NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock conducted a pre-combine conference call Tuesday with reporters. A few takeaways from a New York Jets perspective:
1. Mayock called this "the deepest and best draft class I've seen in probably 10 years," especially at the wide receiver position. That's good news for the receiver-needy Jets. Mayock said there's so much talent in the draft that a general manager told him that having a top-20 pick this year is equivalent to a top-10 choice last year. The Jets pick 18th.
2. Assessing the Jets' receiving situation, Mayock said, "They need some talent out there." He said he wouldn't be surprised if the Jets picked multiple receivers in the draft. That, of course, could hinge on how they attack free agency. He believes the Jets could have a shot at one of the top three wideouts at 18, most likely USC's Marqise Lee or Texas A&M's Mike Evans. Clemson's Sammy Watkins will be "long gone."
3. Lee and Evans are totally different in terms of body types and skill sets. Lee can play inside, outside and return kicks. At 6-5, Evans is a massive target on the outside. Mayock mentioned how the Jets already have Jeremy Kerley in the slot and Stephen Hill on the outside, adding that Santonio Holmes (an expected cap casualty) is "at the end of his career." Mayock added, "I just think you pick less about X's and O's there; it's which guy is the best football player. My perspective is, you can't go wrong with either Marqise Lee or Mike Evans." He also mentioned Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin, in the Evans mold at 6-5, as a possible consideration.
4. Mayock is high on North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, so much so that he wouldn't be surprised if Ebron is a top-10 pick. The Jets need a pass-catching tight end like Ebron. Based on Mayock's evaluation, it doesn't sound like he'll slip to 18.
5. It took more than a half-hour into the session with reporters, but Mayock was finally asked about Missouri's Michael Sam, the first openly gay prospect in NFL history. Sam's sexual orientation never was mentioned; Mayock kept it strictly about football, giving Sam a lukewarm evaluation.
"He’s a tweener," Mayock said. "That's why people have trouble with the evaluation. ... I saw him on tape and again at the Senior Bowl. What I saw was a natural edge rush guy. He's much better going forward than backward. He’s got a little bit of explosion off the edge, but he doesn’t have the length (at 6-1 5/8, 255 pounds). He’s got linebacker size, but he’s got the physical skill set of a defensive end. He’s a tough fit. What I see is a situational pass-rusher, not an every-down player, and a core special teamer."
Mayock expects Sam to be picked anywhere from the third to fifth round.
6. Mayock raved about Notre Dame's Zack Martin and his versatility, his ability to play guard and tackle. It would be a stunner if the Jets went in that direction at 18, but it's something to file away, considering guard Willie Colon and tackle Austin Howard are headed to free agency.