For years, Mike Mayock has been the leading voice about the NFL Draft on NFL Network and NFL.com. BaltimoreRavens.com had a chance to catch up with Mayock to answer a few Ravens-centeric questions in the days leading up to selection weekend.
BaltimoreRavens.com:Mike, the Ravens are known for doing business in the draft a little differently than other teams. Does that make it tougher for you when you're putting together your mock drafts?
Mayock:"I don't think they're tougher to gauge, necessarily. You have to look at where the Ravens need to improve, and then understand that they may not draft in that order. If they're drafting 26th, they're not going to draft a guy that's 35th on their board. That's not their style. When you look at the Ravens, they like football players and they like to think outside of the box.
"That's what makes it a little bit more difficult when you're trying to predict what they're doing. They're willing to look at a guy that's a 280-pound defensive lineman that now can stand up at 260 pounds, like a **Jarret Johnson**. Especially defensively, they're willing to take a look at guys that are a little different."
BaltimoreRavens.com:Many analysts are linking the Ravens to one of a few receivers with the 26th pick: Hakeem Nicks, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Kenny Britt. How do you separate those guys?
Mayock:"Well, I would throw [Ohio State's] Brian Robiskie in that group. One of those four receivers will go in the first round, and I'm not so sure who that is. I think Nicks is the most talented of the group. He's not as fast and had some off the field issues. Britt is ideally suited as a West Coast receiver, and Heyward-Bey is the most explosive of them, but has the least consistent hands.
"This is just me talking, but I look at those guys and I would be wary of taking them in the first round."
BaltimoreRavens.com:Most mock drafts have at least two of those guys going in the first round. What makes you say that they could be second-round picks?
Mayock:"Again, this is just me talking, but there are two things I look for in a wide receiver: the ability to separate and get open, and great hands. I don't think any of those guys have both of those qualities. I think Nicks has the most intriguing blends of those qualities. He has great hands, but he's not fast. He separates because he's quick and he uses his big body.
"I just think you can find some more value elsewhere. Heyward-Bey and Britt, especially, have inconsistent hands. You can watch a lot of tape and see drops and a lot of double catches. Those things bother me."
BaltimoreRavens.com:With trade rumors of the Anquan Boldin situation in Arizona, how could a trade really affect the latter part of the first round?
Mayock:"I don't know if it's going got blow up or anything. I think there's a lot more media hype surrounding this than anything else. Any time there is a big trade before the draft, you just have to shake up your boards and see what you have.
"That's just like we saw with Philadelphia and Buffalo the other day. The Eagles get [tackle] Jason Peters, and now they've completely retooled their offensive line prior to draft day. That changes their needs. So, if someone were to get Anquan Boldin, sure, that would restructure some things, but not everything. But, until it happens, you just have to put your board together and trust it."
BaltimoreRavens.com:How do you see the local angle playing out with Heyward-Bey, who's from Maryland, and the Ravens?
Mayock:"It's a good story, but that's what we want to hear. People saw the New York Giants are going to take Kenny Britt [from Rutgers] or the Ravens are going for Heyward-Bey [from Maryland] because we all want the local kid. But, what if they don't take a receiver? There could be a better player available when the Ravens - or the Giants - are picking, and the Ravens won't reach if they can't move back."
BaltimoreRavens.com:What do you think of Heyward-Bey?
Mayock:"Here's the conundrum with him. He's a big, fast guy whose track speed translates to the football field. With the ball in his hand he's deadly, and that's why people look at him and say, 'OK, we've got something here. But the key is you have to get the ball in his hands first. With Maryland, it was difficult to watch because - I forget what game - I watched the entire game, and they didn't throw a ball to him.
"So, it's a difficult tape to watch because they were sporadic offensively in throwing the football. They found ways to get him the ball with reverses and quick screens and things like that. With the ball in his hands, he's special.
"The question is, there isn't a lot of tape to evaluate his route-running in hand. I think he doesn't have natural hands, I think he has pretty good hands, but I don't think he's got great hands."
BaltimoreRavens.com:Finally, Mike, you've been doing this for a while now. What is this time of year like for you?
Mayock:"I would like a day off sometime soon [laughs], but I really can't believe I get paid to do this. This time of year, there is a lot of excitement surrounding every team, and that's what makes it such an event. I will never complain, because it's a lot of fun."