Before the start of the NFL Combine last week, Mike Mayock of the NFL Network held his annual conference call to discuss draft prospects for over two hours. Having the No. 1 and No. 12 overall picks and being in need of a quarterback, the Cleveland Browns were the topic of conversation during several stretches of the call. Here are some of the highlights related to the Browns, starting with the debate of Myles Garrett vs. Jonathan Allen at No. 1 overall:
Q. My question is about the Browns with the number one overall pick. I keep hearing a lot of people, pretty much everybody, saying, hey, it's Myles Garrett, Myles Garrett. You seem to have a more open mind saying they really need to look at Myles Garrett and Jonathan Allen. Is that more because you have worries about Myles Garrett or you just think so highly of Jonathan Allen? Can you break down your thoughts on those two guys and the Browns looking at them in number one with Gregg Williams and his defense and considering all those factors?
Mayock: “Yeah, here's my deal. I think Myles Garrett has the most upside of any pass-rusher in this draft. When healthy, he's easy to do on tape. He's 6'5", 262 pounds. He's got outside edgeability, he's got ability to come up and underneath, he can set a physical edge in the run game. But most importantly, he can affect quarterbacks. That's what this league is about. I think he makes a ton of sense at number one. The reason I think Jonathan Allen has to be considered also is, in addition to affecting the game, he affects it a little bit differently. So you can move him around. He can play just about anyplace on Gregg Williams' front four, inside, outside, and he could do it at a high level. I also think he's a little bit safer. At number one, you need a guy that you can sit there and you need a difference maker. I think they're both difference makers. I think there is a higher ceiling for the Texas A&M kid, but I think that Alabama kid is a great defensive player for the next ten years, and I think he's just a little bit safer than Garrett because he stays healthy, and he just seems like he plays every single week. But I love them both.”
The topic of conversation shifted to the jokes that two players made about wanting Cleveland to trade their No. 1 pick to Dallas so they could play for the Cowboys. Mayock didn’t interpret it as a lack of respect for the Browns:
Q. Two of the prominent players in this draft, Myles Garrett and Deshaun Watson, have jokingly appealed to the Cowboys to trade for the No. 1 pick so that they could draft them. Obviously, it was a joke. But if you're the Browns, how do you react to this in the interview with these players? Do you write this off to player immaturity, bad advice, or is this a show of the lack of respect the Browns have gotten has sunk to the college ranks?
Mayock: “No, I don't see any lack of respect for Cleveland. I see a little bit of immaturity on behalf of the kids. And I also see some natural -- I mean, some kids grow up in a certain area or are attracted to a certain team. They're a little bit too bubbly and infectious about it. I understand that.
I don't think Cleveland should be -- I don't think the fans or the people in the building in Cleveland should worry about it at all. Sit down, work the kids out, interview them. Trust me, if Cleveland drafts either of those kids, they're going to come in ready to play.”
Lastly, a New England reporter got Mayock’s perspective on a non-draft prospect in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo:
Q. You just mentioned Jimmy Garoppolo. I'm just curious, in your opinion, would he be worth a first round pick in a trade for one of these teams that's a little bit higher than the Patriots in the draft and a need at that position?
Mayock: “In my opinion, if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got 1 and 12, if I came away with either Garrett or Jonathan Allen at No. 1 and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo, I would be stoked. I would feel like I've got a difference maker on defense, and we've got our quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We've got five of the first 65 picks, let's get to work. So, yeah, from my perspective, looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that.”
Here is what he thought about some of the individual quarterback prospects Cleveland could be interested in:
Q. You have Trubisky rated third. What is it about his game, other than the fact that he's played only 13 games, that you have questions about?
Mayock: “You hit it on the head. You can't ask me that question by saying "other than" because that's my main answer. I'm probably old school when it comes to quarterbacks and having some experience. I'll be the first to tell you, I really like Mitch Trubisky. He's got quick release, a big arm, good feet. He moves around the pocket fairly well. So I was really impressed. I wasn't expecting a whole lot when I put the first tape in. I think I've watched five of his games.
By the way, he threw the ball 571 times this year. If you look at Carson Wentz in his entire career, I think Carson only threw it 612 times. So he only threw it 30 or 40 times less than Wentz did in college. However, one year as a starter, I look at that and go, okay, 13 games, how many two-minute situations was he in? How many four-minute situations where he knew he had to bleed the clock and make calls at the line of scrimmage and do pass protections and get the ball out? I look at the Bowl game and think it's a perfect example. It's a microcosm of what I'm talking about. He made two or three throws in that Bowl game against Stanford that were big-time NFL throws under pressure. Loved them. However, in the same half, in the second half of that game, he threw a pick six that was an awful read and an awful throw. I just don't think he's ready yet. I think he's talented and I think he's a starting NFL quarterback, but I had about the same grade on him that I had on Garoppolo. I think they're similar coming out of college. I had a second-round grade on Garoppolo. So I think the kid's a starting quarterback in the NFL. I just don't think he's ready yet.”
Q. What are Deshaun Watson's issues transitioning to the program in that spread offense?
Mayock: “Yeah, I tell you, Watson, from my perspective, I'm fascinated with the kid. Just a really quick overview on the quarterback position in general this year, you know, I'm not bullish on the quarterbacks this year because I don't think any of them are ready day one. I think they all have different issues.
But when you look at Deshaun Watson, I see a kid that went 28-2 in his last two years as a starter. I thought he played his best when the lights were brightest against the best defenses. His two games of 15 and 16 against Alabama. Put the tape on and watch the kid play. He's a competitor. When the game's on the line, he gets better. He does not shrink.
So, having said that, I love and I'm fascinated by him, but my concern, like all spread quarterbacks, and I don't care if it's Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, RG3, I don't care who they are, they all have a major adjustment when they get to the NFL. And Deshaun Watson, like those other guys, has to show he can win in the pocket. When he sits there and that first read is available, he's really good. He can make throws at all three levels with great accuracy. When that first look isn't there, it starts to break down a little bit.
Part of his instinct is to try to get out of the pocket because he's such a good athlete, but when he stays in the pocket, his accuracy drops, I think his decisionmaking drops. He throws a lot of interceptions where he doesn't see underneath coverage, and typically it's on his second or third read. So like most spread quarterbacks, I think that's the challenge.”
Q. I was hoping you could talk about DeShone Kizer and why you have him as your top quarterback, and whether you think he could sneak into the Top 10, perhaps or even the 49ers at pick No. 2?
Mayock: “Yeah, I don't have any quarterbacks anywhere near the Top 10. It doesn't mean that I don't think there is talent there, because I think there are four quarterbacks in this draft that have first-round talent. In my order that I had for my initial Top 5, it was Kizer, Watson, Trubisky, and Mahomes. All four of them have holes in their game. I don't think any of them are ready to start week one.
You're asking me about Kizer, I think he's the prototype quarterback in the NFL. He's at 6'5", 235-, 240-pound quarterback. He's got a big arm. He's got a quick release. He's athletic. He's smart. He's got enough athletic ability to move around the pocket. So I love his physical traits. I think he'll work hard, and I know he's smart.
What I don't like is how his game fell apart in the fourth quarter of a lot of games. So you either think -- it depends whether you like him or you don't. If you like him, you think your game fell apart because he tried to do too much this year in the fourth quarter. Or, if you don't like him, you say, well, it's never going to happen. I felt like his pocket mechanics fell apart, he tried to do too much, and the reason I have him as the number one quarterback is I think he's got the highest ceiling of any of the quarterbacks. But, again, I don't think he's ready to play yet.”
Q: Can you talk about some of the other QB prospects?
Mayock: “I mentioned earlier in the call two quarterbacks I thought were interesting developmental prospects, and that's Kaaya and Dobbs. Another person I'd throw in there who is probably a third-round pick is Davis Webb from Cal, transfer from Texas Tech who was the MVP of the Senior Bowl. Played in the same Cal offense that Jared Goff did. He's very much a spread guy. He's not ready to play, but he's a big guy. He's got a live arm. He's got good enough feet. He's another guy I would really like to develop.
There is a lot of conversation with Patrick Mahomes from Texas Tech. He's different. He's a gunslinger. He's got an innate feel for the game. The more I look at him, the more I'm pushing him higher and closer to that first-round conversation with Kizer, Watson, and Trubisky. So I think Mahomes is picking up steam in NFL circles. I think you could get Webb perhaps in the third round, and then I think Kaaya and Dobbs are the guys as far as developmental guys if you're not going to try to trade for a quarterback, like a Garoppolo or Romo, et cetera.”
You can read the full transcript of the pre-combine conference here.