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2016 NFL Draft: Mike Mayock Says Christian Hackenberg Scares Him

The NFL Network analyst had a lengthy session with the media yesterday where he gave his thoughts on several players and teams, including but not limited to the quarterbacks available in the 2016 NFL Draft.

That's a look of terror, alright.
That's a look of terror, alright.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It's draft season, so it's Mike Mayock's time to shine. With the NFL Combine officially getting under way today (though drills won't start until Friday), Mayock had a lengthy conference call yesterday where he held court and answered questions about various teams and prospects. You can find the entire 19 page transcript of the call here. Or, if you don't want to comb through the whole thing, you can read below for some of what Mayock had to say about the quarterbacks available in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Q. Is there a good fit that would be a good backup for [Matthew] Stafford?

MIKE MAYOCK: Yeah, I think obviously I'm a big believer that most teams should draft a quarterback every other year. I really am. Just to keep trying to look at different kids and seeing if you can upgrade that position. I'm talking about as a backup.

So from Detroit's perspective, they've really got nobody right now behind Stafford. When you start talking about third, fourth, fifth round, middle-round quarterbacks, one of the big questions this year with GMs around the league is, okay, who's the next Kirk Cousins? Who's that next middle-round that can get you to the playoffs, if he needed to start down the road?

So there's a group of those guys. Kevin Hogan would be one from Stanford. Brandon Allen, fourth- or fifth-round guy from Arkansas. Dak Prescott, developmental guy from Mississippi State, another perhaps fourth-round pick. Jacoby Brissett. That's a whole group of guys, and then I have two wild cards, and the wild cards from me are Christian Hackenberg from Penn State and Cardale Jones from Ohio State, both of whom have a ton of talent, big, good-looking kids, but their tape is poor. So they're going to be wild cards as to who -- because they have the upside of being from -- from a skills perspective, they have starter skills, but their tape is poor.

So that's a whole group right there.

Mayock circled back to Hackenberg and Cardale Jones later in the call.

Q. You had mentioned earlier the league-wide search for the next Kirk Cousins. First I was wondering what you thought Cousins had done over the last four years to exceed his pre-draft expectations? And in terms of day two quarterbacks or early day three quarterbacks, where do you stand in terms of Hogan and Cardale Jones?

MIKE MAYOCK: Cousins is interesting. I was at his pro day at Michigan State, and you know how all those guys have gurus coaching them, quarterback gurus, he didn't have one, which was atypical, and on top of that, he ran the whole pro day by himself. So he worked out with his Michigan State teammates for about three or four days in a row prior to the pro day and had a script that he put together of 60 to 80 plays, and it was amazing watching him run that script.

Basically I was standing next to three different offensive coordinators watching, and they were all going, holy crap, this is awesome. This is what you want to see a quarterback do. He's taking control. He's a leader. He's showing us that he knows his offense, and he's directing everybody where to go.

So from that point on, I've been kind of paying special attention to this kid because he kind of caught my eye at the pro day, and I think what it took was a little bit of time -- and by the way, general comment, we're not developing quarterbacks in the NFL anymore, and I think the result is that we only have 10 or 12 franchise quarterbacks. We don't take the time to develop them. So this kid got some time, and then he got a head coach that believed in him, Jay Gruden, and what he does well matches up with what Jay Gruden wants to do.

So I think it was the confluence of a smart, tough kid, along with a coach that believed in him and an offense that fits him, and he's taken advantage of it.

Now, beyond that, Hogan is probably the most ready intellectually of any of those quarterbacks. I mean, at Stanford, from a pass protection, in a run scheme, change at the line of scrimmage, what they ask him to do, it's probably as close to what you're going to see in the NFL as any of them. So he's going to come in and pick it up very quickly, and he's the type of kid that made a lot of headway from his sophomore year to his senior year. He struggled early, but his career got better and better, and he's one of those guys. I like him.

As far as Cardale Jones, he and Hackenberg, as I said earlier, I've got as my wild cards, and they both scare me because they're really talented, big arm, big-body kids that you want to believe in but the tape is really bad. So I don't know how long either of them, Hackenberg or Jones, will take to go from where they are today to what you would need in a functional NFL quarterback.

Mayock believes the two best quarterback prospects in the draft are Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. He explained why he's so high on both of them, even going so far as to compare one of them to Andrew Luck.

Q. Just wondering, what makes you think that Carson Wentz has more upside potential than Jared Goff, and then when you look at those guys from the intangibles standpoint, are they pretty equal in terms of intelligence and character and that kind of stuff?

MIKE MAYOCK: Yeah, the way I look at Wentz is the first tape I put in, I went, wow, and I didn't even know who he was. He was just a quarterback on my list. No clue. And I watched I think it was Northern Iowa, and I watched this big kid swing the ball around the lot, and then on top of it, was athletic enough where they planned quarterback runs for him. So you do some homework and you find out he's 6'5", 235, and I put the second tape in hoping it would be as good as the first, and it was better.

So you start doing homework on the kids, and yeah, he's only got 23 starts. He's 20-3 as a starter but he comes out of a great program in Division I-AA, five consecutive National Championships. When I look at him, I see a kid that's as athletic or more athletic than Andrew Luck. He's bigger than Andrew Luck. He's got arm strength comparable to Andrew Luck. He just doesn't have the experience that Andrew Luck has at a high level that Andrew has coming out of college.

So I see a ceiling for this kid similar to Andrew Luck. That's why I believe in this kid so much. But it's going to take a little bit of time. His character apparently is off the charts. That's what I was told by everybody surrounding the Senior Bowl that had any dealings with him. Smart, tough, loves the game.

Regarding Goff, polished, great in the pocket, finds lanes to throw, really good arm. Not elite, but a really good arm, very accurate with a quick release. Most ready to play quarterback in the draft today. If you're Cleveland, I think you've got to make some decisions about how you want to go about it, and from -- I don't know Goff yet. I haven't met him yet. I've been told he's very lean, needs to put some weight on, nowhere near as big as Carson Wentz, but 6'3" to 6'4", 210 pounds, and I think you just have to make a decision if you're the Browns as to which direction you want to go in, which kid do you believe in more.

Mayock also discussed Connor Cook, one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft.

Q. What have you heard in the league about any concerns about Connor Cook's character? Obviously he was not a team captain this year. And what kind of questions is he going to have to answer in the interview process at the combine?

MIKE MAYOCK: Yeah, I think he's a complicated question, and I'll start with the premise that I think he's one of the four quarterbacks that has the physical talent to be a first-round draft pick. The second piece of that is, okay, what's the on-field evaluation, and for me he's never been a 60 percent completion guy, but part of that is because they throw the football down the field aggressively, and I'd like -- for instance, the second half of Michigan State I love what he did. He took a beating and kept throwing the ball and kept throwing tough passes down the field and completing them. I really liked -- even though I think he was 18 for 39 that game, I liked that game.

Then you get to kind of the off-the-field questions and the whole captain thing, and to me it does matter. To some teams and GMs it doesn't matter that you're not a captain, but to other teams it does matter. Why didn't his teammates vote their best player and their quarterback to be their captain and their leader? That's a legitimate question.

And the second question for me is why didn't he go to the Senior Bowl. If you were healthy, I would think you would have loved to step up to Carson Wentz every day and compete with him and show the world, I'm the guy, not him. Who's this kid from North Dakota State, I'm the guy. I think he could have answered a bunch of those questions in Mobile rather than have to deal with them all this week.

Thoughts, BRB? Did Mayock's analysis give you anything new to think about? Does it further entrench your opinion on one or more of the signal-callers the Texans should target or avoid like the plague?