The NFL Network’s lead NFL Draft Analyst Mike Mayock took part in an NFL Network conference call with national media members on Thursday in the lead up to the 2014 NFL Draft.
We thought it might be worth checking out Mayock's thoughts ahead of the draft, scheduled for May 8-10 next week. Mayock talked specifically about the Cowboys, and answered questions about Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald, Zack Martin, and Will Clarke, all of whom the Cowboys had in for pre-draft visits, and we've included his thoughts on Aaron Murray, who has also been linked to the Cowboys.
Here are Mayock's thoughts on the Cowboys and those prospects, courtesy of NFL Network. You can read the full transcript if you want, although it's a lengthy 20 pages.
Q. You talk about the 49ers wanting to trade up. They did that last year with the Cowboys. How likely is it that the Cowboys could trade back? If they stay at 16, who do you like there?
MIKE MAYOCK: If they stay at 16, I think there are a couple different possibilities. Defensively they were number 26 in the league in points allowed. They were last in the league in yards allowed. They got to get better on defense.
A couple different opportunities. I think number one could be Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety. They need a free safety type very badly. I think he's one of the top free safeties to come out in the last several years. Obviously they made a couple of signings up front at defensive tackle, most significantly Henry Melton. They're going to try to play Tyrone Crawford inside. He's coming off an Achilles. Could they still take Aaron Donald, the defensive tackle from Pitt? Absolutely.
At the end of the day would it surprise me if they traded down? Not at all. They don't have enough picks. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they traded down. I think the last kind of wild card for them is the quarterback situation. You have a 34-year-old quarterback coming off a second back surgery. I'm not suggesting it has to be the first round, but at some point they're going to have to invest a fairly high pick in a quarterback.
Q. You touched on Aaron Donald earlier. A lot of the mocks have him going to Chicago. Do you think that's where he ends up? Could you see him going higher than that?
MIKE MAYOCK: If I have eight or ten favorite players every year, he's one of them this year for me. I'm a little worried about it just because sometimes guys slide a little bit because they're not a fit for particular teams, not because they're not really good football players. He did everything you could do to become a top 10 or 15 pick. Great college career. Tremendous Senior Bowl week where he dominated, ran like crazy at the combine. He did everything. He should be a top half of the first round, and I hope he is. 14 Chicago, 16 Dallas. You would hope somewhere right in there.
I don't think he's going much higher. There are some concerns. I don't buy into it. There are teams who say he's too short, too small. If he doesn't win immediately with quickness, he's done. I hope he does not fly. He's too good a football player, too good a kid, but it has to be the right fit. It should be somewhere in the middle of that first round.
Q. Anthony Barr, you've mentioned a couple times you don't think he's going to be there in the early 20s. It seems like lately he's a guy who is sliding. What do you think accounts for that?
MIKE MAYOCK: I don't think he's sliding. I think that's more of a media perception. I think he could go as early as 11 to Tennessee. I think Dallas would love him at 16.
This draft is not deep in edge rushers. The bottom line with Barr is I think his best football is ahead of him. You might have to wait two years. He only played the position for two years. He needs to get stronger at the point of attack, he needs to learn the position from a perspective of learning how to pass-rush. Every rush can't be a speed rush.
But the kid has great talent. He's the prototype 34 outside linebacker. I don't think there's any way he gets into the 20s.
Q. I wonder where you have Zack Martin. You had him fourth among the tackles. Has that changed at all? Could you give an assessment of him?
MIKE MAYOCK: I love the kid. Even though I have him fourth as a tackle, he'd be my number one center or my number one guard. I believe that he is the only player in this draft that could start and play at a high level at all five offensive line positions. I think as we get closer to this draft, he will be the fourth offensive lineman off the board.
I think he's coming off the board somewhere between nine and 13. He's too good. He's too safe. There are too many offensive line needs out there. There are a bunch of teams that look at him and say, he could start at right tackle day one, maybe we move him inside to guard or center the next year.
He's awesome. He's about as safe a player as there is in this draft. If you want him, you better get him early.
Q. Also a quick question on Will Clarke, the defensive end. How much did the East/West and Senior Bowl help him?
MIKE MAYOCK: Will Clarke I think is one of the fastest-rising players on draft board. He doesn't get much attention nationally because he's not a first-round pick.
Heading into the East/West game, he was a late draftable afterthought. He had a good week there. He's got a frame at 6'6", a long defensive end that can put weight on. In a draft that doesn't have a lot of edge rushers, he goes to the Senior Bowl, people saw him. He tested well. I have him in the third round right now. It's really helped him. The whole process has helped him.
Q. Who do you think has a better pro career, Zach Mettenberger or Aaron Murray and why? Do you see anyone else getting drafted from Georgia?
MIKE MAYOCK: From Georgia, no. Regarding Murray and Mettenberger, that is complete opposites. It's really intriguing. The common denominator is they're both coming off ACL injuries late last season. Both had great pro day workouts.
Mettenberger has as strong an arm as anybody in the draft. I'd be surprised if he didn't go second round. Looked like he recovered from the ACL, which is amazing 13 or 14 weeks out. When you draw up a quarterback, physically I think he looks like what you want. I think he's a little heavy-footed. I'd like to see him a little bit more athletic, but he has the hose that every team wants.
Now Murray I thought probably knows how to play the position than any quarterback in the draft. He's got anticipation and timing probably because he's had to since he was a young kid because he was never that big, overpowering arm quarterback.
They're completely different. I think Mettenberger goes in the second, I think Murray probably goes in the third. Murray's arm strength isn't as good as you'd like it. But, man, accuracy, timing, anticipation, it's what that position is all about. With the second and third rounders making it more recently, he's in a lot of conversations with a lot of teams about the potential of a starting quarterback.