Every year before the NFL Combine kicks off, NFL Network lead draft analyst, the Emmy-nominated Mike Mayock, meets with the media to touch on a number of topics. He’s asked specifically about team needs, he’s asked his thoughts on likely top picks, he’s asked about the sleeper prospects, he’s asked about free agency and much more.
I’m not going to bring you the entire 22 page press conference transcripts, but I will highlight some of the stuff that may affect the Chicago Bears.
With the Bears drafting 3rd overall, they’ll have plenty of talented options to choose from, one of which could be a quarterback. Mayock believes that in order to find your franchise QB, “you've got to keep trying,” and “You've got to keep swinging.”
He looked at the 21 first round quarterbacks drafted form 2007 through 2014, and discovered that, “Out of that group, there are either four or five franchise quarterbacks. There's Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and if you want to put Joe Flacco in there.” Flacco did win a Super Bowl, so I’d say the Ravens consider him their franchise guy.
Mayock continued, “After that, there are nine first-round kids not even in the league anymore. Then, as far as starting quarterbacks go, you've got Bortles, Tannehill, Bradford, and Flacco. Again, depending on what category you want Flacco in. Then there are four back-ups, or Teddy Bridgewater, who has been hurt, EJ Manuel, RG3, and Sanchez. So it gives you a pretty good feel for the hit rate of franchise quarterbacks in the first round.”
So out of 21 first round picks, 8 are starters, 4 are backups, and 9 are out of the league.
He points out five quality starters taken beyond the first round during that time frame, “Derek Carr in the second, I'd throw Garoppolo in there as a potential quality starter in the second, Russell Wilson in third, Kirk Cousins in the fourth, and Andy Dalton in the second.”
Teams without their ‘Guy’ under center, just have to keep adding talent to the position.
Here’s Mayock’s overall take on the top quarterbacking prospects.
“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.”
Even though Mayock doesn’t have the QBs in the top 10, he think’s there a really good case the teams picking 1, 2, 3 and 6, (Browns, 49ers, Bears, Jets) could each take a QB.
Here’s what Mayock had to say about the top QB on his board, Norte Dame’s DeShone 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.”
Here’s Mayock on Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“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 decision making 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.”
Mayock was asked what questions about North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky he has, other than the fact that he only started 13 games in his career.
“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.”
Speaking of Garoppolo, he was asked if he’s worth a 1st round pick in trade and he responded that the Cleveland Browns should use their 12th overall pick to pry him from the Patriots.
Mayock gave his take on picking a QB out of the 1st round in the 2017 NFL Draft.
“Because you've heard me say I don't have a Top 10 grade on any of them. Kizer, Watson, Trubisky, Mahomes, any of them could slide into the second round. I'd love to have one of those kids in the second round. Take my time, develop them for different reasons, they're not ready.”
“Davis Webb in the third round. I'd be really happy with Webb in the third round. I think there are four guys that have potential at some point. We've talked about Chad Kelly and what he is. Off-the-field character, plus medical. He's got, at worst, second-round talent Brad Kaaya and Josh Dobbs, both of them have a lot of talent. They've got size, talent, arm talent, athletic ability. They're just not ready. What are they, third round, fourth round, I don't know. I'd love to try to develop either of them.”
“And the other guy that is a little like Kirk Cousins is Nate Peterman from Pitt. And I've had a lot of people tell me that is who he is. He's similar, focused, dedicated. Don't have a big arm, but has enough arm that he throws with anticipation and timing. He's the kind of guy that might be a lower-level starter. I just gave him nine names there of guys. Only 12 get drafted on average at the quarterback position. So, yeah, I think you'd take a shot almost every year with one of these guys.”
The Bears did spend some time scouting Kaaya, so here’s some more on him.
“I think he's a talented kid. He's got the prototypical size. He makes three to five throws per game that are awesome. That you sit back and go, Yep, that's it. That's it. That's NFL. Then you watch the pocket mechanics break down, and I think he starts to panic a little bit when he sees a flash of color from the other team. He starts to hurry his throws and ends up with poor locations and poor decisions. When he has clear vision and clean feet, he's really good. But it's the pocket mechanics. I think it's going to take him a little bit of time.”
A lot of mock drafters have had the Bears taking Alabama defensive lineman, Jonathan Allen, at three overall, and Mayock believes the Bears could pull the trigger on him.
“I think he's one of the two or three best players in this draft. I think you bang the tables for him, he came backs a senior and had a crazy good year. His tape is outstanding, and it doesn't matter which tape you put in, they're all good.”
“What I like about him is he dominates outside in the run game. So you could line this 296-pound guy up outside on first down, if you wanted to, and let him set a physical edge. But I think he's going to make his money as an inside pass-rusher. He's quick enough to beat some of those guards and tackles, and he's strong enough to beat those guards and tackles.”
“So inside or outside, I think he's a special player, and I think the fact that he came back this year and had the kind of year he did when it would have been easy to come out last year.”
Mayock was asked this question; “I'm wondering how you would compare and contrast Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams, and would either of those guys give the Bears better value at No. 3 than a corner?”
“I think this is a year where we're looking at two safeties that are certainly Top 10 picks, and maybe even Top 5, and looking at the best talent in the draft, the Texas A&M edge and the Alabama defensive tackle to me are probably one and two, but after that, the two safeties are in the conversation.”
“Today's NFL is a pass-first league, and the safety position is changing. Playing against three wideouts and a tight end at a minimum, 65, 70% of the time. So safeties that can cover are at a premium. That's a long way of saying that I think both these kids can cover. I wouldn't be talking about them as Top 10 picks if I didn't think they were complete safeties.”
“I think Adams is a little bit more physical. Comes downhill a little bit better and is a more consistent tackler. I think Hooker has better range and ball skills. Hooker as a centerfielder is phenomenal. He's got an instinct for the game and an ability to go around the football. But I think Adams is more physical. So it's really what a team's looking for, but they both can drop down and cover the slot. They both can cover tight ends. But there is just a subtle difference in the styles that they play.”
Mayock continues to talk about the depth on the defensive side of the ball in this draft. Teams that need help in the secondary, on the edge and at defensive line, should be able to find quality.