A couple of days ago, the NFL Network's Mike Mayock held his annual conference call from the NFL Combine. He hits on a bunch of topics, and in my opinion, he's one of the more thorough analysts in the game today. I'll share with you guys his Chicago Bears specific thoughts, and also his thoughts on some of the players the Bears may be looking at selecting in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The following Q&A is all taken from the transcript.
Q. I'm curious what you learned about Ryan Pace from his first draft and if there's anything from last year that you can kind of look at as to what the Bears might be thinking going forward this season.
MIKE MAYOCK: You know, I think he shows those guys that he's going to be a big body, tough guy. It was interesting to me that he took Kevin White in the first round, playmaker, explosive. He was my No. 1 wide receiver in the draft, and obviously you got basically nothing out of him because of injury. But his next couple picks, if I remember correctly, were I think Eddie Goldman on the defensive line and Hroniss Grasu on the offensive line, and they were really good solid picks from an inside-out perspective, and that's what I think I've seen a little bit with Ryan. He's an inside-out guy, believes in O-line, D-line but he's not afraid to take a shot with an explosive guy like a Kevin White.
Q. Can you talk about Jaylon Smith and the chance that he might miss half this season, the fact that Kevin White didn't play all last season, do you wonder whether the Bears would have the stomach for that?
MIKE MAYOCK: If he had clean medical where you knew you were going to get him for the second half of the season, I think -- I don't care who the team is, Chicago or anybody in the league, this kid is so good that if the medical is clean, you have to take a big-picture look at him, and by that I mean two years from now. You want to have maybe one of the two or three or four best linebackers in football, and you might have to wait a half a season for him, to me every team is going to have a different answer to that, and I'm not sure what Chicago's would be. But if he has clean medical and you know you're going to get him for a half season plus and he's going to be fine, yeah, I think you pull the trigger on a kid like that.
Jaylon Smith is currently Mayock's #1 prospect at linebacker on his top 5 positional rankings. His knee injury has him slipping in many mock drafts to the Bears at 11.
Here's more about Notre Dame's Smith.
Q. I was just wondering how similar you feel Jaylon Smith's situation is right now is to that of Willis McGahee back in the '03 draft in terms of proximity to the injury to the pre-draft season and just how far he might fall in light of where his medical sits.
MIKE MAYOCK: Well, it's a great question. I've had this conversation with some general managers and coaches just this past week. First and foremost, I feel horribly for the kid, injuring the knee, especially when he injured it in the bowl game. Secondly, if he did not get hurt, he'd be in the conversation for the first pick in the draft. That's how good his junior season was. A little bit like Myles Jack in the sense that I saw him take a big leap forward as a full three-down linebacker this year. He's sideline to sideline with speed, he's as exciting a linebacker prospect as I've seen since Luke Kuechly as far as an insider, off-the-ball linebacker. That's how excited I was for him.
Now, the next step of this is the medical evaluation, which takes place in Indianapolis. So two things can happen: He could have a fairly clean evaluation of that knee where it's going to be a "typical ACL-type situation,", a "typical time frame," and a team will be able to gauge with pretty close proximity when they can get him back this season. What happens after that is if that analysis of the knee, the medical, is compounded by potential nerve damage or any other extenuating circumstance, then you start saying, uh-oh, what's going to happen, when are we going to get this kid, and will he ever get to be 100 percent again. So they're really the two levels I think you see. He could have been the first pick in the draft. Now if he gets a clean evaluation, he's still going to be a first-round pick, probably a top-15 pick, because he's that special. If there's any cloudiness or murkiness around that knee between now and the draft, teams are going to look at it differently, and since we don't know yet what it is, I can't go there, but I think that's as close as I can get today.
UCLA's Myles Jack is another player linked to the Bears in a few mock drafts so far, here are Mayock's thoughts on him.
Q. Myles Jack has been such a phenomenal talent, at least on the West Coast it feels like he's been around forever here, but I'm wondering are there any concerns about him? Is he a guy who might have benefitted from another year or has the NFL seen enough? And sort of given the leeway that he had defensively at UCLA to freelance a little bit, is it going to be -- do you anticipate it being a difficult transition for him to play within the confines of a more sort of rigid scheme?
MIKE MAYOCK: You know what, even though his season was cut short by injury this year, the tape I watched, I saw a different guy this year than in past years, and by that I mean he was more physical. I think more confident in his physicality, able to come down and take on guards, tackles, fullbacks. So I saw a guy that was more of a finesse player early in his career turn into a true linebacker this year, and again, his season was cut short, but I don't think he's going to have much of a problem transitioning. I'd be surprised if -- he looks like a top-10 pick at this point. The medical needs to check out. All those things need to check out prior to the end of April, but I think he's going to be a guy that steps into the lineup day one once medically cleared, and I think he's going to be a high-level player.
Some Bears' fans have been talking about Arizona inside linebacker Scooby Wright as a mid round possibility. Here's what Mayock had to say about him.
MIKE MAYOCK: Yeah, I loved watching his tape. I watched his bowl game when he got back from injury, and tackle to tackle, he's awesome. The ball finds him. He's got a natural feel for slipping under or over blockers to get to the ball carrier. He's just an instinctive linebacker. He hustles every snap. He understands pass drops, and he's got a little feel for rush, also. He's one of those guys that's going to be knocked on athletic ability, so this is a big week for him to see what he runs and how he looks, et cetera, but off tape, I really like the kid. I think he's a third-round linebacker who's going to -- whose instincts and toughness will make him a starting linebacker eventually in the NFL.
The Bears could take a flier on a mid to late round wide receiver, and here are a few that Mayock is high on.
MIKE MAYOCK: Sure, a polarizing conversation is going to be Braxton Miller, more of a slot receiver, probably a second-round pick. I like Rashard Higgins, Colorado State. I'm anxious to see what he does this weekend. They call him Hollywood, Hollywood Higgins, and his tape is pretty good. I'm anxious to see what he runs. He's got some length to him. He's probably a third-round pick, and I think he's an intriguing player, along with Malcolm Mitchell from Georgia, third- or fourth-round type player, very solid off the field, smart kid, has some traits you like.
Geronimo Allison, third- or fourth-round pick, long, 6'3", 200 pounds from Illinois. Charone Peake, again, maybe a fourth-round pick from Clemson, one year of heavy production, longer kid, has some speed. I think the strength, we talk about this not being a great wideout class. I think the strength of it is that it's solid in the middle rounds.
Some recent mock drafts had the Bears taking Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley at 11 overall, here's what Maycok had to say about his prospects.
MIKE MAYOCK: He was talking about Ronnie Stanley to Baltimore, and I've seen an awful lot of Ronnie Stanley. He was a great high school basketball player in Las Vegas. He's got basketball feet. He's a prototype left tackle. I think he's closer to Tunsil than a lot of people do. They're very similar, great feet, long arms, both are pass protectors first, which is what you want in this pass -first league. Both of them a little bit suspect in the run game, but I think Ronnie Stanley is a day -one starter and would be a solid option for Baltimore at 6.
If you want t o check out the entire transcript from Mayock's conference call, you can do so by clicking here.
What do you guys think about his Bears related thoughts?