Mike Mayock Pre-Draft Conference Call: Evaluating the Secondary

In a pre-draft conference call last Thursday, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock discussed several interesting topics. Among the many scenarios and evaluations Mayock gave, he answered a few Redskins related questions that could give a little insight into the team’s thinking.

The Washington Redskins will presumably enter this month’s draft with the safety position as their top need. Depending on how the board falls when Washington picks in the 2nd (51 overall) and 3rd (85 overall), it’s very likely that the team will select a safety between those two picks. However, when asked if the team could go another direction prior to selecting a safety, Mayock had this to say:

They signed [Jeremy] Trueblood who is a right tackle only. So whether or not they would go after with the first pick they have somebody that would compete with a free agent they just signed, I’m not sure they’d go in that direction. I think they signed Trueblood for a reason, and they’ve got Tyler Polumbus behind him.

To me, if they don’t go safety, I’d like to see them look at 51 — at wide receiver. [Josh] Morgan’s coming off some off season surgeries, and Santana Moss is getting older. I think you get a quality receiver at 51, and you cannot support your quarterback enough. You put a lot of money and draft picks into your quarterback. I also could see if it’s not the wide receiver, either corner depth or a defensive lineman depth.

I think either way. You signed E.J. Biggers, you resigned DeAngelo Hall, but you still need to get more depth and athleticism on the edge. So I think they’re number 30 against the pass last year. I think there are a couple different ways they could go at 51 if it’s not safety.

There’s a lot of momentum building around the Washington Redskins taking a wide receiver at 51 overall. And while I believe they are interested in taking a receiver — after talking to a few people — this could be a little smoke. There are some who are confident a late 1st to early 2nd round talent at that position could be available at 51 overall. The Redskins would really prefer to move back and add a few picks. So that makes sense. However, don’t be surprised if the team does look at receiver early.

As for the safeties, Mayock had a few interesting evaluations that surprisingly — I don’t really agree with. Pro Player Insiders asked Mayock about three safeties who could fit what the Redskins are looking for: Bacarri Rambo (Georgia), Phillip Thomas (Fresno St.) and Duke Williams (Nevada).

Mayock said, “I think Bacarri Rambo is probably going in the third or fourth rounds — quick, explosive, good ball skills. Duke Williams from Nevada is a later guy. He’s had some medical issues and off the field issues. I think he’s more of a fifth or sixth round pick. Phillip Thomas, I like him from Fresno. He might have as good of ball skills as any safety in this draft. Moves well on the ball, catches it, sees it. With Washington, the first pick is at 51, and he’s a guy you could get in the third round. Again, I think he’s a starting free safety, and I love his ball skills.”

While I agree with Mayock on Thomas having great ball skills, he’s also one of the worst tackling safeties in the draft. I’m high on Bacarri Rambo’s talent, a guy who also has outstanding ball skills. And although he too is not a great tackler, he at least displays a willingness to improve. Thomas tends to just shut down on some plays. Here’s a quote from Rotoworld’s draft expert Josh Norris, “Sure he (Philip Thomas) had the most interceptions in college football this year — and he actually does take decent angles in run support. But for some reason, in that two yard box right when he’s closing on the running back, he always whiffs. And I don’t know if it’s tightness, if it’s a lack of anticipation, lack of quick-twitch movement — but he whiffs way too much.”

It’s not good to go off only one game film, and Thomas has a lot of good film — but when you look at him against Oregon State, you can’t help but to scratch your head. He gives up on plays, bites on misdirection and that’s an offense the Redskins will essentially have to face twice a year with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly now with the Eagles.

Bacarri Rambo, in my mind, is without a doubt the best deep half/centerfield safety in this draft. For some reason, he’s being vastly underrated by some. His tackling has been an issue, but when he hits — he lays booms. Not to mention, he’s improved as a tackler every year of collegiate play. Which tells you he has upside in that aspect.

NFL Network’s Gil Brandt ranks Bacarri Rambo #68 on his “hot 100 list.” He ranks Philip Thomas as the 82nd best talent.

As for Duke Williams, I had an opportunity to speak with him last week and he says versatility is his selling point to teams. Duke said he’s been working on his cornerback skills for nickel sets. While Duke is capable of playing deep half/centerfield, he seems to embrace being close to the action: “I have a combination of corner ability, but I have the attitude of a safety,” Duke noted. “I’m able to play man-to-man on the slot receiver, I’m able to play towards the line of scrimmage — in the box.”

While I disagree with Mayock on Philip Thomas — and it’s very rare that I do disagree with him — Mayock’s evaluations on a few other players was spot-on.

Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State: I am high on Jamar Taylor, if you see my top 5 list. If you see my top 5 interior offensive linemen, there might be only three of them that are ranked in the top 100. Whereas I might have eight corners in my top 100 but only five obviously go in the top 5. So I’ve got Jamar Taylor at No. 51 in my top 100. I think he’s a mid-second round pick, he’s got quick feet, he’ll tackle and like most Boise players, he’s tough and understand the game of football. So trust me, I think Jamar Taylor is a starting corner in the NFL and I really like him.

T.J McDonald, SS, USC: T.J. McDonald is another lightning rod. Some teams like him, some teams really don’t like him, think he’s too stiff. My guess is he goes in the fourth round. He’s got really good straight line speed. He’s a tough kid; he just has some stiffness both in coverage and in ability to break down the tackle.

B.W. Webb, CB, William & Mary: I love B.W. Webb. Great feet, great feet, change of direction, competed at the Senior Bowl. I think what’s going to keep him in the late second round discussion is his return skills. It’s not a great punt return class, and he’s one of the top three or four punt returners in the country. So the combination of his feet, his ability to certainly play inside as long as he tackles inside, he’s a starting nickel, and then the punt returnability, I think he’s a late two to mid three.

Robert Alford (Southeast Louisiana), Dwayne Gratz (UConn) and Jordan Poyer (Oregon State): They’re good players. Poyer to me is probably a better football player than he is an athlete, and I mean that as a compliment. He’s got some return skills. He’s tough; he’s competitive; he’s got pretty good feet, pretty good size. I liked him at the Senior Bowl. I think ultimately his long term home is going to be as a nickel and special teams, and I think he’ll probably go in the third round.

Gratz is kind of an intriguing guy. He’s long, has some size, and he ran better than people think. He ran 4.47 I had him at the combine. Teams are talking about whether or not he should be a safety, because he tackles. You know, UCONN’s got two corners, Blidi Wreh Wilson was supposed to be the more gifted kid on one side, and the Gratz kid on the other. I’m sensing more momentum towards Gratz. I’ve got him in my third round. He tackles, he competes, he’s long, and he ran better than people thought. So there is no way he gets out of third round.

Robert Alford. Quick footed, return skills, competes. I think not a big kid. I’ve heard second round grades on him. I’ve got him in my third round, early third round, because he’s got great feet. But it wouldn’t surprise me if he went a little higher than that.

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