Sticking up for ‘draft entertainment’ & Vance McDonald tape

Mayock, Kiper, McShay... they all deserve a break

Mayock publishes pre-combine rankings

Mike Mayock is kind of the thinking man’s Mel Kiper. They both have great presence on the TV, make for terrific entertainment at this time of year and they also seem to do a lot of conference calls. While Kiper relies on sheer enthusiasm, Mayock gets into detail and reels off a series of catchphrases (sneaky athletic, quicker than fast, dancing bear etc). Personally, I think both do a great job. The draft is taken far too seriously these days and people like Kiper get chastised for basically doing what he’s always done — put a face to the coverage. Good for him.

Twitter, blogs (like this one) and websites like B*****r R****t are giving more and more people a voice, and everyone thinks they’re more qualified to talk about the draft than the next person. We/they aren’t. Call yourself ‘Senior analyst’ of a self-made draft website if you want. We’re all a bunch of fans and some of us are sad enough to spend our free time watching lots of college football. That doesn’t qualify us to work in an NFL front office. It perhaps gives us more motivation to put down a few words on a blog. But that’s about it. Most people don’t even write any more, they take the 140 characters on offer on Twitter and settle.

I was a little surprised to see some of the (mostly quarterback related) angst directed at Mayock’s pre-combine rankings yesterday. I expect Kiper to get abuse these days, even though most of it is unjustified. But hey, that’s the way the world is going right now. Some guy might think Matt Barkley is a bum who deserves a fourth round grade (he doesn’t). Others think Tyler Wilson is the greatest thing since sliced bread and are more than happy to ram that opinion down your throat. Everyone has a right to an opinion and a right to disagree. I thought Von Miller was overrated. I’m comfortable admitting that was an epic misjudgement. I just wish people wouldn’t take their own views so seriously sometimes.

Sure it was outrageous that Kiper had Colt McCoy in his top-25 throughout the 2010 build-up. But he’s always going to have views like that and hey — it gives people something to talk about. He’s a haircut that talks about the draft. And the whole event wouldn’t be the same without him.

(rant over)

Personally, I found Mayock’s rankings refreshing. It was great to see Khaseem Greene rated highly (#3 outside linebacker, ahead of Barkevious Mingo). Cordarrelle Patterson was ranked as the #1 receiver with Tyler Eifert edging Zach Ertz among tight ends. Geno Smith and Matt Barkley were the top two quarterbacks. Sharrif Floyd was the #1 defensive tackle — a trend we’re seeing more and more.

I would’ve had DeAndre Hopkins in the top five receivers (the biggest shock for me) but perhaps Mayock just hasn’t got round to the Clemson tape yet? I also would’ve liked to see him separate the rush linebackers (Mingo, Jarvis Jones, Dion Jordan) from the orthodox 4-3 guys (Greene, Arthur Brown). Yet overall Mayock provides a solid list. And without doubt when the combine roles around this week, he’ll be compulsive listening on the NFL Network. Just like Kiper and Todd McShay will be with their ‘First Draft’ podcasts. They are ‘draft entertainment’. Let’s appreciate them for what they are.

Vance McDonald tape

One of the players generating some hype pre-combine is Rice receiver/tight end Vance McDonald. He’s 6-5, 260lbs and had a solid week at the Senior Bowl according to reports. The suggestion is he’ll shine in Indianapolis this week despite his size and possibly push his stock into the second round.

Personally, I can’t tell how good or bad he is on tape.

The Rice offense is such that he isn’t running many conventional routes. In the tape below he basically lined up in the slot and took screen passes from the quarterback. I guess it’s indicative of his athletic potential if they’re trying to put the ball in his hands in space — that’s pretty unique at 260lbs. Yet one of the things I like so much about Zach Ertz is you can see him run pretty much a full route tree in college. He gets downfield, he works over the middle, he runs the post and the slant. You know what you’re getting.

With a guy like McDonald, there’s much more of an unknown. He needs to impress at the combine to prove he’s worthy of the investment, so you can get him into your roster and work him into a joker tight end. If he doesn’t flash the kind of athleticism people are talking about, I’m not sure the hype will be justified. I’ve seen Jordan Reed find an inch of space, explode and run from third to fifth gear quickly. It gets you excited, you start to wonder how good he could be. McDonald needs to prove he also has that ‘wow’ factor.

One thing that does bother me are his hands. He seems to bobble a lot of passes, or at least paw at them. He was responsible for a bad pick-six in against Baylor because he just bats the ball straight to a defensive back. The pass wasn’t great and thrown slightly behind, but I didn’t think much to the catching effort. He had a couple of bad drops in the tape too. On the plus side, he managed to get pretty open on the second touchdown in the same game and he showed sure hands on that occasion. I also liked a difficult catch McDonald made over the middle against Houston for a decent gain.

At the moment there are four tight ends I’d be willing to draft in the first two rounds — Ertz, Escobar Reed and Eifert. In that order. I wasn’t thrilled with Travis Kelce’s tape — he rounded off a ton of routes, looks better as a blocker than a receiver and maybe the long, dramatic touchdown in his final play as a college player has boosted his stock a little too much. He’s a mid-round pick for me and more of an orthodox tight end compared to the likes of Ertz or Reed.


  1. Aussie Rich

    The problem with draft coverage is that there is a small team (5 people?) trying to cover 32 teams, each team having an offensive and defensive scheme. Then you see the war rooms of teams during the draft, each team has about 20 people. All these people are trying to find 7 players to fit into their schemes. The media team can’t know each scheme thoroughly, and have to scout players on an overall grading rather than scheme fits. and even then they have to try and scout 300 plus players. Where each team can eliminate alot of players straight away purely because of the position they play. And then the interviews, Russell Wilson is the perfect example of this, the media analyst have nowhere near as much time to interview a player, in Russ’ case the only one that did fought for him. Which brings me to why I rate this website so highly, Rob can focus on purely the Seahawks scheme, ideally a large media outlet would have a person like Rob for each of the 32 teams.

  2. E

    That first day (or maybe second) day of Senior Bowl practice, Mayock was talking up McDonald at the start of practice. But then McDonald looked bad that day – body catching and bobbling passes – as Mayock did note. I’d be concerned if I were thinking of drafting him.

    • Rob Staton

      He doesn’t look anything particularly special in the three games posted here.

      • mjkleko

        After reading Gil Brandt rave about Vance, I found this tape more then a little surprising. I’d have to assume he had better showings, but those receiving problems appear very real, and even when he does reel them, in it’s not with the violent attacking hands you love to see on those needle threading passes across the middle.. hence bobble pick-6ers..

        The question is, if adding an additional TE is an attempt to increase competition behind Miller and reinforce depth at the position should he be slow to return to full speed (doubt it, dude is tougher then a pile of bricks), does Vance really provide anything that Cooper Helfet doesn’t already? McDonald would have to show well above average athleticism in the Combine for him to warrant draft capital, otherwise I just don’t see it. Despite the large contract given to Miller, JS/PC have shown the tendency to search for the guy that falls threw the cracks for whatever reason, even today where each week a new sorta-quick big guy is labeled the next Hernandez/Gronk/Graham/Gates. If the pull the trigger on a TE in the first 4 rounds, its because they feel they are getting extremely good value.

  3. Stuart

    Hi everyone, Senior Analyst checking in. Mel Kiper was always the man for years. In fact he was the only one doing NFL Draft talk for a long long time, he was a “‘pioneer” if you will. He’s not my favorite now that there are so many other talking heads (including all of us). Everyone of us has missed badly on players before but we are not in the national spotlight.

    Mel just doesnt get JS at all, and that is funny. It’s irritating listening to him rip the Hawks draft choices but he is not the only one. Maybe this year will be different. Maybe he will give credit to JS as a “Maverick”and go on record of saying what a great pick that was, or maybe not…

  4. Rob Staton

    Alec Ogletree arrested for a DUI according to PFT.

    I’ll have a piece on this tomorrow.

    • Colin

      Well we aren’t drafting choir boys to play defense….

      • Charles Fraychineaud

        Might push his draft stock down some more. Im still interesting in a few of the guys that could fall due to some concerns like this or the medical thing with Jarvis Jones. Seems like our locker room can handle alot of the attitude stuff with the leadership and teammates we have here in seattle. I also think that even though its not a primary need while we have clemons, we are still going to need a guy to rush on the other side of irvin on pass rushing downs after clemons leaves, and if jones falls, he could be an option. Teams that run a 4-3, even a varient like ours NEED pass rushers, and good DE’s are more commonly found in the early rounds, compared to 3-techs which have been similarly successful from all over the draft. Ogletree or another top will backer seems like a need for us as well, especially one that we can rush out of our base defense to add pressure rather than always blitzing one of our safeties when rushing 5.

        ok, ok, end of rant.

      • Phil

        Colin – there are a lot of other talented players out there who have the intelligence to hold off their celebrating for 2 weeks until after the combine — the most important “job interview” of their life. I’ve never been a big fan of Ogletree’s, just based on his play, but now he’s just another immature, soon-to-be millionaire with too much other than football on his mind. Contrast his behavior and intelligence with Khaseem Greene.

    • mjkleko

      May be just the thing to push him down to #25…

      You’d have a tough time getting me to agree that there are many players outside the top d-line talents who wouldn’t provide a bigger contribution to this defense then Ogletree given his unique blend of height, physicality & speed. As the defense continues to grow, finding players who not only fit the tough, run-stopping attitude but can also be an asset against those drive sustaining routes up the hashes has got to be a priority.

  5. Leonard

    I love this article Mr. Staton. It would be fair to say that the amount of time I spend “YouTube scouting” borders on unhealthy. However, it is always a good idea to remind yourself that compared to the worst scout/coach/GM in the league you are basically functionally retarded. With the possible exception of Matt Millen. Yet so many of us make asses of ourselves in comments sections stating with absolute certainty and utter contempt that X player is better than Y or only a moron would draft a 5ft 10 inch QB. Many “professionals” fall into the same trap. I think called Pete Carroll a crack head after last years draft. In retrospect he may have looked a little less foolish if he had just admitted that he didn’t understand what they were doing. I have chimed in on a few comments sections when I thought a mock drafter was going off a false impression of the Hawks 4-3 under or how we are the new Raiders drafting a track team.
    Knowing my own depth of info was modest I tried to be respectful and offer what I have learned following the Seahawks front office in my pseudo stocker way. I try not to be too absolute in my opinions seeing as how our front office is not made of robots that do the same thing the same way every time. For instance, we all know the prototype LEO but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them try a bigger, stronger guy that still has a great 1st step. Drafting Ansah or signing Bennett from TB would be interesting to me. More than one way to do things. I’m sure someone will read that and call me an idiot. They could easily be right. The thing is that they are more that likely idiots themselves. All of us who don’t report directly to the team are idiots to one degree or another.
    So let’s try to keep this in perspective, ask questions and offer opinions to one and other. Have fun and share your findings.
    Sorry for the long post but your writing put words to what I have been thinking these last few weeks.
    Thanks again. I hope every one reads your article, checks themselves and the goes back to having fun.

  6. Leonard

    I know this guy doesn’t belong in the same round as the others mentioned but what do you think of TE/WR T.J. Knowles from Sacramento State. He transferred from South Florida, don’t know why. He is just under 6-8, 255lbs and is a former basketball player. He is expected to run a mid 4.6 forty and bench press 225lbs 15 times. The most impressive thing I saw on his YouTube video was he one every jump ball and it wasn’t even close. Sound like a guy Wilson would like to throw to? I don’t think he is much of a route runner or in line blocker but he is a solid hands catcher that has decently loose hips for someone his size.
    I guess he impressed at the Shrine game. But I haven’t found out much more than this. If anyone else has any info or opinions on the guy let us know.

  7. Madmark

    Thank God for Kiper and Mayock! With there opinions we was able to get a franchise quarterback in the 3rd round HeHe. They been doing it for a while and where would we be on the speculation without them. Sure they’ll miss like Tim did on Aaron Curry but that will happen.
    As for Tight Ends I’m thinking we could get Travis Kelce in 3rd or 4th round. Whoever we draft as weapons for Russel Wilson I just know they are going to get the instruction they need from the QB. For the Tight End spot Tom Cables going to get involved and this boy can block already and catch. Russel will straighten out the routes.
    I thinking theres a run on TE and OLB in the 2nd. What do you think Rob?

    • Rob Staton

      Definite run on TE’s — could see four go in the late first, early second. I think we’ll see three OLB’s go between the #20-56.

  8. AlaskaHawk

    I may be the only one- but I think Kipers comments were fair at the time of the draft.
    Our first round choice Irvin was graded mid second round. He turned into a 3 down starter, but not really what you want froma first round player. Especially considering we could have had full time players like Cox, Coples or Ingrams.
    Second round Wagner was spot on.
    Third round Wilson, we took a chance and it paid off. But historically his height was an issue. It paid off for us but Kiper wouldn’t. Know that till mid season.
    Fourth round two choices that turned out to be part time players.
    Not much to talk about later in the draft, except for Scruggs and Sweezy. While they both are interesting, it would be hard to predict there potential.

    In summary- our first round unconventional pick lowered our entire draft grade. And not picking a DT like Cox last year is now effecting this draft. Picking Wilson was a gamble that paid off, but no one knew that till mid season. In 3 year retrospect the 2012 draft will seem better.

    • williambryan

      I thought I saw a stat that showed Irvin, Coples, and Cox played a very similar amount of snaps during the season? There’s not many fulltime DL anymore. Justin Smith, Chris Clemons are the only two that I’m sure play about 95% of the snaps, I’m sure there are a few more but not many.

      • AlaskaHawk

        I think the best defenses can rotate their line and keep them fresh. I see us trying to find backups that can rotate in, people like Scruggs and Jones and Howard.

        What disappointed me last year was that we would hold teams on first and second downs, rotate in our pass defense team and then give away the third down. We were pretty bad on third downs. I’ve seen it debated whether that was due to poor pass rush or to defensive scheme (zone). I dont’ know, but there were a few games where the Qb had a lot of time to make plays. Can’t remember which game it was where we only rushed two and the QB made a long toss for completion (Sherman totally mistimed his jump) and then they got a FG to tie and we went into overtime. It just made me sick!

        Anyhow, I’m excited about the upcoming draft.

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