Highlights from Mike Mayock's pre-draft conference call

With the NFL Draft just days away, it becomes increasingly important to take all of the talk about players sliding up or down draft boards with a grain of salt.

Teams typically keep that information very close to the vest, and usually there are ulterior motives or misinformation campaigns going on.

When it comes to Alabama linebacker Rueben Foster, who most analysts agree is the top linebacker in this draft, it hasn't been the smoothest of pre-draft processes. He made headlines following a stellar career in Tuscaloosa for needing shoulder surgery, then was sent home from the NFL Scouting Combine after getting into an argument with a hospital worker. And most recently, there were reports he had a diluted drug sample from the Combine.

Not great stuff when a player is trying to be a Top 20 pick.

But NFL Network lead draft analyst Mike Mayock doesn't believe some of the negative headlines surrounding Foster will affect his standing as a Top 20 pick.

"Yeah, there are some red flags there," Mayock said in a national conference call. "I think the combine incident has been wiped clean by almost every team. I think that was way overdone, and the kid should not have been sent home. That's my opinion. And most people in the league believe that.

"As far as the diluted sample at the combine, that's always really disappointing. It has to be taken into consideration. I think the shoulder is apparently going to be okay from a re-check perspective. I don't see him sliding all that far. I think he's a top 20 pick all day long in any draft."

If Mayock is right, those Lions fans out there who see a need at the position in Detroit and are hoping one of the best linebackers in this draft could fall to the Lions at No. 21, will be disappointed.

Mayock also touched on a few other topics Lions fans might be interested in:

-- **Mayock was asked about the potential for Detroit taking a receiver at No. 21 and which of the top three available at the position – Corey Davis, John Ross and Mike Williams – would best fit in Detroit.

View photos of the wide receiver on-field workouts at the 2017 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

**

"You see the question is difficult this year because there's only one that's right now clean," Mayock said. "When I say clean, I mean no injury concerns or character or anything, and that's Mike Williams. He's the big body, 6'3", 218-pound guy that ran 4.55, and that's plenty.

Mayock said there are injury and durability questions surrounding the speedster Ross. Davis, who is college football's all-time leading receiver in yards, has not been able to work out for teams in the pre-draft process after suffering an ankle injury and torn ligaments while training for the Combine.

"All three of those guys are going to go somewhere between 10 and 22 or 23," Mayock said. "So I don't think you're going to have a choice of three receivers in Detroit. I think if you're Detroit, you just kind of take a look at all three of these guys and decide what you think that you're seeing best."

-- We know this is a very deep class of running backs, but Mayock thinks there's the potential for 11 backs to be taken in the first three rounds that are three-down contributors right away.

"Well, let me put it this way, the last five years there's been an average of seven running backs go in the first three rounds, which you typically are looking for a three-down back," he said. "This year I've got 11.

"Once you get past that first group, which would include Joe Mixon, I don't know, Curtis Samuel is more of a wideout. Some people think he's a running back. But in the third round I've got guys like Samaje Perine, Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams. I'm not a huge D'Onta Foreman fan, but I think they'll take him somewhere late third round.

"We've got 10 or 11 guys right there that I think are three down backs. I think there is depth. There is quality at the top end, and I think there is depth throughout."

-- How does Jabrill Peppers fit into a defensive scheme?

Peppers played a hybrid linebacker position at Michigan last season, but he projects more at safety in the NFL, a position he hasn't played much of in his career.

"He's another lightning rod conversation," Mayock said. "I think the way you asked the question is a good one, and that is the coaches in the drafting department all have to be on the same page all the time, but especially with players like Peppers.

"I think he's a first-round talent, but you better figure out in advance how you're going to use him. I know day one he can be the best return specialist on your team, and don't underrate that.

"My perspective, he's better closer to the line of scrimmage. There are certain players that just are. And I think he's a starting strong safety that's better in the box."

Mayock also thinks Peppers can play some nickel cornerback if asked to do it.

"Just have a plan and develop this kid," he said. "He's just one of those lightning –when he gets in a room, his energy is just contagious. So you're going to want him in your locker room. You're going to want him on the field. But you need to know what the plan is, and you need to follow through with that plan."

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