NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock held a conference call this past Thursday as he answered questions from reports across the league (there definitely had to be one Browns reporter on the call, since three questions were asked about Cleveland). The call took place after Tom Heckert's news conference with the local media, because of the questions referenced Heckert's comment about there being two players the team was interested in.
Mayock made it clear in his comments that he doesn't think Justin Blackmon should even be in the mix for Cleveland when you consider the other talented receivers who would still be available at No. 22 overall. Instead, he was very high on running back Trent Richardson and how a running back like him is great for a division like the AFC North. Mayock's comments about the Browns, as well as a select few other comments from Mayock, are listed after the jump.
Questions About the Cleveland Browns
Q. Curious about the Browns. We just talked to Tom Heckert and he made it sound like a two-horse race but he didn't tell us which two horses it was. Are you leaning strongly in one direction for them?
MIKE MAYOCK: I am. And I have two perspectives here. Number 1 is, if you think there's a franchise quarterback, at some point, you've got to get one.
And I like Colt McCoy very much as a person and his work ethic and intelligence. But if the goal is to win a Super Bowl, I think you have to each year evaluate whether you can upgrade that position.
So if you're not going to take a quarterback at fourth, you've got a another plan for your quarterback, I think they have to take Trent Richardson, and they have got needs and you can talk about the corner and you can talk about the wide receiver.
I happen to think from a positional perspective, the corner, [Morris] Claiborne, and the tailback, Richardson are the next two players in the draft. Forget the tackle for a second. You can make an argument there. But I don't think the wide receiver should be in this conversation, which a lot of people in Cleveland do.
So long story short, this is a big boy division. It's all about physicality, toughness, and winning games 17-14, not winning games 42-39. So to me, if you get a tailback that's as good a tailback as I think Richardson is, you can shorten the football game.
And when you have to go to Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and play them twice a year, sometimes in bad weather, you might not even be able to get the football out to Justin Blackmon, whereas you can turnaround and hand the ball to this kid and stay in the game.
So that's a long way of saying that I think Richardson is a guy at four. I think he could comeback at 22, and either get a wide receiver like Kendall Wright or Stephen Hill or revisit the quarterback situation. Or, maybe even get the quarterback in 30, whatever you are, 35, 36, whatever that is. So that's how I look at it.
Q. Would there be any little tiny part of you that's thought if you were the Browns, that maybe you would take Blackmon, too?
MIKE MAYOCK: No. Consistent with my philosophy is I'm taking the tailback at four. I'll go out and get the wide out at 22 and Weeden, or if you want to get Weeden at 22, fine. But I want the tailback.
I mentioned a little while ago, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco when they went to the playoffs, they had a run game and they had a strong defense. You have a pretty good defense, by the way. You get a run game, you've got a chance.
Q. The Browns need to find a starting right tackle. Can you break down some of the guys you think could be logical targets for them, whether it's late first round or early second round or even in the third round?
MIKE MAYOCK: I think the logical right tackle, if Riley Reiff was there at 22, which is I think where his real value is, right somewhere in that 15 to 25 range, might go higher than that, but if he was available, he's a starting right tackle.
Cordy Glenn from George I think is a starting right tackle. He could be sitting there at 22 and he would be a very logical pick at 22. I think Mike Adams from Ohio State is a logical right tackle.
Again, you'd have to get him probably at 22 unless he went early in the second round, which he could. And then in the second round, I think Bobby Massie from Old Miss can play right tackle; Jeff Allen from Illinois and Mitchell Schwartz from Cal.
The problem with the tackle draft this year is there's some pretty good guys up high, but after Mitchell Schwartz, after those five, eight or nine guys that I just gave you total, after eight or nine guys in the tackle class, there's a drop-off. And most teams are going to want to get one of those guys, and I think you're probably going to have to get them in the first two rounds.
Q. Tannehill is a guy who seems to be a lot of talk and debate about where he should go. I wanted to get from you the likely scenarios of where he might go and why.
MIKE MAYOCK: Yeah, at this point, I'm leaning heavily towards Cleveland going with Richardson and looking to get Weeden later in the draft.
That's kind of where I think Cleveland -- so if it's not going to be Cleveland at four, the next logical pressure points are Miami at eight or somebody trading up to seven.
Regarding the Range of Talent at Wide Receiver
Q. Looks like the Vikings are leaning towards Matt Kalil, and they have a lot of holes to fill, particularly receiver and quarterback. How deep is the pool and maybe some names that would stand out that would be around in the second round?
MIKE MAYOCK: I don't think they will take a receiver at three. I believe Matt Kalil is the choice and if it's not, it's got to be [Morris] Claiborne. They are the two that make the most sense to me at three.
So if we assume they take Kalil, and then when you roll around to the second round at wide receiver, at that point, I think there are four first-round wide receivers in this draft. It's [Justin] Blackmon, [Michael] Floyd, [Kendall] Wright and Stephen Hill.
Hill is a little bit of a wild-card. If he was available early, too, you would have to look strongly at him and however, he's really raw and a developmental project. But boy, is he gifted and athletic. If those four are off the board, I think the next two you are looking at are.
Rueben Randle from LSU and Alshon Jeffrey from South Carolina. They offer different things. Randle is a vertical threat that flies, and Jeffrey is not as fast. I worry about what his weight is going to be. But you can throw it outside the numbers, jump balls, red zone, he's a gifted kid that doesn't run very fast.
Regarding Two Linebackers That Have Come Up in Discussion
Q. You already mentioned Jenkins and a few other fellas, but Vontaze Burfict and Jansen (ph) what do you know about those guys and how will they be looked at?
MIKE MAYOCK: Burfict is interesting for me because I put his tape on without absolutely zero preconceived notions. I heard he was athletic, explosive, off-the-field issues, anger issues, but I didn't care. I was just curious as to what kind of football player he was before I delved into everything else.
I watched three tapes and really didn't like him as a football player. I thought he was highly inconsistent. When he had a chance to make a splash play and a big hit in the open field, it was beautiful. Everything else was highly inconsistent. You can see some ability. He went to the Combine and did as poorly as any linebacker at the Combine in literally every measurable.
So from my perspective, I had a poor performance on tape followed by a poor performance at the Combine. If it's up to me, he's a non-draftable kid. Somebody could take him late but they are asking for all those headaches. Does he have upsides? Sure, he's a recruited high school kid and is a big, good-looking kid. For the most part he's either late draftable or free agent, and for me, he's a free agent.
Q. What do you think of Zack Brown when you watch him on film and how good of a pro do you think he can be?
MIKE MAYOCK: You caught one of my hot buttons here. I'm not as impressed with Zack Brown as most of the league is. And I guess the most impressive attribute he has is obvious, which is his speed. You rarely see a linebacker that's faster than most of the corners in a draft.
So from a height, weight, speed perspective, he's a first round pick. When you watch the tape, he makes a lot of plays, but they are almost all in space. If he diagnoses a screen pass, and drives on it between the guard and tackle, he looks beautiful. Makes plays all over that way in space.
However, any time a big body gets on him, actually any time anybody gets on him, his feet stop and he's not physical at all. I don't see the toughness and the physicality. He's a run and chase linebacker that's going to make plays with his speed. But I think he's going to get enveloped by anybody.
In the pass rush game, he gets stung by running backs; he's got to be a space player that you cover up and you allow him to run free. That's his effectiveness. I have him going in the third round. He could go in the second just because of his height, weight and speed.
Regarding the Steelers' Direction in the Draft
Q. What direction do you see the Steelers going in the draft?
MIKE MAYOCK: Well, I think you have to look at their offensive line, and I think what a great job the coach has done there with the injuries the last couple of years. They are going to kick Gilbert from right tackle to left tackle. Willie Colon has played one game in the last two years which he'll stop at right tackle so you have to be nervous about that.
Obviously they re-signed Trey Essex. I would be looking to upgrade that offensive line inthe first two rounds if possible, and it doesn't matter as much to me whether it's a guard or a tackle but I've got to get some help out there. I needed another young, healthy body that can play.
Also, I think the safety position and nose tackle position are two positions they have to be looking at. Hampton has been a great player for a lot of years and Steve McClendon is a young guy that they got off the street last year and looks like a good, young player and I would love to see an impact nose tackle in Pittsburgh; and I think at safety, Polamalu and Clark have been great players. They are getting older as is Will Allen and Ryan Mundy.
I think at some point the second or third round, they have got to find a safety, a young safety, that can provide depth and ultimately become a starter. I think they are the positions of need, at least initially for the Steelers.
I encourage you to check out the entire transcript; it was a good read about a variety of players, positions, and teams.