There's no shortage of NFL scouts and NFL Draft experts around the Internet these days, and while you can find quality coverage in a lot of places, it's still Mike Mayock of the NFL Network who seems to hold the most knowledge any one individual can have.
Mayock has been involved with breaking down the combine since far before anybody seemed to care about it. He was quoted in Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column, talking about the beginning of the combine and how it was tough finding people who wanted to watch an offensive lineman run drills, but that eventually the "crossover audience" of college football and pro football fans met to make it into the event it is today.
Each year around the start of the NFL Scouting Combine, Mayock holds a massive conference call with media around the nation, and answers basically any draft question thrown his way. This call typically runs on for more than two hours, and on Monday Mayock had another one that wasn't exactly light on information.
The deepest and thinnest position groups:
Mayock isn't known for his brevity, but his opening outline of this draft class was fairly succinct. He started with an overall impression of each position, saying that the draft is particularly strong at the running back position and has a good receiver class.
On the other end of the spectrum, he noted that the quarterback and safety positions are "very thin," but that the rest of the positions are "solid." He went on to say that it was "overall a very good class."
NFL Mock Draft
NFL Mock Draft
On drafting receivers, and this class compared to 2014:
Mayock was asked how this year's class compares to last year's, when five receivers went in the first round and 15 were picked in the first three rounds. Mayock mentioned that, over the past several years, those numbers aren't too skewed, but that the depth of the 2014 class topped this wide receiver class. He said that there were starting-caliber guys down into the fourth round, which this draft doesn't necessarily have.
Nevertheless, he's expecting plenty out of the receiver class and it has a lot to do with the current rules in the NFL. Mayock noted that the 5-yard rule allows smaller wideouts to get off of the press coverage and "run routes with impunity after 5 yards," and that the big guys "don't have to be route runners." He says the class should be "highly productive," thanks to a talented class helped out by the current landscape of NFL rules.
As far as who he considers his No. 1 receiver, Mayock pointed out West Virginia's Kevin White for his high ceiling. He said that White's "potential is greater" than Alabama's Amari Cooper, a player who many think has a legitimate claim as the top receiver. That said, Cooper is more fundamentally sound, and Mayock called him the "safest pick" of all the receivers, specifically when talking about the Oakland Raiders at No. 4 overall. Oakland has its franchise quarterback in Derek Carr and a top receiver is one of the Raiders' biggest needs.
Even if the 2015 group isn't quite as loaded as last year's, Mayock called White, Cooper and DeVante Parker "consensus top 20 picks" at the receiver position.
On Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and the Buccaneers' first overall pick:
The first really lengthy answer came when Mayock was asked about which quarterback the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be looking at with the top pick in the draft. It's no secret that Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon are the top two guys, but they both have their concerns.
Mayock said that he didn't envy the Buccaneers' decision-makers at this point. He agreed that there's a consensus top two quarterbacks, but that there are "contrasting issues with both of them." He noted that Winston throws "too many interceptions," but that the real issues are off the field. He said that Winston was the face of the Florida State franchise and "that didn't stop him from making bad decisions."
But he likes Winston's pocket awareness and his timing, which aren't typically strengths of college quarterbacks. With Mariota off the field, there are no issues, but Mayock wonders whether he can put together the individual components in a pro-style offense. The problem with trying to evaluate this at the scouting combine is that Mariota won't be running an offense in the drills but rather will just be throwing. In other words, he can't address the biggest knock about him with these workouts, Maycok acknowledged. Mayock then questioned whether the Buccaneers would eschew the position altogether and simply pick the best guy available -- he said that his gut tells him they won't, and that they'll likely go with Winston.
SB Nation presents: Scouting the five best quarterbacks in the NFL Draft
If the Jets should draft a QB:
Mayock was asked whether the Jets should take a quarterback in the first round, and Mayock said that it wouldn't be a bad idea. With a new coach and new general manager, it makes sense to get a new franchise quarterback. He said the Jets will have to compare the two guys against Geno Smith, but suggests that wouldn't work out favorably for Smith.
He noted that there is no consistency from Smith and "no upward trend of learning." He suggests that the Jets should go after one of the top two guys if they're there, but that it's very possible neither is available given the Tennessee Titans could pick one of them at No. 2, depending on how they feel about Zach Mettenberger.
On whether Brandon Scherff can play outside:
In Mayock's latest position rankings, he ranked Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff as his top interior offensive lineman, and he was asked about the decision to include Scherff in that class as opposed to offensive tackle. Mayock said that Scherff can play offensive tackle, but that it's a very similar conversation that was had about Zack Martin last year.
He added that he thinks Martin can play and be a very good tackle, but that he's an All-Pro right guard. He said it's a similar example with Scherff, who can play outside (and possibly play it better than Martin, given Scherff is a bit stronger and has more length) but could be a lot better on the interior. Mayock referred to Scherff as "an All-Pro guard."
Thoughts on the Browns and Johnny Manziel:
Johnny Manziel is someone Mayock supported last season, though when asked about him on Monday, Mayock said that he "kind of bought into Johnny just being immature, and apparently there's a lot more than that." He said that he doesn't think Manziel's career is over by any means, and that he hopes the Browns get something out of him.
Despite that, Mayock doesn't think moving up to draft one of the top two quarterbacks is a good idea for the Browns. He said that it's difficult for them to package the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks to move up "for a question mark." He added that the Browns would be better served getting one of the best receivers, a right tackle or a tight end. At the end of the day, the Browns need to get "two great football players."
2015 NFL Combine
How talent evaluators handle the 40-yard dash:
The 40-yard dash typically gets more coverage than anything else at the combine, and Mayock was asked whether talent evaluators put it in perspective well. Mayock said that there are more mistakes made at the measurables at the combine than anywhere else when it comes to talent evaluations. He says that when scouts want the measureables to outweigh the playing tape, mistakes are made.
He then went on to add that fast guys are fast and slow guys are slow -- and it's only when the opposite happens that it's a story. He again mentioned receiver Kevin White, and said he's a "4.5-flat guy," -- that he'll run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds flat. Mayock said that if White comes in at 4.58, then he has to go back to the tape and check his notes.
"The best evaluators use the numbers for a cross check," Mayock said, "If a fast guy runs fast, check. He should jump around 37 inches, check. However if you find something that doesn't match up, that should be the red flag that makes you go back."
The NFL Scouting Combine gets underway on Tuesday, with the first groups seeing the field for workouts on Friday.