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2011 NFL Combine: Mike Mayock On Draft Depth, Free Agency And CBA (Part 3)

In the third and final in this series of transcripts from Mike Mayock's recent conference call, Mayock shares some general thoughts on this year's draft.

Mayock thinks that this year's first round may be deeper than in previous years and shares his thoughts on how the lack of free agency could affect the draft and any potential draft day trades.

The transcript is provided by the NFL Network, we have simply grouped some of the Q&As that deal with draft topics that are not player-specific.

Q.  I'm wondering how many first round grades you have on players, and if this might be one of those years where you get into the 20's, if there's a clump of players that might be the same maybe down early into the second round?

MIKE MAYOCK:  I think that's an interesting question.  I've got a deeper first round than I've had in the past several years.  I think it starts because of the defensive line class, and let me give you an example.

I've got eight or nine defensive ends with first round grades.  Typically four defensive ends go in the first round.  And I start looking at kids like Muhammad Wilkerson from Temple, an underclassman.  He could be a defensive tackle or a defensive end.  He could go from 25 to 40, and the kid is a heck of a football player.

I think he would fit into the first round a year ago easily, and he might get pushed into the second round with the quality and depth of this defensive line group.

I think depending on what you're looking for   and this is how I always look at it   if you're looking for a corner at the end of the first round, you might have a problem.  If you're looking for a defensive end, a defensive tackle or maybe an offensive tackle, you're in luck.

So it's about whether or not your needs meet up with the strength of this year's draft.  Because the corners there is a big drop off after the first two in my belief.  The same thing, running backs are really interesting.  But there are a lot of running backs in the third round that can get one.  So it's really about what you're looking for in your scheme.

Q.  Wonder if the uncertainty surrounding a free agent situation this year changes or tweaks the way teams might approach the draft?

MIKE MAYOCK:  It's a good question.  I really believe that you don't even know what the free agent situation's going to be this year.  Is there going to be free agency?  Is there going to be a four year guy, six year guy?  How are they going to deal with that whole thing?

If you don't have those answers, you have to go into your draft room and draft like you always do every year.  I think you have to look at the big picture and not just, oh, oh, if we don't have training camp, do we need a guy that's ready to play today?

I think if you start trying to answer questions with draft picks on the short term, you're going to get beat on the long term.  So the best thing you can do is take a step back and say we're going to do what we always do.  We're going to draft the best football players that fit our scheme because we can't worry about things we can't control right now.

Q.  The Vikings situation, they obviously need to take a quarterback.  But at number 12, do you see them trying to target somebody there, trade up or potentially wait until a later round?  Second, third and try to grab somebody at that spot there?  What is your view of that?

MIKE MAYOCK:  I think what they have to do is they've got to grind the top four guys real hard.  Gabbert, Locker, Newton and Mallett.  They've got to look at those four guys and first make the decision that at number 12, we believe that many of them are worthwhile at that pick.

Second thing, if we believe Blaine Gabbert is the best of the four, are we willing to move up?  If so, how far do we have to go and what is is going to cost us?

Cam Newton, what do we think about him?  Would we be willing to move up, or if he's there, are we going to take him?  That is the first level.  And the second level of discussion is if there is a play maker, they're not convinced, for instance, if they say Gabbert's the only one that we like -- and I don't know any of this, I'm just throwing it out as an example -- if we like Gabbert, and he's not there at 12, we'll take somebody else and come back in the second round.

And who are our choices at that point?  And basically you're looking at Andy Dalton, Ponder, Stanzi, and Kaepernick.  Those are the guys that comprise the next level.  And I guarantee you that Rick Spielman and his guys are grinding the heck out of that group of eight players, because I think one of those eight has to be a Minnesota Viking next year.

Q.  So many times in the past the personnel moves have been free agency first, and then sort of use the draft to fill in what you can't do or couldn't do in free agency.  Do you see the draft changing at all or have the dynamics changed this year with the likelihood of having no free agency before the draft?  Also as a quick follow up, at 22 can the Colts get their left tackle finally?

MIKE MAYOCK:  I'll take the first one.  I do think there will be a good left tackle there.  Whether it's Castonzo from B.C. or Solder or Tyron Smith or Carimi.  Those four guys are all first round tackles.

And I think out of that group, Carimi's probably better on the right side but could handle the left.  I also think Derek Sherrod from Mississippi State is a guy that a lot of people have in the second round that probably could be a first round left tackle.

So I believe that guy will be there for Indy.  As far as changing your draft plans because of the uncertainty of the CBA, I said earlier, you can get in trouble if you start putting the cart before the horse.

You don't even know what the free agency's going to look like this year.  Four years, six years, what is it going to be and who is going to be available?  So you have to go back to the basics, which is what Bill Polian's great at.  Which is who fits our screen, and we're going to go get them.  If you start looking for band aids because the CBA is so uncertain this year, long term it's going to hurt you.

Q.  So the draft has to be your life blood even more so now?

MIKE MAYOCK:  I don't think it changes now.  The good teams always have been draft teams.

Q.  With the CBA, how are draft day trades going to play out?

MIKE MAYOCK:  It depends.  It depends if, for instance, if by the draft this thing gets done and there is a rookie wage scale, if that comes in place and it gets more cap friendly and dollar friendly for a top 10 pick, then I think you'll see more movement in the top 10 than you've seen in years.  There are also high quality players.

If that's not the case and you're heading into some uncertainty, I think it's just business as usual.

Q.  With the recent success that undrafted and late round drafted running backs have had in the NFL, where's your stance on investing in an early first round pick into a tailback?

MIKE MAYOCK:  For me, it's pretty simple.  If there's a guy, a special running back out there like an Adrian Peterson, you treat it like a special athlete at any position and you covet it and you try to get it.

Beyond that, I think what we're seeing is running back by tandem throughout the NFL.  You either get a couple of guys that can split the load or similar type of players, or you get two different kind of guys.  You get that two down guy, the bigger downhill, one cutback, and complement him with a third down change of pace guy.

I think we've all seen, because it's a pass first league, that the running back position has been denigrated a little bit.  I think there are plenty of guys in every draft, and especially this year.  You can drop down to the third, fourth, fifth round and get a quality running back to fit your system

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