Q&A with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock

Posted May 7, 2014

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock on draft needs for the Lions, trade potential and more.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is one of the more respected talent evaluators in NFL circles. Mayock was recently asked a series of questions related to the draft in a national conference call.

Here’s what he had to say.

So many mock drafts with a dozen different guys projected. It seems like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans will be gone. What do you think the best-case scenario is if the Lions stay at 10?

MAYOCK: I think if they stay at 10, there could be a whole lot of different ways they go. I've done a bunch of different mock drafts on my own. Last night I did a dual mock draft where I picked two picks for every team. One of them I had Darqueze Dennard, another one I had Zack Martin.

From my perspective defensively, they need a back-end guy, a safety or a corner, and offensively the highest rated O-linemen or a wide receiver. I really believe that Watkins is going to be gone. There's a good chance Mike Evans could be gone so they have to be ready in case those guys are gone to look at the highest rated corner or offensive lineman on their board.

We talk about the Lions. How much value is that 10th pick? Is it worth a lot for them to consider moving down if the guys they want are already gone?

MAYOCK: What's interesting, in the last couple years, there used to be this trade chart that all the teams had. It assigned a point value for every pick in the draft. If you went from the 10th to the 14th spot, it was worth X points. Therefore, that team had to give you a similar value in points.

The last two or three years, that's gone out the window with the CBA when those top 10 or 12 picks changed. There was a whole different financial perspective for those topics.

You could see, for instance, Oakland, when they traded back from whatever it was last year, three I think it was to 12 or 13, they didn't get anywhere near the value. I think they picked up a second-round pick, but to me it made sense.

Teams are doing more things that make sense functionally from a football perspective and they're throwing the trade chart out the window.

If Detroit is there at 10, the one or two guys they really wanted are gone, even if they move down five or six spots and got one pick, to me that's a bonus. Why not? You're going to get the same guy at 14 as you get at 10. If you get a third-round pick, it's awesome. I don't think it's going to be something they know until they get on the clock.

You were talking about the Lions moving down. You have also mentioned Sammy Watkins moving to seven in one of your mocks. How high would Lions they have to go up to get him?

Sammy WatkinsWR Sammy Watkins (Photo: AP Images)

MAYOCK: Again, they've got two comp picks so they've got eight total. I'm not sure you want to go get anybody, in all honesty, in this draft giving up picks unless it's to go get a Sammy Watkins where you don't have to give up much. If you have to give up a fourth-round pick or third-round pick, that's one thing. You start talking about a second-round pick or a number one next year, I wouldn't go anywhere near that kind of stuff.

This draft has enough good football players. I feel like people in Detroit are fixated on getting that wideout. I understand why. From my perspective, I have no problem with Michael Evans. I would take him in a heartbeat without having to give up another pick. I think you have to think really hard before you start giving up picks to move up and go get somebody in this draft.

You mentioned (Darqueze) Dennard going to the Lions. But you also mentioned Kyle Fuller as your top corner. Could you expand a little bit on your thinking there, whether or not Fuller might be an option for the Lions at 10.

MAYOCK: Let me explain the corners this way, and I mentioned this a little bit before. I personally prefer Fuller and Dennard. I think they're the best football players today.

They're not as naturally gifted as (Justin) Gilbert from Oklahoma State and (Bradley) Roby from Ohio State.
So it really depends what you're looking for. Are you looking for more upside? For instance, the kid Gilbert could go number 10 to Detroit. He's got return ability in the kick game. He's explosive. He's got beautiful hips. He can turn and run. He's got more upside than any corner in the draft.

However, he's highly inconsistent. I would say the same thing about Roby. Roby has had some off-the-field issues. But his hips, his turning ability, his upside is incredible.

I just happen to prefer football players that I trust more. I trust Dennard and I trust Fuller, either one of those I think would be a great pick at 10.

We might be splitting hairs, but with Evans and Watkins, (describe) in terms of NFL readiness, how they were used in college, whose college résumé caters to them, making a smoother transition knowing the challenges young receivers face.

MAYOCK: At wideout, the way I look at those two kids, it's vanilla and chocolate. They make different flavors for different reasons. The Watkins kid is explosive. He's a great route runner, great hands, tremendous run after catch. More than anything, he's a competitor. In addition to all the natural gifts he has, he has an edge about him every game he plays, and I love that.

Mike Evans is more a product of what today's NFL environment is. Today's NFL environment, with the advent of the back shoulder throw, has opened up the game for the big wideouts, the 6'5" wideouts. Why? They basically can play outside the numbers and they don't have to run as many routes and they don't have to get in and out of breaks like the smaller ones. They're running a bunch of outside the number fade routes that become converted back shoulders. Any time you get a one-on-one with a defensive back with his back turned, you get a big, superior athlete, the odds favor the wide receiver.

Mike Evans I think, along with Kelvin Benjamin, some of these other guys, are what today's NFL is all about. They're outside the number guys and red zone guys.

However, I happen to think that Watkins is a better football player and that's why he's rated higher.

What about the second tier of receivers in this draft? Everyone talks about Watkins and Evans. Who do you see coming out of the second tier of receivers?

MAYOCK: I think there's a chance six wideouts go in the first round. After Watkins and Evans, the next two are going to be wideouts people would say wouldn't go so early, Odell Beckham Jr. from LSU and Bradin Cooks from Oregon State.

Beckham Jr. is an explosive kid with return skills. Gets in and out of breaks as well as any receiver in this draft. Has good size.

Cooks is a smaller receiver, but maybe the most explosive of the entire group. He's tough. He also is a good route runner. I think their value is going to start somewhere in that 13, 14 area. I think they'll be gone by plus or minus 20.

Then Kelvin Benjamin and Marqise Lee come into play after that. You could see up to six wideouts go in the first round.

BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy, do you think him staying around for his senior year helped or hurt him and your overall assessment of his extension and weaknesses heading into the draft?

MAYOCK: I think it helped him. He became known as one of the best all-around linebackers in college football. There's been a buzz about him the last month or six weeks. The buzz has been he does everything well. I'm not sure he has one outstanding trait where you go, Wow, that's awesome. But he does everything well. He did rush. He can drop. He can play inside, outside.

People are trying to figure out where best to play him. His versatility is a huge plus. I've got him as a solid second rounder right now and I think he's going to be a real good NFL player.

What about Zack Martin? You had him fourth among the tackles. Has that changed at all? Could you give an assessment of him?

MAYOCK: I love the kid. Even though I have him fourth as a tackle, he'd be my number one center or my number one guard. I believe that he is the only player in this draft that could start and play at a high-level at all five offensive line positions. I think as we get closer to this draft, he will be the fourth offensive lineman off the board.

I think he's coming off the board somewhere between nine and 13. He's too good. He's too safe. There are too many offensive line needs out there. There are a bunch of teams that look at him and say, He could start at right tackle day one, maybe we move him inside to guard or center the next year. He's awesome. He's about as safe a player as there is in this draft. If you want him, you better get him early.

You touched on Aaron Donald earlier. A lot of the mocks have him going to Chicago. Do you think that's where he ends up? Could you see him going higher than that?

MAYOCK: If I have eight or ten favorite players every year, he's one of them this year for me. I'm a little worried about it just because sometimes guys slide a little bit because they're not a fit for particular teams, not because they're not really good football players.

He did everything you could do to become a top 10 or 15 pick. Great college career. Tremendous Senior Bowl week where he dominated, ran like crazy at the combine. He did everything. He should be a top half of the first round, and I hope he is. 14 Chicago, 16 Dallas. You would hope somewhere right in there.

I don't think he's going much higher. There are some concerns. I don't buy into it.  There are teams who say he's too short, too small. If he doesn't win immediately with quickness, he's done. I hope he does not fly. He's too good a football player, too good a kid, but it has to be the right fit. It should be somewhere in the middle of that first round.