Frank Tadych | Tags: 2011 NFL Draft, A.J. Green, Anthony Castonzo, Ben Ijalana, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Da'Quan Bowers, Edmund Gates, Jake Locker, Jimmy Smith, Julio Jones, Kenrick Ellis, Mike Mayock, Mike Pouncey, Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, RObert Quinn, Taiwan Jones, Tim Tebow, Tyron Smith, Vince Young, Will Rackley
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock spent 90 minutes Wednesday on a conference call talking with reporters about the 2011 NFL Draft. Those 90 minutes proved to be a gold mine of pre-draft knowledge, with Mayock sharing his thoughts on many of the prospects and what NFL teams are thinking.
Here’s a recap of the items that caught my attention:
- Looking at a quarterback draft class that most feel has plenty of depth but no elite prospect, Mayock believes eight could go in the first three rounds in a “feeding frenzy” for QBs. He rates four QBs as having first-round talent, the “cleanest” being Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert. We were also treated to a Mayock-ism: “There’s not one guy I would pound the table for,” he added about the QBs.
- It wouldn’t surprise Mayock at all if one of those QBs, Jake Locker, was selected by the Redskins at No. 10 or the Vikings at No. 12. He sees Locker as a fit for Washington over most teams because of coach Mike Shanahan’s offensive system, which features heavy play-action.
- LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara are the consensus top-two cornerbacks, and Mayock believes both will be gone in within the first 11 picks. Many consider the clear No. 3 at the position to be Colorado’s Jimmy Smith, a player Mayock believes would be a top-10 pick if not for off-field issues. Mayock described Smith as “an athletic freak” with “unlimited upside.” He sees the Eagles (No. 23) and Ravens (26) as possible destinations for Smith.
- If you’re into the comparison game, Mayock rates Newton’s throwing mechanics as “vastly superior” to those of Tim Tebow or Vince Young. His opinion of Newton hasn’t changed: “It all comes down, to me, how hard is this kid willing to work? Does he want to be the best quarterback in the NFL, or does he just want to be pretty good?”
- Mayock has a similar opinion of Newton’s teammate, DT Nick Fairley, who he has rated No. 8 overall on his big board: “Great ability. How great does he want to be? How great does he want to be for a long time?”
- Mayock described Georgia WR A.J. Green as a “special” player, and although he isn’t a proponent of receivers going in the top five picks, he called Green “the exception.” Mayock would pick Green over Peterson and Quinn if all three were available for the Browns at No. 6.
- Mayock listed Green, Peterson and WR Julio Jones as three of the most sure players in the draft with minimal risk.
- It’s rare to see interior linemen drafted early, but Mayock believes Florida G/C Mike Pouncey could go as high as No. 14 overall to the Rams. He sees Pouncey somewhere in the 19-23 range.
- North Carolina DE Robert Quinn, just 20 years old, is somebody Mayock believes will eventually become a “dominant” NFL player. Right now, he’s a top-10 pick.
- USC OT Tyron Smith has risen to the top of Mayock’s position rankings, and he believes Smith will be ”as good or better” than any of the tackles taken in last year’s draft and said that his ”upside is phenomenal.” That’s high praise. Mayock made a bold prediction, saying Smith will go No. 9 overall to the Cowboys.
- Is it a lock the Panthers take a QB No. 1 overall? Mayock isn’t convinced of that yet, and “feels strongly” the Panthers would like to trade out of the top pick.
- Once in the conversation as the potential No. 1 pick, the stock of Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers has been falling due to questions surrounding his surgically repaired knee. Mayock believes Bowers will slide in the first round and at some point will be a bargain. How about the Lions at No. 13?
- Speaking of the Lions, Mayock believes if Amukamara and Smith are off the board at their positions of need, the Detroit could look to OT Anthony Castanzo. Mayock believes it would make a lot of sense for the Lions’ fall-back option to be at DE.
- Mayock’s first five non-Division I players to come off the board are Abilene Christian WR Edmond Gates, Villanova OL Ben Ijalana, Eastern Washington RB Taiwan Jones, Lehigh OL Will Rackley, and Hampton DT Kenrick Ellis.