Mike Mayock of the NFL Network has become one of the foremost experts on all things NFL draft, and his position rankings are always anxiously awaited. He released his first pre-combine rankings for the 2013 draft on Friday, and immediately the analysis started.
You can check out those rankings at NFL.com, but let's take a closer look at these rankings by position.
No surprises here, as Geno Smith is declared the No. 1 quarterback in the draft by Mayock. The top-four quarterbacks are hardly a surprise, with Smith, Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon and Ryan Nassib leading the pack.
The big surprise here is Landry Jones being included at No. 5, despite his abysmal performance at the Senior Bowl and in big games.
Part of me likes this. In terms of arm strength, footwork and athleticism, Jones is definitely a top-five quarterback in this draft. His upside might be as high as any other quarterback's.
Unfortunately, there will always be a nagging sense of what could have been with Jones. He always racked up crazy statistics, going for 16,647 yards in his career, but Jones never put it together for big games. Instead, he seemed to make his worst mistakes at the most crucial times, including a two-turnover performance against Kansas State this season.
What this probably means is that Mayock doesn't think very highly of this group of quarterbacks, but that's just speculation on my part.
There are no real surprises here either, as Eddie Lacy leads a mediocre group of running backs.
Mayock seems to like Montee Ball more than most, as he put Ball second in the rankings. Ball could rise up draft boards with a solid combine, but the NFL is starting to be wary of slower running backs after the failures of guys like Shonn Greene and Chris Wells.
The final three spots belong to Andre Ellington (Clemson), Giovani Bernard (North Carolina) and Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina). Lattimore is certainly a compelling name to watch after coming off a terrible knee injury in 2012.
Here, Mayock is clearly favoring pro-style receivers over more unique options, as Cordarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen lead the pack. Both are big, athletic receivers in a similar mold as A.J. Green. Patterson is more of a blazer, which is probably why he ranks ahead of Allen.
Mayock dug deep for his No. 5 receiver, as Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton rounded out the group. He's not a well-known player, but he is actually highly regarded thanks to his excellent size and production. The 6'2" wideout racked up 2,594 receiving yards in just two seasons.
Patton may be raw, but Mayock clearly likes his potential.
Mayock may be a bit of a homer here, as the Notre Dame analyst went with Tyler Eifert over Zach Ertz as the No. 1 tight end. They are pretty equal as far as I'm concerned, but Ertz had better production despite shoddy quarterback play.
Nevertheless, both are excellent players.
The other guy on the list that sticks out to me is Travis Kelce, a senior out of Cincinnati. He was an underrated player for a long time, but people are beginning to hear his name more often. Kelce is an excellent blocker with surprising athleticism as a receiver as well.
With the tight end position becoming more and more prominent in the NFL, fans will be interested in tracking these prospects.
There isn't much to say along the offensive line, but there is one stunner worth mentioning. Barrett Jones, regarded as one of the top linemen in the draft, is ranked as Mayock's No. 3 center, behind Travis Frederick and Brian Schwenke.
Jones was dominant at Alabama, but he was helped by the best supporting cast in the nation. His versatility, though, is highly regarded and should make him a top-50 pick.
Outside of the center position, though, Mayock's guard and tackle rankings aren't surprising, with top names like Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper at guard, and Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher at tackle as the highlights.
Mayock put Bjoern Werner ahead of Damontre Moore in a move that may surprise some. I like that decision, as I view Moore as a vastly overrated prospect. Werner is a far better run defender and has more variation in his pass-rushing moves.
Behind those two, there is a group of raw athletes. Ezekial Ansah and Margus Hunt stand out as freakish athletes with huge upside, but significant risk as well.
Sharrif Floyd has seen a meteoric rise up draft boards lately, culminating in being named the No. 1 defensive tackle by Mayock. He is ahead of likely top-10 pick Star Lotulelei out of Utah, but don't be surprised if Lotulelei has his name called first.
In any case, it is noteworthy that Mayock has the Florida lineman ranked No. 1.
Mayock is also high on Sheldon Richardson, putting him at No. 3. He definitely seems to be favoring athletic, high-motor guys over big nose tackles such as Jesse Williams and John Jenkins.
Surprisingly, Mayock has Dion Jordan ahead of Jarvis Jones at outside linebacker. I love Jones as a prospect: He plays like his hair is on fire, and he shows great intelligence and knowledge of the game.
Jordan, on the other hand, is a more freakish athlete at 6'7" and 241 pounds. He also has the versatility to cover, rush the passer and play the run.
Both should be excellent pros, but I do like Jones better.
This is where I disagree most with Mayock, who has Alec Ogletree ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker. I have no interest in Ogletree as a prospect, as he is easily engulfed by blockers. His run defense is borderline abysmal, though admittedly Ogletree's athleticism helps him cover well.
I also expect Ogletree to fall in future rankings, as he was recently charged with DUI, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
Behind Ogletree is Manti Te'o and Kevin Minter. I love Minter as a prospect, as he has the best combination of athleticism, strength and intelligence out of all the linebackers in this draft. Te'o is a bit of a question mark, and I would love to hear Mayock talk more about him.
All of the expected names are here, with Dee Milliner leading the pack. This is a big group of cornerbacks in terms of physical size, but Milliner stands out. He is the consensus top cornerback in the draft.
It will be interesting to see who separates himself as the No. 2 corner leading up to draft day. Mayock has Xavier Rhodes out of Florida State ranked second and Johnthan Banks out of Mississippi State ranked third.
With the value on cornerbacks on the rise throughout the NFL, these prospects have a lot to gain in the upcoming months.
Unsurprisingly, Mayock has Texas' Kenny Vaccaro as this year's top safety, with Matt Elam coming in at No. 2.
Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International makes a surprise appearance on this list, coming in as the No. 3 safety. The safety had an excellent Senior Bowl week, moving him ahead of Eric Reid on Mayock's board.
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