The NFL Network’s lead NFL Draft Analyst and Scouting Combine head honcho Mike Mayock took part in an NFL Network conference call with national media members on Monday in the lead up to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.
We thought it might be worth checking out Mayock's thoughts, as Mayock talked specifically about the Cowboys and answered questions about the overall depth in the draft and about trading down from the bottom of the first round. Mayock also addressed the depth at positions like defensive tackle, safety and right tackle, which could be of interest to the Cowboys.
Here are Mayock's thoughts on the Cowboys and those prospects, courtesy of NFL Network. You can read the full transcript here if you want, although it's a lengthy 28 pages.
On the strengths and weaknesses of the 2015 draft class:
MIKE MAYOCK: I think particularly deep at running back. Although it might not be quite as dramatic as at wide receiver as a year ago, it's still going to be a very good wide receiver class. Correspondingly it's going to be very thin at quarterback and safety. I think the rest of the positions are solid. So overall a good class.
Q: I was curious if you thought this was another good draft for teams late in the first round to trade down or if they're in a position this time they might want to try to keep that and get a high-impact player at the top?
MIKE MAYOCK: I think the teams that consistently draft late, the New Englands, the Seattles, the Green Bays, the Baltimores, have gotten really good at trading down, and the reason they do so is there may be a guy that they fall in love with, in this case 31 in Seattle, all of a sudden, well, we need a tailback and Todd Gurley is still there, you don't trade down because there's a pretty good chance that he won't be there.
However, if somebody is going to come up and get a quarterback so they get the fifth, he has that extra year on the contract or whatever, are you kidding me? Move down, pick up an extra pick or two, and you still know that there's going to be a group of players available to you a few picks later that you're okay with. I think it becomes a situation where you don't make that decision in February or even April. You wait until you're getting close to on the clock and you're going, hey, we're three picks away, and there's five kids we're happy with, and if somebody wants to come up and get that third quarterback or whoever, whoever, sure, we'll move down. I think it's really smart.
Q. Who in this class do you think the Cowboys could get at 27, or in the later rounds, what running backs could fit with the Cowboys?
MIKE MAYOCK: If you're talking about an edge guy at the bottom of the first round, I think Randy Gregory, Dante Fowler, Shane Ray will all be gone. There's a potential for Vic Beasley from Clemson, Alvin Dupree from Kentucky. Dupree is very interesting because he's 30-plus pounds bigger than Beasley, has an ability to set a more physical edge than Beasley, and is a nice pass-rush complement.
Bud Dupree would make sense there, I believe.
As far as talking about running backs in later rounds, I mentioned it's a really good draft. You start getting into the third and fourth round, I think David Johnson from Northern Iowa is really intriguing. T.J. Yeldon from Alabama could be a late two to mid three. David Cobb from Minnesota is a tough, downhill back, can take the carries. Very physical. Same with Cameron Artis-Payne.
I think the Boise kid, Ajayi, I think he'll be gone in the second round, as will Kevin Johnson, Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah.
On the depth at defensive tackle:
MIKE MAYOCK: I see eight defensive tackles that I think are high-level players. Not that the rest aren't, because there are a bunch of other good ones. I think there's a little bit of a drop-off. Leonard Williams, Danny Shelton, Malcom Brown from Texas, Arik Armstead from Oregon, Jordan Phillips and Eddie Goldman from Florida State, they all play certain positions along that defensive line, but defensive tackle is their focus.
Carl Davis from Iowa is a guy that flashed a lot in college but never was quite consistent until Senior Bowl. Had a great Senior Bowl week.
from Ohio State is another high-level player. Then I think there's a little bit of a drop-off.
Then you kind of get into Mario Edwards from Florida State. Tyeler Davison from Fresno, really tough kid, a third or fourth round guy. You're used to these first-round super freaky defensive tackles. It will be interesting to see where you end up, especially if you get into the second or third round.
On right tackle prospects:
MIKE MAYOCK: La'el Collins is the best right tackle prospect. I'm not sure he gets to number 28 or not. But Andrus Peat is probably gone before that. Cedric Ogbuehi from A&M is a left tackle prospect. If you're looking for quality starting right tackle, I think you can actually wait till the second or third round and get a Jake Fisher, Rob Havenstein, the kid from Penn State Donovan Smith has awesome right tackle ability and probably won't go till the second or third round.
Q: I know you talked about Landon Collins earlier, but who are some of the other starting caliber safeties in this year's draft?
MIKE MAYOCK: Sure. The first two safeties I have are Landon Collins and Shaq Thompson. And Shaq Thompson most people think is a linebacker from Washington. I like him as a Kam Chancellor type big, strong, physical, strong safety that can play dime linebacker in passing situations. I think it's evolving that way.
If you look at the kid who played for Arizona, Deone Bucannon who was a late first-round pick a year ago, that's what he did. And I think that's what the model is for these two guys. Beyond that, Doron Smith from Fresno, I like his ball skills. He's more of a centerfielder, catches the ball well, tracks it well, good feet, good movement skills, will tackle. The only downside is his size. He's only 5'11", 195. That worries me both from a tackling situation and also matching up with tight ends.
Jaquiski Tartt from Stanford, who is a big, strong, tough kid from a non-Division 1 school who I was impressed with his movement skills at The Senior Bowl. He's a big 220 pound safety that moves better than I thought, and I need to do more work on him. I kind of like him.
Ibraheim Campbell from Northwestern, a smart tough kid. Probably a fourth round pick, I like him. And TCU has a kid named Hackett. Virginia has Harris, and I need to do some work on Damarious Randall who has got corner skills and plays free safety at Arizona State. I like the way he played. I need to do more work on him.
As far as evaluating safeties, I played the position. It's still a hard evaluation. You don't always get to see them do what you want to see. For instance a lot of guys will only play in the box. Well can they play a deep pass, deep third and can they play man-to-man? Other guys are the opposite on the back end. You don't see him upfront in the box tackling and playing physically.
The challenge there is matching up body type, movement skills and toughness with what they're going to ask them to do at the NFL level.
MIKE MAYOCK: I like. He needs to be in a system where he plays 3 technique in a 4-3. They move him a lot. I think his quickness and explosion is what sets him apart. He can get overwhelmed a little bit at the point of attack just because of size, but that's where the movement helps. I would expect he's going to go somewhere in the second round, and I think it's his movement skills and his quickness that separates him.
On DE Mario Edwards:
MIKE MAYOCK: You mentioned Mario Edwards. From my perspective, he's an intriguing prospect because he flashes talent but not consistency. If he was a more consistent player, I think we'd be talking about him a little bit higher in the draft. I like his height, weight, speed, but I think he's going to be more a third-round pick.
On DT Malcom Brown:
MIKE MAYOCK: Malcom Brown to me is a first-round guy all day long. Love his size. He's 6'2", 320. He's stout versus the run. He can push the edge, push the pocket. I think he'll go somewhere in the 20s, between 20 and 32. Started his final 27 games, I believe. Married with two kids. It's just everything kind of fits. He's a low-risk investment and a really good football player.