Mayock’s First Top Fives: A Few Surprises

Mike Mayock is considered by many as the best draft analyst in the business, and for good reason.  Mayock is not only good at forecasting the selections of teams in the draft, but he probably does the best of evaluating talent based on watching hours and hours of tape.  While he doesn’t have the best on-air persona for a broadcaster, I think his knowledge more than makes up for it and he is probably underutilized by the NFL Network.

Mayock will be featured prominently this week during NFLN coverage of the Senior Bowl.  In preparation for this week’s activities, which will provide the first in-depth look at top draft prospects, Mayock provided his top five players at each position for this draft class.  As expected, Mayock’s top five looks a little different than most prognosticators.  Follow the jump to see his top fives, as well as my reaction.

Author's Note:  I tried to find the best video for each prospect, but as you can imagine some were easier to find than others depending on what position they played and how big of a program the school they attended has.  The individual names are linked to the videos I found best, enjoy.

                                                                                     Quarterback:

                                                                                     1. Blaine Gabbert – MIZ*

                                                                                     2. Jake Locker – UW

                                                                                     3. Cam Newton – AUB*

                                                                                     4. Ryan Mallett – ARK*

                                                                                     T-5. Andy Dalton – TCU

                                                                                     T-5. Ricky Stanzi – IA

                                                                                     T-5. Colin Kaepernick – NEV

                                                                                     T-5. Pat Devlin – DEL

Reaction:  Mayock usually has a few different prospects tied for the fifth position, which he delineates as the second tier.  Further explaining, he believes that when you get to this second tier, it’s less about who is better and more about who you think fits your team and the offense they run better.  People are pretty down on Jake Locker right now, but he obviously has talent, considering he was believed to be the best quarterback in the draft last year.  I’ve heard several rumors that Mike Shanahan really likes Locker, and it wouldn't be the first time he picked a QB with unrefined physical gifts from a substandard college program, a la Jay Cutler.  Also, third might be the right spot talent wise for Newton, but I wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole in the first or early second round and hand him the keys to my franchise.

                                                                                     Running Back:

                                                                                     1. Mark Ingram – ALA*

                                                                                     2. Daniel Thomas – K ST

                                                                                     3. Mike LeShoure – ILL*

                                                                                     4. Ryan Williams – VT*

                                                                                     T-5. Jacquizz Rodgers – ORE ST

                                                                                     T-5. Kendall Hunter – OK ST

Reaction:  This is as high as I’ve seen Thomas on anyone’s list, and while I would give him the edge over LeShoure in terms of vision, he seems to lack the elite burst that you’d expect from the second best running back.  Having said that, while there’s no elite speedster like Jahvid Best or C.J. Spiller, this position group is deep in terms of "complete" backs to include the aforementioned Thomas and LeShoure, as well as Williams and Ingram.  Running back isn’t even close to a need for the Texans, however, and I would only see one added as an undrafted free agent.

                                                                                     Wide Receiver:

                                                                                     1. A.J. Green – UGA*

                                                                                     2. Julio Jones – ALA*

                                                                                     3. Jonathan Baldwin – PITT*

                                                                                     4. Titus Young – BOISE

                                                                                     T-5. Jerrel Jernigan – TROY

                                                                                     T-5. Greg Little – UNC

                                                                                     T-5. Randall Cobb – UK

Reaction:  No real surprises here, as this is almost everyone’s top three and the rest are up for interpretation.  To be honest, I haven’t spent that much time diagnosing the wide receivers because there is zero chance we take one until round three, or at least there shouldn't be.  For those that have suggested we should take Jones at 11 if he’s the best player available, that might be the case but it would still not be smart to select him.  Do we need a legitimate deep threat to move Kevin Walter over to the slot?  Yes, but as has been shown by guys like Mike Wallace and Jacoby Ford, you can find a great deep threat in the middle rounds.  You draft a wideout in the first if you need a difference-maker.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Andre Johnson, but if you haven’t, go to Youtube and have fun.

                                                                                     Tight End:

                                                                                     1. Kyle Rudolph – ND*

                                                                                     2. Lance Kendricks – WIS

                                                                                     3. Luke Stocker – TEN

                                                                                     4. DJ Williams – ARK

                                                                                     5. Charles Clay – TUL

Haven’t really concentrated on tight ends either because we don’t need any.  Even if we lose Owen Daniels, I’m sure Kubiak will give James Casey and Garrett Graham a chance rather than draft one [insert inevitable TE joke here (insert "that’s what she said" joke after that)].

                                                                                     Guard/Center:

                                                                                     1. Mike Pouncey – UF

                                                                                     2. Stefen Wisniewski – PEN ST

                                                                                     3. Danny Watkins – BAY

                                                                                     4. John Moffitt – WIS

                                                                                     T-5. Rodney Hudson – F ST

                                                                                     T-5. William Rackley – LEI

Dispite all of my praise for Mayock, I’m starting to think he has a problem leaving players out and doesn’t get the top five concept.  It’s your lists, Mike; if you want them to be top sixes, do your thing.  This is the last position group that I think where there isn’t at least a possibility that the Texans might draft one of the top five.

                                                                                     Offensive Tackle:

                                                                                     1. Nate Solder – COL

                                                                                     2. Anthony Castonzo – BC

                                                                                     3. Tyron Smith – USC

                                                                                     4. Gabe Carimi – WIS

                                                                                     T-5. Ben Ijalana – VIL

                                                                                     T-5. Derek Sherrod – MISS ST

While there aren't any polished, ready-to-start tackle prospects this year, there is sort of a log jam of players that probably belong with a second round grade.  I’m intrigued by two players on this list.  Smith has been lauded as one of the most athletic tackles in years but is very raw and needs a few years to develop.  We won’t know until after the draft if someone is going to pay Rashad Butler, but Smith would be a great developmental project to back up Duane Brown.  The other is Carimi.  He doesn’t have the feet to play on the left side, but is a mauler when run blocking and could be good insurance in case last season wasn’t an aberration for the Caveman.

                                                                                     Defensive End:

                                                                                     1. Da’Quan Bowers – CLEM

                                                                                     2. Adrian Clayborn – IA

                                                                                     3. Aldon Smith – MIZ

                                                                                     4. JJ Watt – WIS

                                                                                     5. Robert Quinn – UNC

This is kind of a strange list.  Bowers is a true 4-3 end, but Clayborn will almost certainly play the five technique.  Watt will likely do that as well, but there is a chance that a 4-3 team will draft him and play him as an under-tackle in the middle.  It has been widely assumed that Quinn will be converted to outside linebacker in a 3-4 and maybe Smith as well, although he has a better chance of playing with his hand in the dirt than Quinn.  I don’t like the idea of using a first round pick on a five technique because Mario Williams and Antonio Smith are well-suited for the starting spots.  I haven’t made up my mind on Smith yet, but I’m not crazy about him giving up on plays in the little film I’ve seen of him, although I haven’t heard anyone repeat this concern.  I personally love Quinn.  I’d like to hear why Mayock (A) has him in this list and not LB and (B) has him so low.  I know there’s a huge concern since Quinn missed the entire 2010 season due to suspension, and he’s a junior so he won’t get a chance to work out for scouts until the Combine, but he has shown the best and most versatile pass rushing ability of the DE/OLB hybrids in this draft class.  More to come on Quinn soon.

                                                                                     Defensive Tackle:

                                                                                     1. Nick Fairley – AUB

                                                                                     2. Marcell Dareus – ALA

                                                                                     3. Corey Liuget – ILL

                                                                                     4. Jurrell Casey – USC

                                                                                     5. Stephen Paea – OR ST

Fairley and Dareus at the top is no surprise, but there are two names that you may not be used to.  Mayock isn’t the first to put Liuget third; in fact Todd McShay also just praised the Illinois product for his impressive play and said there wasn’t much separation between him and the top two.  If he lasts until the second I think he would be a steal, although I’m worried that more people will come around to Mayock and McShay’s thinking and he may not make it out of the first.  As for Casey, I have a feeling that this rating might be more about Mayock’s lack of confidence in Paea than his positive feelings about Casey.  At 6’1"/305, Casey isn’t any more fit for the NT role and he isn’t the penetrator that Paea is, so this seems like doubts in Paea’s worth in the first round.

                                                                                     Linebacker:

                                                                                     1. Von Miller – A&M

                                                                                     2. Akeem Ayers – UCLA

                                                                                     3. Justin Houston – UGA

                                                                                     4. Bruce Carter – UNC

                                                                                     5. Martez Wilson – ILL

I have to admit the more I see Miller at the top of lists generated by people I respect like Mayock and Lance Zierlein, the more I question my opinion of Miller.  I’m standing by my gut though.  I’ve seen no pass rush moves from Miller, just speed, albeit extremely impressive speed.  Anyone remember why Barwin was supposed to be ideal for the 3-4 in 2009?  He showed amazing athleticism during workouts like the Combine including speed (he ran faster than all but three LB’s despite being categorized as a defensive end at the time).  That doesn’t mean I think Barwin is ideal; it just means I think it’s not smart to spend our first round pick to draft an incredibly athletic edge rusher who has little besides speed when we did just that two years ago on a player who we’ve supposedly been developing for the last two years and has 20 pounds on Miller.  For an example of what I’m talking about in term of "pass rushing moves", watch Justin Houston disengage blocks with his hands while using speed and leverage to get the edge.  Houston is already at 263, and is a great reason why the Texans don’t need an outside rush linebacker at 11 unless there is an elite talent there.

                                                                                     Cornerback:

                                                                                     1. Patrick Peterson – LSU

                                                                                     2. Prince Amukamara – NEB

                                                                                     3. Brandon Harris – MIA

                                                                                     4. Aaron Williams – UT

I guess Mayock is making up for all of his six and seven player top five lists and short changed both the defensive back lists.  As opposed to most Texans bloggers, I’d be okay with taking a DB at 11.  Most people are in favor of waiting until at least round 2 or 3 because of a desire to sign a free agent for veteran leadership.  I agree, but you don't know what you can get in free agency this year until after the draft because of the CBA uncertainty, and even if you get a Champ Bailey or O.J. Atogwe, drafting a first round defensive back gives you the latitude to make moves like Glover Quinn to safety.  More importantly, it prepares for the future by adding depth, the lack of which got the secondary in this mess in the first place.  Amukamara won’t be there at 11, but if he was, Rick Smith should pull a hammy running to make the call.  Obviously trading down makes drafting a corner here more palatable, but sometimes that’s easier said than done and it’s not reaching if he’s your guy and won’t be there next round.

                                                                                     Safety:

                                                                                     1. Rahim Moore – UCLA

                                                                                     2. Ahmad Black – UF

                                                                                     3. Deunta Williams –UNC

Again, Mayock has an even shorter DB list, and again I would be okay with taking Moore in the first round.  Any thought that he will last until the Texans' second round pick is foolhardy, and the same may even be true for Williams, who I like as well.  They wouldn’t get drafted that high in another year with more typical safety depth, but not every team subscribes to the best player available theory and these players will get a bump if teams have a need.  It just so happens that the Texans have a bigger need than arguably any other team in the league (yes, tGC, I know what arguably means).  With such an abhorrent secondary and no guarantee of getting anything in free agency, I’d be really upset if a DB wasn’t taken in the first two rounds, especially considering how much less depth there is at those positions in this draft class.  Trade down in the first or even up from the second if you need to, but get it done.

That concludes the position groups and my reactions.  What's your thoughts, Texans fans?

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