NFL Network's Mike Mayock held a really, really long conference call on Tuesday about the 2014 NFL Draft. There was just one Chiefs-specific question. Mayock was asked about the Chiefs and the defense taking the next step and did his thing from there.
"Kansas City to me, is pretty interesting," Mayock said, "and I think you're sitting there, you made the playoffs this year, you've got the 23rd pick in the draft, and when I look at Kansas City, I go, okay, you're pretty solid up front.
"Now on the back end, Brandon Flowers is still a solid player, Sean Smith. I think the free safety position, which we have talked about before, is an important one for them to make some decisions on.
"I don't know if you can keep two pass rushers like they have on the outside and pay them both for a period of time. So I think they are going to have to start making some decisions about what they are going to do, especially with that younger player, Justin Houston."
Those first two paragraphs are things we basically know. The Chiefs defensive line is in a decent spot, save the future of Tyson Jackson and his starting position. The starting cornerbacks are probably set right now. And free safety is the No. 1 position of need.
The Tamba Hali / Justin Houston portion is interesting. With Houston still under his rookie deal, the Chiefs can probably keep them both this year. But once Houston gets paid (if he does)? Probably not. The Chiefs could consider a pass rusher knowing that both of them likely won't be back next season. We haven't talked a lot about this happening but with the importance of pass rushers we probably should.
Mayock talked for a long time. You can see the full transcript of his call here. I plucked out some quotes below I thought you might be interested in.
Deep draft class
"From my perspective, this is the deepest and best draft class I've seen in probably ten years. That's been reinforced by most of the general managers and scouts I've talked to throughout the league. I had one GM tell me the other day that having a top 20 pick this year is very similar to having a Top‑10 pick last year."
Deep receiver class especially
Really interesting because it's the best wide receiver draft I've seen in years
More on the depth of this draft
"One is the playmakers at the top end of this draft, it's not just a couple guys. You know, there's three offensive tackles that could go in the Top‑10. There's three quarterbacks that could go in the Top‑10, and then you've got guys like I mentioned [Khalil] Mack, who is a difference maker, [Anthony] Barr from UCLA, [Sammy] Watkins from Clemson is a tremendous wide receiver.
"So we're ten, 11, 12, players deep right there and we have not seen talked about the safety from Louisville [Calvin Pryor] or the tight end from North Carolina [Eric Ebron]. And I could go on and on. There's more quality at the top end of this draft than I've seen in a long time and from a position standpoint; you know, we talked about wide receiver. I think offensive tackle is particularly deep. You can go three rounds, four rounds deep this year, and get a starting offensive tackle. So from those couple of positions and the quality up top, and I think there's some pretty good corners, by the way, three to four rounds deep. So I'm really excited about this draft."
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix vs. Calvin Pryor
"They are different players. For me, Calvin Pryor is like a bigger, stronger Bob Sanders. He flies around, he hits people, he explodes everywhere. I think he is a little better in the box than he is on the back end. It might be just because of the way Louisville used him but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, on the other hand, has got better range, and I think he's more of a deep third, deep‑half guy, he tackles well and he can invert up into the box. I think he's a complete player.
"So both of those guys, I wouldn't even blink if they went at No. 10. But it depends what flavor you're looking for because they are a little bit different type players."
"Well, he's a tweener and I think that's why people are having trouble with the evaluation. And I saw him on Missouri, his tape and then again at Senior Bowl and what I saw was a guy that's a natural edge rush guy. He's much better going forward than he is backwards. He's got a little bit of explosion off the edge, but he doesn't have the length. So he's got linebacker size, but he's got physical skill set of a defensive end. He's a tough fit.
"So what I see is a situational pass rush, not an every down player but a situational pass rusher that also can become a core special teams player and I think he goes somewhere in the third to the fifth round. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure, I think [LaMarr] Woodley is a little bit longer than he is, and a little more explosive, and he's a higher graded guy, so it's hard for me off the top of my head. But he's really kind of tight‑hipped and I don't think he can play linebacker."
"I know that he's got the physical makeup to be the best player in the draft. If you want to compare him to Mario Williams, I think he's a better football player with more upside than when Mario came out of college and he was obviously the first pick. So from a physical skill set, this kid is as freaky as they come.
"He plays a position of critical importance in today's NFL which is an ability to get the quarterback. He can play multiple places on the defense, so all those things check off. My biggest concern is just what's his mental makeup and how important is it to him when he gets a big paycheck to become the best player in football, or is he just going to be happy to be a millionaire. So I think that's the most critical checking point here from an organization is finding out what the motivation, what kind of kid are they going to get. I know what the football player is when motivated. I just want to know what kind of kid I'm getting."
The importance of left vs. right tackles is shrinking
"It's an interesting question and I'll take it a step further. Not only are they shrinking, which I agree with, but I think the second most important position on the offensive line might be center. So what I think we're seeing is that the old days, the defensive always line their best pass rusher up against the left tackle with the theory being it's the blind side of the quarterback, the offense would have to protect the blind side, and in the old days they lined up that way every snap every game.
"Now we are seeing defenses getting much more creative, moving guys around, trying to get mismatches wherever they can, overload wherever they can. And sometimes they will put somebody over against a left tackle that they know can't win because they don't care. They will figure, we will try to overwhelm the right side. So having said all of that, it's gotten a lot closer, the left tackle and the right tackle. The right tackle better be able to pass protect but I also think if you talk to any of the Peyton Manning, Tom Brady type of quarterbacks that are drop‑back quarterbacks, the thing that bothers them the most is immediate pressure up the middle. I think the center and that interior offensive line has become more important and the center, because on top of that, they are calling the protections and coordinating the lines.
"I would say that left tackle followed by center and then right tackle, but it's getting closer and closer to all five up front."
The trouble with evaluating college receivers
"No. 1 is there's not a whole lot of quality press corners in college football, and there are not a whole lot of teams that play a lot of press coverage is probably a better way to say it. So you get easy access off the line of scrimmage in college that you don't necessarily get at the next level, and then No. 2, with the proliferation of different defenses and having to read on the run in the NFL, if you're able to get off the line of scrimmage, all of a sudden there's a rotation, something else changes, the free safety is gone and now here comes a linebacker and you're like, what's my adjustment on the fly.
"I think what happens is a lot of wide receivers slow down early in their careers because when you are confused, you play slow and when you get off the line of scrimmage, you can't win. So I think there's a certain amount of evaluation that goes on with college players that doesn't translate to the next level."
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