Transcript of ESPN’s NFL Draft Conference Call with Todd McShay

Today, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay was available for a media conference call to discuss the 2012 NFL Draft. A full audio replay can be found on ESPN MediaZone. The transcript is as follows:

Q: Sorry to take you away from the larger picture and ask you about some Northwestern guys.  I’m curious about Dan Persa, Jeremy Ebert, Al Netter.  Any of these guys moving up the board in attracting teams at this point? And I’d also include Drake Dunsmore in that.

TODD McSHAY: Well, I want to like Dan Persa more as an NFL prospect, but unfortunately he’s limited.  You look at what he offers, 5’11” and a little bit of change, just about 210 pounds, in that range.  Such a good competitor and can create with his feet.  He’ll get a look.  I mean, he’ll get an opportunity to come and compete for a roster spot in training camp, but I don’t know that he’s going to wind up getting drafted.  He’s a good enough athlete where they could try to get him involved in special teams and do some different things, the kind of guy you want on your team, but I just don’t know that he fits in the NFL from a skills perspective.

Dunsmore, versatile, 6’2″, 240, kind of a fullback, tight end, H back, that role, will have to contribute on special teams.  I’ve got a seventh round grade on him.  I think he catches the ball well, and like all these guys, they’re all kind of hard working, competitive players that you like what they do.  You watch tape and you appreciate how hard they play the game.

Ebert, 5’11”, 200, quicker than fast.  I know he ran — I think he ran like a 4.45 or some pretty good speed at his pro day, but I didn’t see on tape the same kind of speed that maybe he ran in that.  But he’s tough, he’ll go over the middle, slot receiver.  I’ve got a seventh round grade on Ebert.

The only other guy you mentioned is Netter.  He’s kind of a tackle, guard prospect, 6’4″, I’ve got 313 pounds with    average-sized arms, big hands, strong.  He’s strong enough, kind of tough, mechanically, technically sound.  But again, limited athletically and not overwhelming at the point of attack, so I think he’s probably more likely to be a free agent but could get drafted in the last round or two.

Q: The last month it seems like Shea McClellin has got a lot of buzz out of Boise State.  What have you heard that’s made him so valuable and how realistic do you think it is that he could crack the late first round?

TODD McSHAY: You know, I think it’s realistic that he could.  I initially watched him in January and liked him but hadn’t finished his evaluation and went back about a month and a half ago when we were kind of going through and watched three more games on him, especially later, two of the three were in the second half of the season, and I think one of them was the Bowl game against Arizona State.

But anyway, he’s just so versatile, first of all.  You watch a game and you’re going to see him at defensive end, outside linebacker, then he’s standing up playing inside linebacker.  I think as the season progressed, at least from what I could tell, he kind of got more natural in that versatile role doing different things, and to me, I like his motor, I like his toughness, and I think that he really has potential to be an impact pass rusher.  That to me, when I start to look at some of these other guys on the defensive end, outside linebacker class like Andre Branch and Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry, it won’t shock me when it’s all said and done if McClellin ends up being a better pass rusher than a lot of those guys who have got a lot more height.  I think it’s a tribute to, first of all, he plays with leverage, he can bend the edge, and by that I mean he doesn’t lose a lot of ground when he’s turning the corner.  He has good torso flexibility.  He’s strong when turning the corner, and there’s just not a lot of wasted steps.

You add in the fact that he’s 6’3″, 260, runs a 4.63 in the 40 and has good production for a guy that’s not always coming off the edge, 16 and a half sacks the last two years, I can see why he’s “moving up” or there’s a perception that he’s starting to move up.  We’ve had kind of an early second-round grade on him for a while.  I would think it would be a good pick if some team in the last five, six picks decides to take him and thinks he can be an impact rusher and can play a versatile role, probably in a 3-4 defense in the NFL.

Q: Last year there were eight guys drafted from UM, which was surprising after kind of a mediocre to poor season.  This year they’re 6-6 again and they’re saying possibly nine guys could be drafted, maybe more.  Is that unusual, and I also wanted to know, other than Lamar (Miller), we know about Lamar, out of the guys going early, Tommy Streeter, Olivier Vernon, Brandon Washington, Marcus Forston, of course Lamar, who do you think are the ones that have the most potential, and then part three is, will Jacory (Harris) even be drafted?

TODD McSHAY: Jacory, I tend to doubt it.  He showed some flashes this past year.  I thought he played better this past year, but just — the inconsistency jumps out, and the turnovers and just not protecting and caring for the football.  He’s still kind of slight framed and there are durability concerns there.  But he has enough arm talent, so it’s not to say that he won’t one day land on a roster if he’s able to continue to develop somehow, but it’s just tough to develop as a quarterback because there’s nowhere to really go and get good developing, if you will, from this point on.

Nine guys from Miami, I have to sit here and count.  Travis Benjamin I would say yes, so that’s one; Chase Ford has a chance late as kind of a sleeper; LaRon Byrd is kind of in that same category – there’s a chance, but I’m not saying that he really has a good chance or a great chance to get drafted.  I would take a chance on him in the last couple rounds.  Marcus Forston makes it two; Lamar Miller, three; (Adewale) Ojomo is kind of on the fringe; Regis is on the fringe, but I would say there’s a good likelihood he gets drafted five; Sean Spence is five; Streeter, six; Vernon, seven; Washington, eight.  So you could see as many as nine guys going.  It wouldn’t shock me.  But I would say probably a safe bet is seven.

You know, Olivier Vernon of all those guys after Miller is the most intriguing to me, I guess.  Tommy Streeter there’s a lot of interest because of the height, weight and speed, and certainly he’s a great athlete and has more potential than we’ve seen him do at Miami, but the tape just doesn’t match up with what I see.  I would have a hard time drafting him in the first four rounds, even though there’s a strong chance he goes somewhere in that third-, fourth-round range.

But Vernon to me, I think he’s a better player than maybe the perception, and at 6’3″, 262, I think he played defensive end, can play outside linebacker, can do a little bit of both.  Has some stiffness, there’s no question.  He’s not a great athlete, and his production didn’t always match up, and I’ve heard some things, is he mature enough, how does he work and all those things.  But if he is focused and doing the right things and working at it and 100 percent dedicated to football, he’s well built, solid, strong, shows some quickness off the line, and I think he has a chance to make an impact as a pass rusher at the next level.

Q: I just wanted to ask you about Justin Blackmon, and is it fair to say that he’s not as good as Green and Jones?  Some people are sort of knocking him down because of that, or do you have to look at the year independently?  And I just want to ask, Kendall Wright, I haven’t heard much about him lately, is he rising or falling, or where do you think he’s going to go?

TODD McSHAY: With Blackmon, that’s an exercise you have to do as an organization is — it’s one thing to put these guys in line with the draft, but then what are they compared to guys in the NFL?  Where do we think he’s going to be two, three years down the road when he’s developed and he’s starting to peak in his NFL career?  Is he going to be an A.J. Green or an Andre Johnson or a (Larry) Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson, and I think the answer is no.  Does that mean he’s not a really, really good football player?  Of course not.  But you have to make that decision and then look at the other players in the draft if you’re drafting somewhere in the top five, six picks and compare them to their position and what you can get.

So to me, when you’re looking at – let’s say the Cleveland Browns, for instance.  When you’re looking at it, yes, Blackmon is a very good player, and yes, he fits what you want to do offensively, but is he — I don’t think he’s as good at his position, not even — I shouldn’t say not even close, but I think there’s a noticeable difference in terms of when you stack up Blackmon versus the elite, elite receivers in the NFL versus Trent Richardson and what he can provide, compared to what the elite, elite in the NFL is.  And I think he’s the best back that has come out since Adrian Peterson from a talent standpoint and football character and just being a team guy and being able to catch the ball and block and everything you look for at that position.  That’s I think why he’s getting knocked a little bit.

And I’ve even heard people say they would take (Michael) Floyd over Blackmon.  I don’t agree.  I think Floyd shows a little bit more stiffness, and while he makes a lot of great catches, there are some drops on tape, so I don’t think he’s better in that facet of the game than Blackmon.  It’s an interesting debate.  I don’t think Blackmon is in the elite, elite, but I also think he’s a notch below and compares favorably to a Dwayne Bowe and that type of receiver who is averaging almost 100 yards per season in the NFL, so you would take that as your top option at the wide receiver position.

Kendall Wright, he could drop a little bit, and maybe he becomes the fourth receiver taken.  I still think he goes in the first round.  There are some concerns.  He has drops on tape.  He double catches the ball a lot.  He’s just not a natural pass catcher.  He’s got a lot to learn about running routes.  Why did he run those times at the combine in the 4.6s?  Was he not prepared?  Why was he not prepared?  You hear all sorts of things this time of year, and I get it, it’s the process and you have to do what you have to do to weed out guys and to figure out what the negatives and weaknesses are, but I still think Kendall Wright ends up somewhere late in the first round because he’s just so explosive as a slot receiver and can be in the return game with some experience.

Q: This question is a television question.  How should television viewers judge what you do in relation to the actual draft itself?  Should it be on the accuracy of where you slot people, the specifics of your analysis or something else?

TODD McSHAY: That’s a good question.  I hope it’s not on mock drafts because to me one pick changes and it can go in a bunch of different directions.  I’ve always said that it should be that Chris Mortensens and Adam Shefters of the world that do the mock drafts because that’s kind of more information gathering and buzz and what you’re hearing.

Personally, what I’d like to be evaluated on is a combination of both of the things you said.  Not necessarily even where players are drafted as much as the success of their career compared to where I had them ranked.  So when I sit there and put together, quote unquote, my board, or however you want to look at it, and I come up with the top 100 players, those 100 players, how did they succeed at the next level compared to where I ranked them, and then comparing where I ranked them to maybe where they came off the board and everybody else, and then finally the specifics of the analysis.

I pride myself on watching the tape, tape after tape after tape, a minimum of six tapes on every single player that there’s an evaluation on.  For the quarterbacks it’s every single throw they’ve made their final season and at least four tapes from the previous year, whether it’s their junior year or sophomore year, and now I’m able to translate that information and how accurate I am with the information.  That’s hopefully how I’m judged ultimately.

Q: I have a couple questions about a couple of Virginia Tech prospects, David Wilson and Jayron Hosley.  First I’m curious about their physical size.  How is that viewed by NFL teams if they’re not the biggest guys at their spots?  And the knock I’ve heard on Wilson is that he’s kind of not a master at the running back position, he hasn’t really got it all down.  Do you agree with that assessment?

TODD McSHAY: Well, I think size is much more a factor with Hosley than it is with Wilson I would say.  I don’t think at the running back position — you’ve got to be able to withstand a beating if you’re going to be drafted in the first two rounds, as Wilson likely will be, because there’s an expectation that you don’t have to carry, handle every carry in the NFL today, but you’ve got to be able to carry the majority of the load.

But you look at the way he’s built, 5’9″ and five eighths, 206, he’s strong, though.  I stood next to him at the Sugar Bowl on the sideline, and you just look at him and he’s just powerfully built, and he also is — he’s a competitive runner.  He hates going down, and I love that about his game.

His vision, not great; he’s impatient at times.  You can see some of the highlight runs, the negative runs where he refuses to go down and loses a lot of yards.  There’s a couple of those.  Even the little — there’s smaller versions of those that you can’t have at the next level with that kind of consistency.

There is a little bit of tunnel vision in his game, and I think if he can improve that aspect, he’s going to need to in order to take his game to the next level.

I also think the passing game is an area that needs improvement.  He needs to do a better job of catching the football and become more natural doing that.  So those are kind of the negatives and the positives of him, but I don’t think that size is going to be a huge factor in where he gets drafted, and ultimately I think he’s the fourth best back in this class.  Most people I talk to think he’s somewhere around third, but ultimately I think he probably comes off the board in round two.

Hosley, he’s 5’10”, it’s not a terrible height.  The average cornerback in the NFL is only 5’11”.  Only 178 pounds, though, so he’s short and lean, and when you look at it, he has short arms, too, 30 inch arms, and it’s a bigger deal than I guess some people might think with the arm length because it just helps — the longer the arms, the more capable you are of going up and competing for the ball.  So I do think his size will factor into his evaluation.  I think his coverage skills are good.  I think his instincts are very good.  Ball skills are obviously upper echelon, but I don’t think he supports the run very well.

There are enough negatives there for him to fall to the third round, but I think there are enough positives that he won’t fall to the third day.

Q: I just wanted to ask you where you see Wisconsin’s Aaron Henry fitting into the safety class and if you think he was hurt by not getting an invite to the combine this year.

TODD McSHAY: You know, I think he gets drafted, I really do.  I watched some more tape of him recently.  I think he’s versatile, and when you watch him on tape, he makes some plays, he can come up and support the run, and I just — when you look at his body of work, his experience playing, I think he has — I think he can come in and contribute right away on special teams.

To me, can he play the cornerback position and turn and run?  You know, there’s questions with that.  He’s going to have to be protected.

And I don’t think with the combine that’s a huge deal, I really don’t.  At the combine people do a great job of getting the vast majority of the top prospects there.  Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of the players drafted Thursday, Friday, Saturday will be players that were not at the combine, and those are just the numbers, the statistics.  There’s plenty of guys out there.  You’re talking around 30 plus guys that could get drafted that are not — that did not attend the combine.

Teams have enough tape and the pro days and everything else to go off of that it’s not like a player is going to slip through the cracks just because they didn’t get seen in that light.

Q: Travis Lewis from Oklahoma, here’s a guy who has 53 career starts; he’s made 450 some odd tackles; he’s got interceptions; he’s got fumble recoveries; he’s played through an injury.  He’s got a full résumé.  Given his career productivity, what is it you think about him that NFL scouts might not like, that might make them hesitate to use an early pick?

TODD McSHAY: The biggest thing to me when I watched his tape was the take on skills.  I just don’t see the point of attack strength, and his technique is not great, buries his head.  He just struggles when he has to take on blocks.  Guys like that have got to be able to run really well and have to be — have to have savvy and know how to get around blocks and how to try to take them on initially but give up leverage in order to get off of blocks in order to not get engulfed, and I don’t think he’s developed that in his 53 starts, unless he wasn’t being coached properly, which I have a hard time believing.  I don’t know that he’s going to just all of a sudden one day develop that savvy.

So that’s a concern, and it’s a big concern when you’re playing linebacker.  You’ve got to be able to take on blocks.  He runs a 4.88 in the 40 yard dash, so I don’t know that he has the great speed and the range to overcome it.

Tackling, I thought he was one of the better tacklers of all the linebackers I saw.  Instincts were above average.  3rd down capability was average.  I thought he did enough to play on 3rd downs.  But if he’s going to make it at the next level, he’s got to get stronger and improve his ability when taking on blocks and getting off and disengaging from blocks.

Q: Matt Kalil, how does his skill set compare to the other elite left tackle prospects we’ve seen in the draft say the last ten years, Joe Thomas and Jake Long, and if you’re at Minnesota at three, do you think it makes any sense to dangle that pick in a trade, or is he a prospect that’s maybe too good to pass up, a position of significant need for them?

TODD McSHAY: Just about every pick in every draft I would try to dangle.  I don’t see any harm in trying to get a deal.  Why just bury your head in the sand when there may be a team out there, especially when you have a situation like we have with Tannehill?  I don’t know that Ryan Tannehill is going to be a player of high interest for the Cleveland Browns or not.  I still think they’re kind of deciding that or have been — in the last few days have maybe made that decision.  But why not try, because if you get a great offer to move back, and while you hate to pass up on a Matt Kalil, maybe you can move back and fill multiple holes with three starters versus just one potentially top of the line starter at left tackle.

Now, that’s the pro for taking offers and looking into it.  The con is, in my opinion, Matt Kalil has a chance to be a top five, top seven, maybe at worst top ten left tackle in the NFL when it’s all said and done.  I think he — I know he needs to continue to get stronger, and I see that on tape.  There are times where he doesn’t finish.  He’s giving the effort but he’s not able to finish and he’s pushed off a block, or guys who have good power rush, bull rush moves are able to jack him back into the quarterback a little bit.

I was just watching tape recently, you watch, a guy drives him back a little bit and gets his arm up is able to bat a ball down with Matt Barkley.  Those types of things can all be solved with improving his strength and getting bigger.  He’s already bulked up to 306, and I have to believe with his work ethic and commitment that he’s going to get there.

He has the long arms you look for, 34 and a half — the average is 34 inch arms for left tackles.  Big hands, he has the frame at 6’6″ and five eighths inches, moves extremely well.  Has just the bloodline; his dad played ball, his brother Ryan obviously a Carolina Pro Bowler.  I don’t know.  I keep hearing about — not from Minnesota because I won’t ask, it’s a waste of time, but I keep hearing from people that say that they’re talking to Minnesota and that they don’t love Kalil, and maybe that’s the case.  But I’ll be surprised — if they stay at three, I’ll be surprised if the pick is not Kalil.

And Joe Thomas to me is a good comparison.  I think Kalil has a little bit more    I don’t want to say nasty in him, but he’s got a nasty side, but I think Joe Thomas is a pretty good comparison.

Q: If you ran a West Coast offense, what type of attributes are you looking for in a quarterback and a wide receiver, and which prospects in this draft maybe fit the West Coast offense as their best kind of offense?

TODD McSHAY: Well, quarterback, you can say smart.  You’ve got to be smart and understand how to make quick decisions for any kind of system, but I think it’s especially important.  I think you have to be able to get the ball out quickly.  I think you have to be able to move your feet and have some mobility and find passing windows quickly with your feet.  You have to be able to throw accurately, and you have to be able to do so with — you have to be great when it comes to leading receivers to yards after catch.  I think those are some of the qualities that kind of differentiate West Coast from some of the other styles of offense.

I don’t want to say it’s finesse, but you don’t have to have the big strong arm, you don’t typically have to drive the ball down the field as much, but you’ve got to be able to do a lot of the little things well that maybe guys — Zampese, Coryell type of offense or the Erhardt-Perkins type of offense.  Those guys tend to have a stronger arm and make throws down the field more consistently.

Wide receiver, to me, the really, really good ones are strong enough to get off the line and kind of impose their will on defensive backs.  They’ve got to have run after catch ability, and I think that they’ve got to have — like the quarterback, I think that they have to have a higher football IQ than in other systems.  Not all other systems.  I think you have to have a really high football IQ to play in the Patriots’ version of the Erhardt-Perkins type of offensive style, so it’s not across the board, but West Coast wide receivers typically have to be able to make quick decisions on the fly and have to know where to go.  So being big, strong and imposing, run after catch and football smarts.

You know, receivers that fit that mold, I think Justin Blackmon to a certain degree fits it.  I think Michael Floyd fits it.  I don’t think Kendall Wright does perfectly.  I don’t think Stephen Hill necessarily does, but I’m not saying he wouldn’t fit.  I don’t think Rueben Randle.  You start to go down the list a little bit.  Even though some of the smaller guys aren’t perfect fit, I think guys like Jarius Wright have enough football intelligence and know how to get off the line, and Juron Criner would be a decent example.  His run after catch isn’t great but he’s physical, he’s smart and runs hard at least after the catch.  Those are some of the wide receivers — I glanced through a list — that I think would fit the West Coast pretty well.

Q: I’m curious about two of Washington’s prospects.  Chris Polk, there’s been some talk he did not interview well at the combine, and I’m wondering where you see his status, and then the big nose guard they have, (Alameda) Ta’amu, if he’s someone you expect to go in the first half of the draft.

TODD McSHAY: Well, Chris Polk, there’s a lot things to like.  I didn’t hear that — that he didn’t interview well.   Maybe that’s the case, but guys I’ve talked to, when I’ve talked to them about Polk, that has not come up.  It doesn’t mean    again, it doesn’t mean that that’s not the case.

With Polk, I don’t see the explosiveness in his running that maybe some people do, but in the same breath, I think he runs with a wide base.  I think he runs with good balance.  He’s competitive.  He runs hard, there’s no question about it.

I mean, what’s not to love about him in the passing game?  I think he’s an above average blocker coming out of the college ranks, and he does as good a job as anyone in this class in terms of catching the ball, running routes.  He’s just real, real natural in the passing game.

There’s value in that, and he’s the type of guy, just the passionate, diligent worker, loves the game, all those sorts of things, that will contribute on special teams, as well.

Now, the negatives, I told you the explosiveness, I don’t see that agility and acceleration.  And also the two shoulder injuries, or surgeries, that he had, just looking at my notes here, I think in 2008 he had the first one, had season ending surgery, and then 2010, underwent a second surgery.  That is what is come up in my conversation with teams.  I rely obviously on teams and the reports they’re getting from doctors, and then with the durability stuff and the character stuff.  That’s the kind of one negative that comes up that I don’t see on tape myself.

But I think Polk, ultimately probably best — I think third round is a good range for Polk.  I don’t see him getting into the second.  I don’t think there are a bunch of teams that are looking for running backs that high.  Fourth round would probably be worst case, but I think Polk will probably come off the board in the third.

Ta’amu, I think he’s a good fit for the nose tackle.  I didn’t have a huge — I saw that the production wasn’t there, and didn’t have a great season this past year, and he’s never going to be a good pass rusher.  But at 348 pounds, I didn’t see the effort problems that a lot of people, or some people I’ve heard, mention.  He’s just a big guy, and I thought he actually played with pretty good effort and had good stamina.  He was rarely substituted in 2010 when I watched and a little bit more this past year, but I thought he hustled and played well, and again, at 348 there’s not many guys like him, and there are enough teams running a 3-4 that I think he’s a second round pick.

Q: Looking at the defensive tackles in this first round here with Fletcher Cox, Dontari Poe and Michael Brockers, some of them you think, projecting five years down the line, do you think it’s a position that takes time to grasp that you like fitting best in the NFL, and another guy in the middle of that first round, Mark Barron, do you think he can be that impact, hard hitting and play-making safety that we’ve seen with the elite guys in this league?

TODD McSHAY: Barron, I don’t know that he has elite, elite physical tools when you go back and look at some of the top-five, top-ten picks at safety, and there’s just not many of them.  But I don’t see many weaknesses.  He does everything pretty well.  You can pick on how much range does he have; is he your classic Ed Reed center-fielder type, no.  But he’s instinctive enough, gets in position, and I think can cover enough ground to easily — certainly in a two high safety look, he can get to the sideline and then occasionally if he’s stuck in the middle third, I think he can hold up because he’s so instinctive.  But I love him against tight ends in man to man coverage, and obviously the value is rising in terms of that ability.

I think you see the toughness he brings and the competitiveness and the ability to change directions quickly when competing against tight ends.  I’m not saying wide receivers but against tight ends.

Good ball skills.  He’s physical versus the run, and he does all the little things, and you watch the tape over and over again, he’s getting (DeQuan) Menzie and those guys in position when they’re making mental errors, and he just seems to have that quarterback gene on the defensive side that the great ones seem to have at that position.  I think he belongs in the first 15 picks.  I think the Cowboys could take him at 14, any of those three teams, the Eagles at 15 or the Jets at 16.

As far as the defensive tackles, it’s a deep group, and there’s a lot of talent here.  Fletcher Cox, the more tape I watch, the more he just grew on me, and I love his versatility.  I think he plays the game hard.  I think he can rush the passer both from the inside and the outside, different styles, more of a three technique.  On the outside he seals the edge and is stronger at the point of attack than when he plays on the inside, but I also see some ability to get off the quarterback with power moves and leverage moves as a left defensive end type or a 3-4 defensive end, as well, on occasion.  I think he’s the best of the group, I really do, and I think he’ll continue to get better.

Brockers, I like.  I realize that he has some maturing to do, both as a football player and just as a young man, and I think that he shows a lot of potential, but he’s not quite there yet.  But I think he’s going to get stronger.  I see some power in his game.  I think he can be a really good 3-4 defensive end or play defensive tackle, possibly even nose tackle depending on the scheme, and I think he’s the second best defensive tackle.

And Poe, I get it.  I see the workout numbers, and I found myself wanting and waiting and wishing and hoping is what I keep saying.  Every single play I watched from Memphis just hoping that he would make a big play.  He will disrupt and he’ll be involved in some plays, but for a guy that you’re talking about potential top ten, top 12 pick, I just didn’t see the production, and I just didn’t see a guy who understands and has a great feel for the game, and that’s not to say he won’t develop, and he very well may, and one day he may be a junior Haloti Ngata.  But Haloti Ngata coming out was a much better football player than Dontari Poe is right now, and that scares me, and that’s why I’ve dropped him to where he is as the third best defensive tackle, somewhere in kind of the middle range of the — I think I have him at 17 or 18 overall right now in this class.  I’ve got him at 19, sorry, overall in the class.

Q: I was just wondering about Michigan players.  Obviously no first round guys, but (Mike) Martin, (David) Molk, (Junior) Hemingway, and I don’t even know if Van Bergen would be included in that list.  Where do you see those guys going in this draft?  And if I could piggy back on that, I’ve asked Mel this before, too, about Denard Robinson, looking ahead to next year, can you see him playing quarterback in the NFL?

TODD McSHAY: No, no, but I can see him playing wide receiver in kind of a versatile role and being able to help in the return game and all that, because he’s just a phenomenal athlete.  We have a full year to get into him.  But I do think there’s a spot for him in the NFL.  I do not think it’s at quarterback.

The other Michigan players, I kind of like all of them, the way they play the game.  I recognize they all have limitations.  Hemingway, when the ball is in the air, he’s so competitive, times his jumps well, and I think he does a really good job in that facet of the game.  Obviously he doesn’t have the speed, and getting in and out of breaks and a lot of the little things that you look for in wide receivers, but I do think he’s going to catch on, and I think probably as a — somewhere in the day three range, fifth, sixth round, I just think that he catches the ball well enough and has instincts as a receiver and a route runner that he’s going to wind up I think outplaying his draft spot.

Martin is arguably my favorite player in this draft.  I could watch him over and over and over again.  He’s one of five or six players that just are so much fun to watch because they just never quit.  I’ve nicknamed him Grunt.  He’s just your classic grunt.  He’s just always working hard and he’s going to outwork you.  He’s quick off the ball.  He has some power, but he’s small, he’s short, and he can get engulfed and pushed around at times by bigger guys and get caught up in traffic and all that.

I won’t be surprised if he winds up in the third round.  I’ve heard people say fifth round.  I just think teams recognize what he can do, the effort with which he plays, and I think he winds up in the third round.

And as far as Molk is concerned, he’s a little bit like an offensive version of Martin, just the toughness, and I think he’s instinctive, smart enough, and has all the mental part of the game that you need to be a center in the NFL.  I do think, again, there are physical limitations there, but I think when you start to look at the center position, you’ve got Peter Konz from Wisconsin, and then you can make — I would argue that he’s probably the second best center in this class.  Ben Jones would be the other guy from Georgia, but I think both those guys, Jones and Molk, are in the fourth round range.

Q: I know we’ve talked a lot in the first round when it comes to the Bengals, it seems like offensive guard and cornerback are the two positions, but are there any defensive linemen that would be a good fit in the first round and also maybe some mid-round linebackers that you would like for them being as though they’re a little thin in that area?

TODD McSHAY: Right.  You know, I’m interested to see where these defensive ends go; I really am, because I think as a group it’s overrated.  It’s an overrated group because of the pass rushing potential.

There’s a strong chance that Quinton Coples falls, and it wouldn’t shock me if we’re sitting there at 17 and he’s on the board.  If that’s the case, Cincinnati, if they’re comfortable, that’s about a good spot where you could take Coples and take a chance on him, and if it doesn’t work out you can live with it because the potential for him to be a big time impact player is there.

If not, then I think you start to look at guys like Chandler Jones out of Syracuse, who I’ve long said is one of the more underrated players in this draft.  I watched him back in January and gave him a first round grade and haven’t budged on it.  I think he might go in the first round, but that’s ultimately where I think he belongs.  So 17 or 21, I think that would be a good spot for him.

You start looking down the line, and I agree, I think at linebacker they’re a little bit thin.  And with this year’s group, there’s a little bit of depth that’s not a great class, but I think in the fourth and fifth round is where you could get a pretty good player without passing up another position that’s stronger.  Nigel Bradham, Sean Spence, both ACC players, Bradham out of Florida State, Spence from Miami, I think both of them fit well in a 4 3 defense.

Then you look at Keenan Robinson, who’s your classic Will linebacker, if you will, great athlete, can drop and cover, runs around blocks, too much finesse, not great at the point of attack, but he’s freakish athletically.  I think those are three players that could fit the bill in that probably late third- to fourth-round range that fit exactly what Cincinnati is looking for in a linebacker.

Q: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about in your opinion which of the first-round defensive tackles might also have the capability of bumping outside from time to time maybe as a defensive end in a 4-3 system, and sort of along the same lines, which top defensive tackles and defensive ends might be available for the Titans around 20?

TODD McSHAY: Well, you mean defensive tackles that can bump outside when they go to a three man front, right?


Q: Correct, yeah.

TODD McSHAY: Well, I think Fletcher Cox, he’s the first one that comes to mind.  I don’t know that — I tend to doubt that he’s going to still be on the board when Tennessee picks at 20.  I think there’s a chance he goes in the top ten picks.  But Michael Brockers could play.  I think he could play defensive tackle.  He could play defensive end in a 3-4.  I actually think that might be his strongest position, also maybe some nose tackle.  Dontari Poe probably belongs at the nose tackle position in a 3-4, but I also think he could play five technique, 3-4 defensive end, as well.  Those are the three in the first round.

But you get in the second round, does Kendall Reyes drop a little bit?  I think he has the possibility to do the same.  Devon Still from Penn State, people seem to think that he can play 3 4 defensive end.  I don’t see it; I think he plays too high and gets pushed around a little bit too much.


But Cox, Brockers and Poe, one of those three has a chance to fall to 20, and probably Brockers from everything I’m reading, and I think he would be — at 20 he would be a great pick to me.

Q: My question is about obviously the Steelers.  When you look at the history of the draft under Kevin Colbert over the past 12 years, he’s really never lost in the first round.  How amazing of a feat is that to you?  And secondly, how important is that for the organization to win in this draft, especially early on, and especially with their philosophies of not pursuing any high profile free agents?

TODD McSHAY: You know what, there’s a handful of guys — I respect every single general manager because to get to that point is obviously just an amazing feat, considering how many area scouts and how many guys and personnel departments there are out there.  So there’s only 32 of these guys.


But Kevin Colbert is one of the handful of guys that I study just to try to get better and evaluate what he’s doing and what they’re doing as an organization.  So I have the utmost respect for Colbert and for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And part of it is exactly that; they rarely miss.  You look at whether it’s vision or just deciding to take the best player and understanding positional value, guys like Evander Hood and Cameron Heyward, not necessarily huge positions of need at the time, especially when they took Hood back in 2009, but just doing it because they know they’re good football players, they know that they can develop, they know that at some point it’s going to be a position of need, and recognizing that it’s better than reaching for a different position at that point.

And you’re starting to see guys like Ziggy Hood really develop, and Cameron Heyward came on a little bit during the last year last toward the end, and there’s a lot of potential there now for that defensive front because they took the right guys and know how to develop players.

And the fact that they believe in drafting versatile front seven defensive players when all else fails.  Some of them work out, but you start to look at some of the players at the back end of their roster like Stevenson Sylvester and Jason Worilds and so on and so forth, those are guys that are going to eventually be starters in this league or at the very least will be in a rotation and continue to contribute and will be great special teams guys.

It’s very obvious to me why there are teams that continue to win year in and year out.  Occasionally there’s a team that jumps in there, and it’s going to happen.  But the Green Bay Packers, the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers, those are the teams that build through the draft, don’t overpay in free agency, and with their draft philosophies tend to stay true to certain things that they believe in.  Not all things are right, but they stay true to them, and their scouts all know what they’re looking for in positions and the players that fit what they’re doing.  Even if they tend to be off a little bit, at least they have a player that can provide services in a certain area in terms of what they want to do schematically.

And those tend to be all the themes and trends when you study the top teams in the NFL and the top personnel departments.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports (please excuse any typos)