NASHVILLE, Tenn. — NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock is ready to see some results and reactions to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
Elite, invited players, NFL coaches and personnel departments and media will begin converging on Indianapolis Thursday. Offensive linemen, kickers, punters, long snappers and tight ends are scheduled for media availability Thursday, but won’t hit the field for workouts until Saturday.
NFL Network will provide its ninth year of coverage. The network and nfl.com will have a combination of 25 cameras broadcasting from Lucas Oil Stadium.
Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers will participate in their media session Friday and workouts on Sunday. Defensive linemen and linebackers will conduct their media session Saturday and workouts on Monday, and defensive backs will conduct their media session Sunday and workouts on Tuesday to conclude the combine.
The annual event allows each team the opportunity to interview up to 60 prospective players before official measurements are taken and players try to show their athleticism and abilities in a series of drills in leading up to April’s NFL Draft.
Mayock hosted a conference call that lasted more than two-and-a-half hours Monday. He said an influx of players who just completed their junior years of college but entered the draft early have given this year’s version “better depth than we’ve had in the last 10 years.” He said there is not yet a clear favorite to be the No. 1 pick like last year when Indianapolis knew it was going to draft Andrew Luck.
“Now, the top end of the draft, the top 10 picks, I don’t see the difference maker like we’ve seen the last several years: a couple of quarterbacks (Luck and Robert Griffin III) last year, Von Miller (second overall in 2011), Ndamukong Suh (second in 2010). You can go back and see those impact players each year, where before the draft you knew who they were, ‘Yeah, that guy is a difference maker.’ The quick snapshot of this draft is more depth, not quite the difference makers at the top ends and a whole lot of holes in the quarterback class.”
The Titans are scheduled to select 10th overall in the first round on April 25, just nine weeks from Thursday.
Mayock was asked during the conference call about what the Titans might do from that spot and suggested they take Alabama guard Chance Warmack or North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, saying both are “beautiful players.”
“Chance Warmack from Alabama, I think, is the best football player I saw on tape this year, and Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina is just a tiny notch behind him — matter of fact, Cooper is probably a better athlete,” Mayock said. “If either of those players is on the board at 10, I’d jump all over them.”
Mayock said other analysts may consider the 10th spot too early to select a guard, but he said he doesn’t buy into that line of thinking. He said teams with a top-10 pick should identify and select a player with All-Pro potential.
“If I had to list the top eight or 10 players, they’d all be offensive linemen or defensive linemen,” Mayock added. “I’m not seeing those impact guys in some of the skill positions, so I would have no hesitation taking Chance Warmack at 10, and to be honest with you, if I was one-through-nine, I wouldn’t have any hesitation of taking him either. I think (the Titans are) in a good place to get one of those two players.”
Multiple analysts have complimented Warmack’s power and Cooper’s effectiveness on the move. Mayock reiterated his belief in Warmack and Cooper by placing them in the conversation of players (along with tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher) that Kansas City should consider with the No. 1 overall pick.
Mayock said 80 to 85 percent of a prospect’s grade has likely been established on game tape before the combine, but said players should embrace this opportunity. He said the combine “should be right up (Cooper’s) alley.”
“If I was Jonathan Cooper, I’d be excited because if there’s anything he is, he’s one of the most athletic guards I’ve seen,” Mayock said. “He’s going to get out there in a pair of gym shorts and have a chance to show people how athletic he is. All the combine should do for this kid is help him.”
There’s no pads and no hitting for offensive linemen and defensive linemen at the combine, but there are other elements guards can show, Mayock said.
“It’s mostly your feet and your movement skills. If you look at a guard, they’ve got to be stout and able to anchor inside, which (Cooper) can, but the best thing he does is the farther he gets away from the football, this kid is great on his feet and that’s what he’ll show people at the combine.”
Mike Muriano, a senior coordinating producer with NFL Network, joined Mayock on the conference call to discuss the network’s excitement over covering an event that’s gained popularity as access to it increased.
Muriano said the network will have more than 60 hours of programming from Indianapolis, incorporate 24 analysts, hosts and reporters and are adding former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Muriano said covering the event has come quite a long way since Mayock and one producer first handled the duties.
There will be several eye-catching elements like 40-yard dash times, Mayock said, but also important elements (players’ interview sessions with teams and medical examinations) that are far less conspicuous.
Mayock, a former defensive back, said cornerback is a position where analysts will receive more guidance from combine workouts. He currently only has Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner with a first-round grade at the position but said that might change depending on times clocked in the 40.
“Corners and wide outs are the two most critical speed positions,” Mayock said. “All the teams are waiting to see what guys run. After Milliner, I don’t have a certified, first-round corner, and I think coming out of this combine, I will.”