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Mike Mayock gives a pre-combine read on the draft, and Cowboys fans should take note

The long-time draft expert says a lot of things that apply directly to Dallas this year.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Mayock is one of the top NFL Draft analysts, which means he is a valuable resource to quote when we agree with him, or someone to dispute if he fails to reach the same brilliant conclusions we have. In all seriousness, he is well-respected and, while he makes some bad calls just like anyone, he has a pretty solid track record. He was featured in Peter King’s MMQB at this week. He gave a general overview of how he sees the draft shaping up as the NFL Combine (AKA the Greatest Show in Shorts) gets underway.

Of course, we are always looking for things that are relevant to the Dallas Cowboys at this here blog, y’all, so here are the things you need to know from it.

A bunch of quarterbacks and maybe some running backs are going before Dallas pick at 19.

For the Cowboys, it is all about who makes it to them, and since they have no interest in a QB or RB in the first, this is a good development.

Mayock does not see the QB group as truly special, which most of us also think, but still thinks there are plenty of teams in the market.

“I still think there is some excitement about this class, and I still think there are some franchise quarterbacks involved, but I also think it has been tempered somewhat by the availability of NFL free agents that typically aren’t out there.”

He also sees RB Saquon Barkley of Penn State as one of the two best players in the draft, and thinks he is well worth a top five pick.

Taking a guard in the first round also makes perfect sense.

Whether Dallas should do that has been the subject of a wee bit o’ debate here lately. (Yes, I know, I am very talented with accents.) Mayock feels like the middle of the O line is becoming more of a focus of late, and that makes guards well worth the investment.

“I think when you look around the NFL today and see that there are more and more high-level interior pass rushers than there were five years ago, you know have to be strong across the offensive front. Every top-level quarterback I’ve ever talked to told me that what they hate the most is immediate pressure up the middle. If they can step up into a pocket, they’re all happy.”

He has G Quentin Nelson from Notre Dame as the other name who rates as best in the class along with Barkley. But Nelson is going to be long gone by the time Dallas gets a chance to pick, and Mayock thinks the offensive line talent is fairly thin. There are a handful of names he is very high on.

“I think a lot of that is the effects of the spread offenses in college football,” he said. “There is more security with offensive linemen that are coming out of pro-style offenses. What does that mean for this draft? It means the two Notre Dame kids are solid gold, Quenton Nelson and [tackle] Mike McGlinchey, it means the center from Iowa [James Daniels], it means the center from Ohio State [Billy Price] and probably the guard from Georgia [Isaiah Wynn] are all solid gold because they stuck their hand in the dirt, they had to move people in the run game and they understand a little bit of pass protection.”

With a small group of very good options out there and a big need, the idea of getting one of them at 19 seems to fall right in line with Mayock’s thinking. A run on guards could leave Dallas picking through leftovers from the second round on.

That also puts more of a premium on DTs.

The discussion has also been raging about whether Dallas would pull the trigger if a talent like Washington’s Vita Vae fell to them. They have long been hesitant to use much draft capital at all on the 1-tech spot, but as Mayock notes, things are changing a bit in the NFL. Things have also changed at the Star with the arrival of Kris Richard in the defensive room. Maybe the two are enough to change the thinking of the management.

As for a wide receiver in the first round, Mayock is not a fan.

In putting the article together, King did a little research to see if caution there was warranted.

Prompted by Mayock, let’s look at the receivers in the first round of last three drafts:

2015: Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett.

2016: Corey Coleman, Will Fuller IV, Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell.

2017: Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross.

Wow. Is that awful. One of 13 has played like a first-rounder. Amari Cooper. One!

“I think there is some trends emerging,” Mayock said. “It’s a pass-first league. Who were the best rookie wide receivers last year? JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp, taken at 62 and 69 [overall, respectively]. If you look back since ‘14, at all the first-round receivers, there is a history of injury problems—guys who can’t answer the bell and most of them had that history in college that we didn’t pay attention to. All three of the ones last year—Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross—had durability concerns coming into last year’s draft. And I’m not saying they can’t become great players, because it typically takes a couple years at that position. I’m just saying, hey, beware of a history of injury at that position. Take a look at and go back and look at those four or five draft classes.

It looks like the value play for a wideout is in the third round or later.

It is a down year for edge rushers.

Dallas finally saw DeMarcus Lawrence pay off last season, and he is going to be locked up at least for one more year with the franchise tag, and the real goal is to get him extended. But there is the belief that you cannot get too much talent there, so it is seen by many as a possible place for the Cowboys to go early. The problem is that there just aren’t many quality options, and the first one Mayock lists is going to go early.

“So who is going to affect the pass game day one? I think there are three of them. Bradley Chubb is not as twitchy as a Von Miller or some of those guys, but he does everything at a high level—stops the run, rushes the QB, great hustle, tough kid, great size. Marcus Davenport from Texas-San Antonio is really intriguing, and I’m eager to compare his numbers at the combine to Ziggy Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney to see how he matches up athletically to those two. And then Arden Key from LSU is another one of those. Gifted, but he has off-the-field concerns … hurt his knee, had a back issue. Who is Arden Key?”

Here’s a possible sleeper to keep an eye on.

Asked Mayock if there’s a guy he’s smitten with after weeks of tape study. “The Boise linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch,” he answered right away. “I haven’t watched much of him. I have only seen two tapes so far; that’s the caveat. But I could make the argument that his tape against Oregon [in the Las Vegas Bowl] was as good an off-the-ball-linebacker tape as I’ve seen in five years. Key for him at the combine: Over/under 4.65 in the 40. I am anxious to see what he runs.”

Boise State has been a popular school for the Cowboys to acquire talent from in recent years, with Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and former backup QB and new quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore all hailing from there. Just sayin’.

But things are going to change.

Remember how early it is in the process.

Please, please, please do not think opinions are final 60 days before the draft. That’s how far away from the first round we are. Mayock: “Last year at this time, DeShone Kizer was my top-rated quarterback.” Things changed. By the time the draft rolled around, Mayock didn’t even have Kizer in his three-QB first round mock.

So, yeah, this is one of those cases where Mayock’s opinion is subject to a little bias confirmation. Still, he is a respected voice. And, as King noted, he gets deeply involved in video study.

You may or may not agree with these calls by him, but at the moment, it is all about gathering as much data and knowledge as we can. Check out the full article for more of what Mayock said, and keep on mocking.

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