A good three weeks before the 2009 draft, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock became the first to forecast the selection of Darrius Heyward-Bey to the Raiders with the seventh pick.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and National Football Post columnist and former Raiders exec Mike Lombardi climbed aboard later, although most amateur and professional pundits had Heyward-Bey going much later in the first round.
“He’s a height-weight-speed specialist. The fastest guy at the combine,” Mayock said at the time. “This is an Al Davis special. You pair him with JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden.”
Understand, Mayock was looking at it through the eyes of the Raiders and their history. As he reminded the media on a conference call Tuesday, he wasn’t on board with any of the Raiders’ Big Three. He didn’t like Russell’s work ethic, McFadden’s ability to break tackles or the extremely raw skills of Heyward-Bey.
“My own personal opinion if you’ve followed the past few years, I said JaMarcus Russell was the most gifted college quarterback I ever saw but I wouldn’t taken him with a first round pick,” Mayock said. “I said Darren McFadden’s lower body went dead on contact and I didn’t think he made people miss. I thought Heyward-Bey was just a work in progress and no way should he have ben a high first-round pick. I’m on record with all three of those guys and felt they reached on the height-weight-speed scenario.”
(To be fair, Mayock was caught in an information void regarding the Raiders second-round pick, safety Mike Mitchell. However, rather than criticize the pick, as Mel Kiper did, Mayock conceded the simply didn’t know anything about him. Mitchell’s first season was derailed by hamstring issues although he began to receive playing time late in the season in some defensive packages.)
So who might the Raiders be looking at as the combine convenes this weekend? Mayock wants to see how the numbers play out, but he has a position in mind with the Raiders at No. 8.
“I think offensive tackle becomes a primary need and I think there are four of them worth taking in the first nine or 10 picks,” Mayock said. “You look at Kansas City at No. 5, seattle at No. 7, Oakland at No. 8 and Buffalo at No. 9 all have big tackle needs. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Raiders wind up with Anthony Davis, Trent Williams, Bryan Bulaga, and of course, Russell Okung.”
Mayock said he considers this year’s draft crop as poor for quarterbacks and interior offensive linemen, but could consider a scenario where as many as six tackles could go in the first round with a big dropoff after the top seven, with the other notables being Charles Brown of USC, Vladamir Ducasse of Massachusetts and Bruce Campbell of Maryland.
Here are links to profiles of Mayock’s top seven tackles:
A few other Mayock observations from Tuesday’s conference call . . .
— He believes the value of the combine, particularly where quarterbacks are concerned, is the chance for all 32 teams to see how the players matchup with each other in a competitive environment rather than in the controlled nature of a Pro Day.
— Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, if his shoulder has healed, is the class of the quarterback class.
“I think he’s a franchise quarterback if he checks out medically,” Mayock said.
He considers Colt McCoy a second-round possibility, likening him to Jake Plummer, and Tim Tebow a third-or-later selection.
“Give him two redshirt years while a veteran plays to work out his mechanical issues,” Mayock said.
— The top two players, and it’s not close, are both defensive tackles _ Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy and Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh
Although Mayock believes a quarterback need often overrides the “best player available,” he said of taking Bradford before either player, “You’d better be 100 percent sure Bradford is going to be an All-Pro because you’d be passing up an all-pro tackle for the next 10 years.”
Mayock gives a slight edge to McCoy, believing him to be the more disruptive player against the pass in a league skewed heavily toward passing teams.
— The No. 3 player on his board is Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant.
“When I see Dez Bryant on tape I can’t get Andre Johnson out of my mind,” Mayock said.
— The best available safety is not USC’s Taylor Mays, but Earl Thomas of Texas.
“I don’t think Mays is as instinctive, but he’s a big, tough guy in the middle of the field,” Mayock said.