Mike Mayock is playing catch-up. His fall Saturdays are spent on the Notre Dame broadcast. He spent every Thursday traveling around the country for the NFL Network covering Thursday Night Football. It wasn't until mid-December that Mayock was able to sit down and settle into his film room to do his favorite work of the year: scouting the NFL Draft.
Now he's working the phones and grinding the tape. That's how he forms his opinions on players. It's 80 percent what he sees on tape, and the rest is based on workouts, conversations with people around the league and other factors.
"If I'm going to make a mistake, I would rather it be my own," Mayock says.
Yes, Mayock is busy. He only has a few more days before the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine begins and he will be relied upon to spit out hours worth of draft analysis on hundreds of prospects on NFL Network. But he has time for a Tuesday conference call with upwards of 100 reporters. Why not, right? It's good to crawl out of the dark and step away from the film room once in a while. Talking to a bunch of people eager to hear every word that comes out of your mouth isn't so bad, either.
So it begins at 2 p.m. ET. Callers are coming at Mayock in rapid fashion, and he's firing back at an equally blistering pace. It takes 25 minutes before Mayock is asked about Johnny Manziel. Nearly an hour in, Mayock gets his first Michael Sam question.
Before Mayock has batted an eye, an hour goes by. Then another 30 minutes. By then, similar calls with Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. may have been over, but Mayock powers through. Soon, there are technical issues. Either callers are dropping off, unable to match Mayock's will to talk draft, or Andrew, the gentleman running the conference call, is having some trouble punching callers into the call. Either way, Mayock shows signs of frustration.
"Hello?" Mayock says repeatedly.
Finally, the action picks back up. More questions, some repeats. Quarterback talk is sprinkled in seemingly every other question. If Mayock hasn't evaluated a player he is asked about, he admits it, but he has watched most. The call has now gone beyond two hours in length.
Andrew chimes in again.
"Just a few more questions," he says.
Mayock cuts him off. There are still 30 callers waiting in line to ask a question. Mayock wants to get to everyone. His guilty conscience won't let any question go unanswered.
Once again, he powers on. After two hours and 43 minutes, every question is answered. Mayock did it. Here were his key points.
Mayock's key points
- Mayock believes this is the best draft class he has seen in the last 10 years, especially in terms of depth. He qualified that statement by saying multiple executives have told him the same thing.
- Out of Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles, Mayock thinks Bortles is the player with the most developing still to do. Mayock called Bridgewater the most NFL-ready of the prospects at quarterback.
- Mayock is a bit higher on Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan than we are. He said if he makes it to the No. 12 pick, the New York Giants should sprint to the podium. He also compared Lewan to Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel.
- Mayock did agree with us on the fact that Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack is a top five player in this draft class. He said that Mack runs like a safety, and has few if any flaws in his game.
- Two lofty comparisons Mayock tossed out: Chris Borland to Kiko Alonso, and Calvin Pryor to Bob Sanders. The Borland comparison is a bit too lofty, but the Pryor one makes some sense. Mayock added that Pryor is bigger and more physical than Sanders.
- Regardless of his torn ACL, Zach Mettenberger was never a first- or second-round pick, according to Mayock. In comparison, Mayock said AJ McCarron is a second - or third-round pick. Our board does not match up with that.