With the draft just one week away, we can finally set aside the vapors of chaos and confusion and rest easy knowing exactly what the Texans will do with the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Who am I kidding? The fog of uncertainty is as thick as ever.
Listed below are the highlights of Mayock's interview regarding his take on the Texans, as well as players that have been linked to the Texans through pre-draft speculation.
Q. Clearly everybody has their own opinion about different guys. The disparity of the opinion of Clowney is amazing. What do you attribute that disparity to?
MIKE MAYOCK: Whenever a guy is blessed with as much ability as he's blessed with, and I've made the statement that he woke up this morning with more physical ability than any defensive lineman on the planet, and I believe that, anywhere on the planet. With that ability comes certain responsibilities or perhaps expectations. There are times when he just kind of disappears. The Clemson tape, the left tackle from Clemson, Brandon Thomas, I thought got the best of him the entire game. If you're that good, why do you disappear for a full game? It's not as much technique, double-teaming or triple-teaming. It's just sometimes he gets blocked and he stays blocked. What I'd like to see is a little bit more of an edge about him. When he was pissed off at Tennessee, their left tackle was chirping last year, he killed Tennessee's entire offensive line for the whole game. I think when the kid is motivated, he's special. The downside to it is coaches are looking at each other saying, ‘Are we going to have manage that every day for four or five years?’ You'd like to see a self-starter and not somebody you have to start.
The 2014 Draft - Quarterback Conundrum:
Q. About quarterbacks, do you think the fact that some teams had success with non-first-round quarterbacks and/or the mistakes that were made in 2011 will cause any sort of market corrections that teams might not reach for quarterbacks high in the first round as much as they have in the past because of those things?
MIKE MAYOCK: I don't think there's any doubt that last year was the first time we saw true value at the quarterback position in a bunch of years. Only one quarterback was drafted in the first round. Rather than push quarterbacks up higher because of need, I think teams put them on their boards and stay true to their boards. I think because of the second and third rounders playing well, Russell Wilson, [Andy] Dalton, [Colin] Kaepernick, Nick Foles, because those guys have played well, it opens the door even more and reinforces that philosophy. I think it's going to be intriguing this year to see how these quarterbacks are spread out. I have 10 quarterbacks with first, second or third round grades this year, which is more than I've ever had. It's mostly because I'm getting feedback from teams that believe in that many kids. The average number of quarterbacks that go in the first three rounds over the last five years has been five. Yet I have 10 with those kinds of grades. It's pretty intriguing. Philosophically it's going to be interesting to see if that holds up.
Q. When you look at Bridgewater, your evaluation of him a couple weeks ago to now, the significance of pro day, is he falling on most analyst's boards because of that pro day or are they going back and watching tape or are we catching up to how NFL teams see him as a prospect? Where do you see that fall for him occurring?
MIKE MAYOCK: I've said over and over that in addition to myself, I think NFL teams feel like they need to see quarterbacks throw the ball live. Of course, their scouts get out there during the year and do that. From my perspective, watching him throw live was unsettling. All I wanted to see was him confirm what I saw on tape, was that he had adequate to good arm strength. I didn't see that in person. I didn't see the accuracy. I know he was nervous. From my perspective, seeing him throw the football live was a cross-check that I needed to go back and watch more tape. I think a lot of the NFL teams have done the same thing. I've talked to NFL teams that had a higher opinion of him four months ago than they do today. So I think that's why we have a process. As far as the pro days are concerned, the only position where you have to see a guy live I think is quarterback. That's the only one in 10 or 11 years of me doing pro days where it made me go back and reevaluate a quarterback and change his grade.
The 2014 Draft - Quarterback Conundrum (part II):
Q. Garoppolo, obviously you've had a chance to see him in person. He's risen up as far as his draft stock is concerned. Where could you see him going and what team do you think could be a good fit for him?
MIKE MAYOCK: Well, I think the way the quarterback thing lays out is interesting. In some way, shape or form, I think Manziel, Bortles and Carr are going to go in the first round. Then you get into a conversation of the next tier of guys. Different teams like different players. In that next tier is Garoppolo, Mettenberger and Bridgewater, maybe McCarron. If you look at those teams that are in the top eight of the draft that don't take quarterbacks in the first round, they're going to be looking for them early in the second round or to trade back up into the first round. If Cleveland at 26 takes Carr, if he's still available, or somebody tried to get up in front of them, Garoppolo is in the conversation at that point. Cleveland could be interested in him. I think a lot of those teams are going to be interested in him because, A, he's got a quick release, B, he's got good feet, C, he's the kind of kid that loves it, embraces it, and could be the face of your franchise.
The 2014 Draft - Quarterback Conundrum (part III):
Q. What player is this year's Sharrif Floyd, a player predicted to go in the top five or ten who could fall later in the draft?
MIKE MAYOCK: I think the obvious answer is the quarterbacks. There's more diversity of opinion on the top quarterbacks than I've ever seen. A Manziel or a Bortles, one or both, could slide. Once you get past the top eight, teams in the top eight need quarterbacks. There's a potential of 11 at Tennessee, 16 with Dallas. You could slide a while. So I think the two quarterbacks are the most logical candidates to slide.
If Atlanta trades up with Houston for Clowney:
Q. I have a question about Taylor Lewan from Michigan. Is there any way he could slip up to two passing the other two tackles?
MIKE MAYOCK: It seems like no matter how I cut this thing, most of what I look at, he ends up in Atlanta at six. That makes a ton of sense. If Atlanta trades up for [Jadeveon] Clowney, all bets are off. I don't think he's going to pass either tackle. I think he's going to be the third tackle off the board. Some teams might even like Zack Martin better. He's going to be the third or fourth tackle, but I believe the third tackle off the board. If there's no movement in the top six, I think [Greg] Robinson and [Jake] Matthews will go earlier. Atlanta who needs an edge rusher on defense on a tackle on offense would then take him at six.
What happens with Seattle at pick 32, and how does Houston affect it?
Q. What do you think Seattle at the number 32 spot might be looking for? From the standpoint of when you're a Super Bowl champion, you have a set roster at a number of spots, do you feel historically that changes anything in what you might be looking for?
MIKE MAYOCK: Well, what I think is a good chance of happening is if Houston doesn't take a quarterback at one, the entire league expects them to take a quarterback at 33. So depending on who is sitting on the board at the quarterback position at 32, I think they could get an awful lot of activity to move down. I think they're in a great spot because of that. If I'm a Seattle fan, I'm rooting for Houston to take Clowney at one. I'm rooting for Mettenberger and Bridgewater and Garoppolo, all those guys, to still be on the board so somebody wants to come up ahead of Houston and Seattle to trade down a few slots. I really believe that has a good chance of happening. If they sit there at 32, I'm a big believer of this, you just have to be versatile.
Years ago when New England desperately -- coming off a Super Bowl, they desperately wanted a defensive player, that entire board, the defensive first-round board was wiped, they ended up taking a guard by the name of Logan Mankins. I think there's a story and lesson to be learned there. You have to pick at 32, regardless of your needs, a good football player. I said the same thing to somebody else who called about New Orleans at 27. Picking good football players at the end of the round is paramount rather than trying to catch lightning in a bottle and taking less talent with great production. They have to be versatile. They could end up with an interior lineman, but I think they're going to trade down.
Finally, what should the Texans do?
Q. As far as the Texans are concerned, I heard you say you hope they take Clowney. In your opinion, should they do that? Should they trade down? Other than what you already said, is there anything differently you see them doing?
MIKE MAYOCK: I didn't really say that. I think they could take him if they're forced to sit at number one. The comment I made from the combine forward, and I still believe, is that first and foremost they have to evaluate all the quarterbacks and make sure if they fall in love with a quarterback, you got to believe in him, you got to take him at one. That trumps everything else. If you don't fall in love with a quarterback, and I think it will be difficult for them to say, Yeah, that's the guy, secondly I'd like to see them considering trading down. They're doing a good job showing people they're interested in Clowney, in Manziel, perhaps Mack, forcing people to come to them as far as a trade up or a trade down. I think they ought to try to trade down. To me that would be the best thing for the Houston franchise, if they were able to trade down to four, five, six, get an impact player and extra picks. If you can't do that, I think they're going to take Clowney. I think one of two things can happen if they do that. He either becomes part of your defense and you move forward, or you've controlled value at the top end of the draft and you may be able to trade him after that during the draft. That's the scenario, and I think the best case for Houston would be to trade down.
So there you have it folks. Unless the Texans are absolutely in love with a quarterback, they should trade down or take Clowney, according to Mike Mayock. I tend to agree with the trade down strategy; I also hope to see the Texans trade back up into the late first round if there is a player they truly want, especially for a quarterback.
What are your thoughts as we are now just six days from the draft?