-round player. And I think he's opened some eyes."

"As far as [Johnthan] Banks is concerned, people like his length. He's got some press ability. He's long. I think he's one of the guys who is a Combine critical four. Corners and wideouts are the two most critical "speed positions" and all the teams are waiting to see what guys run."

"I made the statement earlier, after [Dee] Milliner, I don't have a certified first-round corner. And I think coming out of this Combine, I will. I need to see if [Xavier] Rhodes, [Johnthan] Banks, [Desmond] Trufant, any of those guys run well. Banks is the one that runs sub-4.5, I think he locks up a first round. If he runs 4.55, or 4.58, he's not going there. So for Banks it's a critical, critical weekend. (DK note: Banks ran a 4.61, which is interesting for Seattle).

The ever-polarizing Honey Badger:

"Tyrann Mathieu is a really interesting wildcard this weekend. My gut tells me he's a better football player than he is an athlete. He's small. I'm not sure he's going to run real well. So I think teams are going to look at him as kind of a nickel and a kick returner. I don't think he's going to run better than the 4.5 or 4.55 (DK note: he ran 4.5). If he does, that will help him. So most teams that I've talked to have him more in the fourth round because they don't think he's very big and he's not going to run very fast, and he's had off-the-field issues. That could change with a good time, but he's an intriguing guy."

If he runs 4.55, or 4.58, he's not going [in the first round]. So for Johnthan Banks it's a critical, critical weekend. -Banks ran a 4.61.

"If you're talking about [the second round], if you're talking about a corner in that range I think you're going to talk about guys like Marc Anthony from Cal. Two small school kids that I love. [Robert Alford from Southeastern Louisiana, and B.W. Webb from William & Mary]. Logan Ryan from Rutgers. There are five guys there that are going to go in the second or third round that some of them are longer, outside corners, some of them are quicker, shorter, inside slot type guys. But they're going to fall in that range from 50 through the end of the third round."

On Jordan Poyer:

"Poyer, I probably like better than the league does. I thought he was quick. I thought he competed both on tape and in the Senior Bowl, very quick footed. I thought he competed. He's not a particularly big corner, and the teams like the bigger corners these days. Some teams don't even look at a corner if he's not close to six feet.

"So from Poyer's perspective, he's got a label and he's a little quicker than fast. It would be great to see him run the 4.4. That would help him a lot. The faster he runs, it sounds stupid, but it's true. The faster he runs, the more it's going to help him being a small corner. I've got a third round grade on him, and I think he's going to go in the third or fourth round."

Safety
1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas 

2. Matt Elam, Florida 

3. Johnathan Cyprien, Florida International
4. Eric Reid, LSU 

5. Zeke Motta, Notre Dame

Mayock likes Vaccaro:

"I'm a big believer [Kenny] Vaccaro is going to be gone in the top 20. I think Matt Elam is kind of a late one to mid-two, and I think Johnathan Cyprien from Florida International is a guy you ought to be looking really closely at. He had a great Senior Bowl week. I've got him as my number three safety. I think he's a guy that's going to be around somewhere in that middle to end of the second round. I think he could start immediately for the Washington Redskins, and he makes a ton of sense. After those three, there is a little bit of a drop off, and it depends on what kind of player you like. [Eric] Reid, Zeke Motta, Phillip Thomas, J.J. Wilcox - they're all kind of third-round picks."

"Vaccaro is the one that more tape I watched, the more I liked him. They played him closer to the line of scrimmage this year. He covered a bunch of slots this year. Watching cover Tavon Austin at West Virginia, that's rare. In today's world, that's rare and it's important. And I think his coverage ability is quick feet. He's tough as nails. He tackles. He looks to me, I've never met him, but it looks on tape like he loves the game. I have trouble thinking he's going to get past 15 or 20 even though safeties don't go that high. I think he'll be gone in the first 15 picks."

Finally, a guy that I really like (and I'm not alone) - Shamarko "Sham-WOW" Thomas, as Jared Stanger has coined:

"I think Shamarko Thomas is one of the better safeties I've seen on tape. And I would give him a third or fourth round grade at the worst. Saw him at the East-West game. Really liked him. He's short. He's tough as nails. I'd love to see him run well." Note. He did.

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Sham-WOW, via Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Shamarko ran an official 4.42 with a ten-yard split of 1.56 after running a hand-timed 4.38 at 5'9, 213 pounds. He also registered an absurd 40.5" vert and an 11'1" broad jump. That's explosiveness.

Others:

"D.J. Swearinger, the safety, I like him on tape. Want to buy into him as a person. Want to check out his work ethic and everything else. He's got a fourth round grade right now. And then Tony Jefferson, the safety, is a really talented kid. I really like him on tape. What I don't like is how many tackles he misses. And I think I put the West Virginia tape on, and he must have missed 7, 8, 9 tackles against West Virginia."

"He's talented, he's got straight line speed, he flashes ball skills. But I think he's probably going to go in the middle to late third rounds, and he probably should be a better player than that. But he's just got to be more consistent, especially with his tackling. I think he can play either safety by the way, strong or free."

"Oh, I like Zeke Motta. I think the next guy, I've got Motta in my Top 5 safeties, a lot of people don't. He's a 218-pound kid that has a passion for the game. He works out as hard as anybody I've ever seen. He's a great teammate, understands the game. He doesn't have as good movement skills as Harrison Smith did a year ago. But he's a tough kid that can play on all four special teams and two years from now will probably start for somebody. So I've got a third round grade on Zeke."

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