When Mike Mayock holds a conference call you can expect more than 20 minutes of the same old talking points blurted out over and over and over again. The NFL Network's draft guru rambled on for two hours (I had to move on after an hour) and more than 22,000 words covering anything and everything you wanted to know about this year's NFL Draft.
As for the St. Louis Rams, he had a few words about the team's situation in the draft and a whole lot to say about the players that might be there with two picks in the first round.
The Post-Dispatch covered the basics of Mayock's comments, but, as you know, we dig deeper into this stuff than the old dead tree world. Strap in, and let's get started on our own Mike Mayock mini-marathon.
Offensive linemen - tackles
With the 16th pick, Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are out of the picture completely. No surprise there. Mayock went onto mention Lane Johnson, from Oklahoma, as the next best tackle in the draft and a guy the Rams could feel good about taking with the 16th pick. His next highest rated tackle is D.J. Fluker from Alabama, who he said may or may not be there with pick No. 22.
Here he is on Johnson and Fluker:
From my perspective, Lane Johnson from Oklahoma, boy, did he have a great Senior Bowl, loved him. D.J. Fluker from Alabama, he very well could be there; he's a right tackle only, but I think he's going to be special down the road.
The question for the Rams with a guy like Johnson is what to do with Rodger Saffold. You could put Johnson on the right side to start his career, but run blocking isn't his forte, not yet at least according to his scouting report. I think Saffold can be a good left tackle; there's no need to replace him. He works hard, he's getting better.
To me, the Rams need to beef up their run blocking, and I'm warming to the idea of Fluker starting on the right side, with good, solid depth at the position behind the two starters. Speaking of run blocking, and a little pass blocking too, guard might be a slightly bigger need than tackle.
Offensive line - guard
Mayock was adamant that Chance Warmack is the best player in the draft, and said that he was worthy of a top-10 pick. Right behind Warmack, in Mayock's eyes, is Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina, who he described as being the more athletic tackle prospect.
It seems unlikely that the Rams will have a shot to draft Warmack, not without moving up. Cooper could be worth a top-15 pick as well, but tradition, I think, could force him down the draft slots a little bit. Cooper's draft stock could get a big boost at the Combine, where he has a chance to show off his athleticism.
If I was Jonathan Cooper, I'd be excited. If there is anything he is, he's one of the most athletic guards I've ever seen. So 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. This should be right up his alley. He's an athletic kid. He's explosive. He just needs to get into the meeting rooms at night, be comfortable, answer questions, and he'll be fine. I think this is a showcase for Jonathan Cooper.
There are exactly two receivers fit for first-round picks, in Mayock's eyes: Cordarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen. Mayock has them in that order as well. Patterson, according to Mayock, is probably not available at No. 16, which puts Allen in play for the Rams at No. 22.
Patterson comes with a question mark, in spite of his incredible talent. Here's Mayock, when asked about projecting him as the 12th pick:
It's certainly not a stretch from a talent perspective. From a height, width, speed, talent perspective, he might be one of the most talented physical specimens in this class. I think he's taking your breath away from the ability to make plays especially after he gets the ball in his hands. He's a special talent.
The problem is he's got one year of Division 1 experience after two years at a [junior college]. That's a red flag for me, especially at the wide receiver position. There are a bunch of those guys that have failed over the past 20 years.
So you've got to do your homework on him off the field, work ethic, all those kinds of things, because talent wise, he fits.
Allen is a player who could divide teams and analysts.
Keenan Allen, I think, is a later first round pick. And the Dolphins need a wide receiver, but they also need a vertical threat, and I don't think he's a 4.4 [40-yard dash] guy. We'll find out this weekend. Here's the deal with Keenan Allen: if you like him on tape, he's Anquan Boldin. If you don't like him, he's speed deficient.
For the Rams, the Boldin thing might actually be ideal. Think about last spring, when visions of Steve Smith's other-worldly possession receiver antics with the Giants danced in your head. Obviously, that didn't work out. Allen's ability to catch the ball, which the subject of some debate, and work shorter, intermediate routes would be huge for the Rams, especially if Danny Amendola walks in free agency (don't think Steve Smith wasn't a possible insurance option for that).
The Rams have other options, namely Chris Givens, for stretching the field, and Brian Quick's long stride could get him working more further down the field too.
Another option for adding some skill to the offense is bringing the Rams into the two-tight end world of the NFL. Mayock mentions three possibilities for tight ends at No. 22: Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert and Gavin Escobar.
Those three players are all packed tightly together on draft boards, says Mayock. The Combine could create some separation.
As far as Zach Ertz there are three guys at the top of this class that are very similar. [Tyler] Eifert, Ertz, and [Gavin] Escobar from San Diego State. All of them are 6'6", plus or minus 250 [pounds]. And it will be interesting to see how the three run against each other, because they're all clumped together by most teams right now.
So my perspective, you watch Ertz, and they move him all over the field. What's he run? Is he a 4.68 guy or a 4.53 guy? And I think the speed will be important for all three of those tight ends.
The difference in Eifert and Ertz for Mayock comes down to blocking, where he gives the Notre Dame product, Eifert, a very slight edge, but that's not his specialty.
So if you asked me to rank them today, it would be Eifert first, because I could line him up in line, even though he's not a stone killer. Trust me, he's not. But he can at least play leverage and block in line. However, both of their strengths are getting down field and catching the football.
Mayock was very effusive in his praise for Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, who he regards as the top safety in the draft this year. Check out who Vaccaro covered that really caught his eye:
Finally, Vaccaro is the one that more tape I watched, the more I liked him. They played him closer to the line of scrimmage this year. He covered a bunch of slots this year. Watching cover Tavon Austin at West Virginia, that's rare. In today's world, that's rare and it's important.
And I think his coverage ability is quick feet. He's tough as nails. He tackles. He looks to me, I've never met him, but it looks on tape like he loves the
I have trouble thinking he's going to get past 15 or 20 even though safeties don't go that high. I think he'll be gone in the first 15 picks.
Hmm, that could be dicey for the Rams if they really have their hopes set on the Longhorns backstop. Matt Elam is his second-ranked safety and Jonathan Cyprien is right behind him. After that, he says, the position drops off quite a bit.