NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock took part in a conference call Monday to preview the NFL Scouting Combine coming up this week in Indianapolis.
He dropped a few nuggets that could be of interest to fans of the Bengals, Browns and Ohio State.
1. Who is the No. 1 quarterback?
With the Browns picking No. 1, they can get any quarterback they want.
Mayock has USC’s Sam Darnold at the top of his board ahead of Wyoming’s Josh Allen.
He praised Darnold’s ability to make plays on the run but noted his well-known propensity for turning it over.
Allen has the biggest arm he has seen since LSU’s JaMarcus Russell 10 years ago and noted Cleveland’s new general manager, John Dorsey, traded up to draft a strong-armed quarterback last year when he was running the Chiefs.
Mayock acknowledged Allen’s low completion percentage (and therefore accuracy) is a concern.
2. Watch out for Lamar Jackson.
Last week we made the case the Bengals should draft the Louisville quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy two years ago.
Mayock called him the most-electrifying player draft and predicted a team that selects him and commits to utilizing his skill set will make the other 31 defensive coordinators very uncomfortable.
Mayock sees Darnold, Allen, USC’s Josh Rosen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield as first-rounders with Jackson a wild card in that regard.
Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph could go in the first round, too, but Mayock implied that might be a reach.
3. Could the Bengals draft a quarterback?
If Jackson ends up elsewhere and the Bengals want a new backup quarterback to replace AJ McCarron (who is expected to leave as a free agent), Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta could be a candidate in the third or fourth round.
Mayock said he is not elite at one thing but is solid at everything, which sounds a lot like McCarron — or Andy Dalton, for that matter.
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Mayock also said Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside has not gotten enough credit yet because he is a playmaker. He wants to see him throw at the combine.
4. Mayock noted last year was the worst draft ever when it comes to elite offensive line prospects, but that is not a problem this year,
That’s very good news for the Bengals because they need one if not two new players to shore up their weakest position group.
Mayock has Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey rated his No. 1 tackle prospect and sees his former Fighting Irish teammate Quenton Nelson as an elite guard prospect.
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He’s also high on Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown and Connor Williams of Texas as far as potential first-rounders.
Ohio State center Billy Price joins Nelson in a strong group of interior offensive linemen, and teams should find value there throughout the first three rounds.
5. Denzel Ward is the best corner and the top Ohio State prospect in this draft.
Ward is expected to ace all the workouts this week at the combine, but Mayock expressed concern about his durability because of a slight frame.
He called Price a plug-and-play interior offensive linemen who could go late in the first round or sometime in the second.
Sam Hubbard projects as a second rounder unless he runs a faster-than-expected 40-yard dash (like in the 4.5 range). He could play end in a 4-3 or linebacker in a 3-4. Mayock thinks he will test well but not blow anyone away at the combine. If he does the latter, he could be a first-rounder.
Linebacker Jerome Baker is a physical specimen with the athleticism the NFL craves at that position now, but his tape is inconsistent.
Jamarco Jones is a solid offensive line prospect who should go in the third or fourth round.
6. Is J.T. Barrett a sleeper prospect?
Ohio State’s all-time leading passer has everything teams want in a quarterback except high-level talent according to Mayock, who called him an ideal backup who could play in the NFL for many years.
He sees Barrett being drafted late on day three.
“Somebody’s going to buy into him because they love the kid because of what he brings to the table,” Mayock said.
7. Drafting receivers has been tricky lately.
The Bengals took Washington speedster John Ross in the first round last year and got next to nothing from him because of injuries.
Mayock sees that as a common theme lately with multiple teams struggling to find productive pass-catchers early in the draft.
He has surmised bigger, physical receivers with great ball skills like Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster tend to be safer picks and more likely to be able to contribute right away because they have a better chance to stay healthy and make contested catches.