- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock held a two-hour conference call on Thursday, and here were some of the things that were notable from this viewpoint:
1. Patriots chatter at 29: Asked his thoughts about what the Patriots might do at No. 29 and beyond, Mayock said tight end Jace Amaro could fill an Aaron Hernandez-type on-field role that would create another dynamic in the passing game. Mayock said he has a second-round grade on Amaro, but specific to the Patriots, he said, "I find that fairly intriguing." Mayock mentioned interior defensive line and safety as two other areas that he felt the club could help itself by addressing, before adding the unpredictable Patriots will likely be busy with trades, as usual.
2. Better quality at quarterback this year: Mayock made the point that he has 10 quarterbacks with grades within the first three rounds, which is much higher than the norm. This highlights the thought that it's a good year for teams seeking developmental quarterbacks, as the Patriots appear to be. Specific to Pittsburgh's Tom Savage, who has seemed to pick up quite a bit of momentum in recent weeks, Mayock mentioned him in the late third-round range. Mayock sees Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Georgia's Aaron Murray as the two quarterbacks most ready to play, while everyone else is more suited to a red-shirt year.
3. Conflicting opinion on defensive line class: We were surprised when Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio pinpointed the defensive line as one of the depth spots in the draft in his pre-draft news conference, because that ran counter to what most media analysts have said to this point. Mayock sees the D-line class as light, particularly at end. Mayock also called this a bad tight end class, and his point on the offensive tackles was notable, saying it's not as good of a class as some suggest after the top group of seven. Mayock likes the guard class, which means there could be some mid-round value there (the Patriots could target that area).
4. Re-telling the Mankins story: Mayock relayed the story about the Patriots' 2005 draft and how it's a good lesson for anyone. The team was coming off a Super Bowl victory and badly wanted to go defense at No. 32, according to Mayock, but the board was picked clean and they instead were flexible in switching to Fresno State offensive lineman Logan Mankins. Ultimately, the team was rewarded for not forcing a need, and that was Mayock's main point -- teams shouldn't lock in and must remain light on their feet to pick good football players regardless of position.