INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This past Monday, NFL Network Draft Analyst Mike Mayock wasn't optimistic the Titans' #2 overall pick in the draft would generate much trade interest.
"The question I have this year is I'm not sure if either of these two guys are players you can mortgage your future on," were Mayock's exact words Monday regarding Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
Fast-forward to Saturday and both QB's did nothing but impress during their time in Indianapolis, completing the combine with solid on-field performances and interviews with NFL coaches and execs.
The consensus top quarterbacks of this year's class showed especially well during positional drills. Winston displayed no ill effects of the reported arm weakness, making every throw with relative ease. Mariota showed polished footwork in his drop-backs, seamlessly threw a full route tree and ran a 40-yard dash faster than most running backs at 4.52 seconds.
When Mayock addressed reporters Saturday after the workouts, he was clearly more bullish on the value the Titans possess with the second overall selection.
"If you ask me that question in a vacuum it's different than asking if number five can move up to number two or if number six can move to two as opposed to if 20 can move to two," he said recognizing the hefty price the Eagles would have to pay to move from 20. "Is there value sitting at two for Tennessee? Absolutely. If a quarterback goes at one and they're sitting at two okay with Zach Mettenberger, then yeah, the store is open, let's see if we can barter a little bit."
That decision, as Mayock continued to explain, isn't a trivial one for Ruston Webster and his staff. Deciding to go with Mettenberger and pass on a potential franchise quarterback is a significant choice.
There lies the art of speculation.
"They might want that quarterback," said Mayock. "I still think we won't know a thing until we get into the first day of the draft. That's part of the intrigue of it, but yeah, I still think there could be play at two, no doubt."
He also gave thumbnails on how he feels about each of the top-three prospects in the draft – both quarterbacks -- as well as defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
Mayock on Winston: "I thought the top two guys were outstanding. The thing I like about Jameis Winston is I think he throws an extremely catchable ball. He's got all the arm strength you want, but he makes it easy for the receiver based on the route. He understands that. He gets it."
Mayock on Mariota: "What I liked about Mariota is just the footwork. You can see how athletic he is. He ran the 4.5 or whatever he ran, but you can see it translate to his drop-backs now. He has a sense of urgency with his feet. I know he'll be able to adapt to being under center, it's the pocket awareness part that you can't tell out here. Physically he'll be able to do all the things he's asked to do."
Mayock on Leonard Williams:"I compare him to Richard Seymour, who is one of my favorite five-techniques (3-4 DE) of all time. Richard Seymour could play up and down the line of scrimmage in any front – three-man front, four-man front, it didn't matter. He could play every single position and that's who I think Leonard Williams is, a guy with versatility who is gifted. He can play outside, he can play inside and it doesn't matter. He's scheme diverse. Any team at the top of the draft will be looking at him."
Other Notable Mayock Tidbits
- He raved about the way Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty throws the football.* "When you talk about a natural thrower of the football, its Petty. If you were just going to stand there and play catch in the backyard or play a 7v7, that's my guy"*
- Mayock called this year's class of pass rushers (edge guys) the best he's seen since 2011. "When I say edge I mean defensive end or outside linebacker, whoever is rushing the quarterback. I think Dante Fowler, Shane Ray and Randy Gregory are three outstanding edge guys. The kid from Kentucky Bud Dupree is a guy I want to see. There's a whole class of guys I want to see down through the second, third and fourth rounds coming off the edge that I think are going to be fun."
- He gave his take on the decision between Kevin White (4.35 40-yard time) and Amari Cooper (4.42 40-yard time). "Kevin White has been my guy since I put on the tape. I think Amari Cooper is the safe choice. Cooper's like Tory Holt. I mean everything is smooth and easy. However, what I see with White is a higher ceiling. I see a bigger guy that runs faster. I was hoping he'd run 4.45 and then he runs 4.35 and he made everything look easy."
- He continued to reiterate the difficulty teams will have grading quarterbacks coming from spread offenses because it's all a projection. He said there is no way to get the tape you need in terms of playing under center, making checks and going through a progression.* *
- Mayock raved about TCU linebacker Paul Dawson who had six sacks and four interceptions in 2014. Dawson is currently the top-ranked linebacker on Mayock's positional rankings. "I love Paul Dawson as a football player. The tape doesn't lie. That kid is as quick and instinctive of a linebacker as I've seen in years. He's a three-down linebacker, can get overwhelmed at times by a big body, but he reacts so quickly that he's still able to make a play. He's great in pass coverage. Love him."