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2014 NFL Draft: Mike Mayock Talks Texans, Manziel, And Bridgewater

NFL Draft guru Mike Mayock hosted an extremely insightful Q&A with the media yesterday. See what he had to say below about your Houston Texans.

Joe Robbins

Mike Mayock picked up the phone and lent his knowledge to any and all members of the media that would listen during a marathon Tuesday conference call. In it he talked about everything from quarterbacks, to receivers, to his thoughts on various NFL teams that are poised to land a game changing player with an early pick. Here are all of Mayock’s thoughts on this year’s quarterback class, as well as the teams that are primed to employ them in the near future.

On mobile quarterbacks becoming the new ideal mold:

We are seeing more and more in the NFL reflective of the college game. And it's not just the ability to run a zone read or be that guy but also the ability to slide and move in the pocket and create opportunities by using your legs to throw the ball down the field. So as far as athletes are concerned, a guy like Teddy Bridgewater is an athletic kid but he slides and moves to find an opportunity to throw the football. We all know what is up with Johnny Manziel is all about. I think as you go down the list a little bit, there are guys like Stephen Morris and Tajh Boyd that are highly athletic and Logan Thomas to me is the wild‑card of this year's quarterback class. He's got tremendous talent and mobile skills but he might not go until late in the draft. I think you'll see reflected throughout the quarterback class, there's a whole group of mobile quarterbacks that still have good arms and can throw from the pocket.

On Johnny Manziel:

You know, he's a different evaluation, and I'll give you my take on him right now. The first tape I put in was Alabama and I put the tape down about two hours later and I said, wow, that was awesome, that was really fun to watch. The kid makes throws, he allows his other players to make plays. He gives Mike Evans a chance to make plays, he extends plays. He was like a combination of Fran Tarkenton and Doug Flutie. I really enjoyed it and there were two or three more tapes like that. And as I worked my way through, because I wanted a minimum of five for each of the quality quarterbacks before the Combine, and I eventually got to the LSU and Missouri, neither of which were really good tapes. And both of which the common denominator for me was I felt like he got frustrated in the pocket and I felt like LSU and Missouri did a great job with controlling their rush and keeping him in the pocket, and the more he was in the pocket, the more frustrated he got. He started to lose his accuracy. He started trying to escape the pocket way before he needed to, and I feel like he doesn't like being confined. He likes those open spaces.

And we've got to evaluate him a little differently because of that. And again, I felt like he would back out of the pocket when ‑‑ and he'd try ‑‑ all of a sudden the accuracy is down, the decision making is down. NFL teams are going to clue into that very quickly. Having said all of that, I do believe he's got the arm strength, athletic ability, the passion for the game, at the end of the day, he's different than any quarterback I've done before. He's different than [Robert Griffin III], different than Cam Newton, different than Andrew Luck, and he's different than Russell Wilson. But I believe in the kid. I think he's going to be a Top‑10 if not a Top‑5 pick. But you're going to have to live with some of those negative plays in addition to the positive ones.

On which quarterback the Browns should take at fourth, or if they should trade up:

Yeah, you know what, I'm not sure the Browns know yet who the best one of those three is, are. Because on one hand, you talk about being in that division is, and I live in the Philadelphia area so I get to see a lot of Baltimore Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and I know that you have to be able to throw the ball in the wind and the cold. You have to have big hands. There's a lot of stuff about quarterback in those conditions. I think all of those Top 3 quarterbacks could play for the Cleveland Browns. Blake Bortles is kind of a bigger, stronger guy, and people think he's got the biggest arm. I'm not sure if he does or not. I want to see him live. But I also think he's the least developed of the three.

I think [Teddy] Bridgewater is the most ready to play NFL‑style quarterback in this draft and I think Manziel has got that it factor where I don't think it matters if it's Cleveland, Seattle, Dallas, warm weather, cold weather, whatever. I think he's just going to be who he is. So I understand what Shanahan's offense is and I understand what you're asking me, but I think all three of them could fit depending what they feel about each individual kid.

On if Manziel’s local connections should factor in the Texans’ decision:

It really comes down to whether or not ownership gets involved. And from my perspective, ownership should never push a draft pick, especially the first pick in a draft on a coaching staff. It's great when all the world comes together and everybody believes in the same kid and he happens to come from that backyard. However, I don't think it matters whether or not he's a local kid. I think the important thing is to get the pick right and if they are not in love with any of those three quarterbacks, this is one of the best position Top‑10s I've ever seen, and either pick ‑‑ and I'm taking a position kid or trading down makes a ton of sense for these guys. A, they have to believe in one of those three kids. B, they have to say forget the whole local attraction thing. The most important thing is to build for the future and win football games. That will take care of itself as long as you're winning games.

On what makes Teddy Bridgewater so pro-ready, and his possible availability to the Browns at fourth overall:

Yeah, I mean, you're talking about with the first eight picks in the draft, if I have teams have heavy quarterback needs, including 1 and 3 ahead of Cleveland. So from my perspective, the reason I think he's the quote most ready to play in an NFL style offense, he was ‑‑ in shotgun, his offense, they threw the ball short, intermediate and deep. He understands three‑step, five‑step and he reads more than just half a field. You can put the tape in and watch him do things and say, yeah, that translates to the next level. He's not as much a wild‑card as [Johnny] Manziel, and I think he's more developed in his reads and throws than [Blake] Bortles. So that's why I say I think he's the most ready to play. Whether or not he's going to be there, that depends what Houston and Jacksonville do.

On Tajh Boyd and Connor Shaw:

Tajh Boyd is better arm strength than people think, good mobility, won a lot of football games, has some inconsistency on tape but he's a playmaker and I like that. He's a guy I think you get mid to late in this draft and you can try to develop him, so I like him.

The South Carolina quarterback, [Connor] Shaw, I think given his history medically and off the field, etc. , I love his toughness on the field but I'm just not sure if his body type, if his training is going to warrant taking much of a beating but I think he'll get an opportunity.

On EJ Manuel’s late rise last year, and how "secure" the top three quarterbacks are in their draft rankings:

It's an interesting question, I think the Manuel kid, the more I looked at him last year, I said, if I'm going to make a mistake, why not make it on a big athletic kid with a big arm and I think that's certainly the way Buffalo looked at it. I do think that [Teddy[ Bridgewater, [Johnny] Manziel and [Blake] Bortles are locked in as, quote, the three top quarterbacks. I think Derek Carr from Fresno is somebody that people are trying to learn more about, and there's some interesting wild‑cards this year, I think at request also.

I think AJ McCarron is solid but he's a second or third round quarterback. I think Carr will fit into the end of the first round. Jimmy Garoppolo has really helped himself at east west in the Senior Bowl and two kids got hurt later in the year, indiscernible ‑‑ from Georgia, I think depending on how their rehab goes could be third or fourth round guys that are developmental players. And I mentioned earlier, Logan Thomas, two years ago when I saw him play Michigan in a Bowl game I thought he would be the first pick of the entire draft, two years later, and since then, he's got two or three good tapes and the rest are really bad tapes. But he's still 6‑5, big, beautiful body, can throw the ball and the other kind of wild‑card I would say is Tom Savage that nobody talks about from University of Pittsburgh. He's a big, strong kid that can throw also.

On Zach Mettenberger:

Without the injury, I still don't think he's going to be a first or second round pick. I think what he is ‑‑ and what worries me a little bit on tape is I think he stares down some of his intended receivers, I think the ball comes out late sometimes. He's not a guy that I think can start day one in the NFL anyway. So if you ask me how much it would impact him, the injury, I don't think quite as much as you might think on the surface, because I do believe he's got a lot of learning to do. I like his size, I like his ability and I like his arm strength. It's more just a matter of his footwork, being more consistent with the ball, his feet being lined up, getting the ball out and some of the reads he makes. I think he just doesn't get the ball out quickly enough and I think that's something that a young quarterback has got to develop.

On the incredible depth of talent at the top of the first round, and how it will affect trades:

You know, it kind of works both ways, because for instance, take Houston, sitting at 1. If there wasn't a quarterback that they are in love with, they might be, they contented to move down further than they typically would. Both teams only want to move down a couple slots in the draft because they want to make certain they get their guy. In this draft you might be willing to move further down than usual because you still know you're going to get a great player. On the one hand I agree with you, if you sit there at 18 or 20 you know you're going to get a good football player but on the other hand, if you need an edge rusher and there are only a couple guys this year, you really need to go get them. It all depends on your individual situation. If you are sitting there and you think Kony Ealy is the best defensive end in this draft and [Jadeveon] Clowney is gone and you think there's a drop off after that you might want to go get him. So I think the philosophy of the trade stays the same, just a couple different variables this year with the depth.

On if the Texans should trade down, or if not who they should take at the first pick:

First of all, if there's a quarterback that they fall in love with and they say, he's our guy for the next ten years, you don't even think about trading down, you pull the trigger and you go to work with him and he's the face of your franchise. I don't think there's any doubt about that. Now, if you're sitting at 1 in this draft and you've got questions, because none of these guys are Andrew Luck. None of these guys are Peyton Manning. None of these guys, you sit there and go, it's a slam dunk, this is an easy one.

So if you're concerned about all three of those quarterbacks, then I think it becomes, the next question is, okay, who is the best position player in this draft, how does that fit with our needs and if somebody wants to come and trade with us, we ought to be wide open for business. That's kind of a long way of saying, I don't know who their quarterback is right now, I don't think they do. And if they took the Clowney kid and paired him with J.J. [Watt] that would be pretty awesome and it would start to kind of parallel what Seattle tried to do, which is getting talented pass rushers and getting after quarterbacks. And if they went after the wide receiver at No. 1, would it be surprising, yeah, but that kid is special. So I think that they have got an awful lot of options, but the whole thing is determined by whether or not you think they are the franchise quarterback; it's what you want to do.

On if any of the top quarterbacks are worthy of building a franchise around:

That's a really good question and I felt like last year for the first time, the quarterbacks got evaluated based on where they should have gone. The Florida State [quarterback E.J. Manuel] went early to Buffalo and that was it in the first round. The kid from USC [Matt Barkley] went in the fourth round whereas in years past I bet he would have gone second or higher. So I thought things stabilized a little bit last year. Now, here we go again, five teams in the top eight with significant quarterback needs. Are we going to push all three of these kids up there? And the more tape I watch of all three of them, the more questions I have.

And I don't want to overanalyze these guys, because there's a danger in that, also. But I just pick apart all three of them. I could not pick apart Andrew Luck. Obviously [Johnny] Manziel is a different kind of evaluation and you have to buy in and embrace what he does. I love the kid. I love watching him. I think you're going to have to teach him and he's got to be open and listening and learning. But he's a completely different evaluation and your team is going to have to change how they play and embrace his style. [Teddy] Bridgewater and [Blake] Bortles I think can both be good quarterbacks but I'm not ready to say either of them is an all‑pro quarterback.

Of if Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater are considered better prospects than Russell Wilson coming out of college because of his success as a mobile, but smaller quarterback:

I think the NFL is more open than it’s ever been regarding quarterbacks and I think it's a whole new breed, not just Russell Wilson and his height but [Robert] Griffin, Cam Newton, all these athletic quarterbacks, [Colin] Kaepernick. It's about making plays and I think we are getting more and more high school and college quarterbacks that operate expressly out of shotgun and spread the field and are playmakers. As a result, I think the NFL is a reflection of that and up until a few years ago, they kept pushing back, no, we want the big, strong, prototypical pocket guy, nobody has ever won a Super Bowl outside the pocket. All those old sayings are kind of being beaten down. I think that if you can prove that you can make plays and that you can stay healthy, I think that the height and the size and the style doesn't matter as much anymore. NFL teams and coaches are doing a much better job of utilizing the players’ strengths as opposed to saying you just have to do it our way.

On who Mayock would take if he were the GM of the Texans, Rams, and Jaguars:

I don't think they know who they are taking yet so I'm not so sure how I would know. The problem is there's just so much ‑‑ it's such a process and especially with the quarterback. If I'm the GM of Houston, I'm trying to get comfortable with one of these quarterbacks, I want to get comfortable with them. [Johnny] Manziel, I'm intrigued by him. I think [Teddy] Bridgewater is the most ready to go but I need to make sure that guy is going to be my guy and if not, I'm going to take a positional player, because I know Mack can play, Clowney can play, Watkins with play. So the Rams, I think they probably have to go offensive line unless they take Sammy Watkins, so Jake Matthews could be logical there and Jacksonville, the same thing at the quarterback position. Are you happy with the quarterback or do you go with an edge guy. Those are the questions, and I'm not trying to dodge your question, it's just I haven't gotten to the point where in my head, I've got Top‑10.

On Jimmy Garoppolo:

I like Garoppolo a lot. I was curious to watch him play at the East‑West game because I had seen some tape. The first tape I watched he ripped apart I want to say San Diego State, I think it was. I thought, wow, quick release, good feet, big, strong, good‑looking kid. When I got to the East‑West game, I was anxious to watch him. What I saw on tape I saw that week and the following week at the Senior Bowl. So I thought he handled himself well and I thought he helped himself as much as any kid in the country did through the two‑week period of the East‑West Senior Bowl, went from a mid to late round question mark to a guy that could conceivably go in the second or third round. Teams are looking at potentially a starting quarterback.

More gems from Mayock will be coming soon, but for now lets digest everything above. What do you think, BRB? Is Mayock hitting the proverbial nail on the head, or should he go back to his film cave until he sees what you see?