“I’m not bullish on the quarterbacks this year,” Mike Mayock said Monday, a sentiment shared by many draft evaluators as the NFL makes its annual migration to the scouting combine in Indianapolis this week.
The problem, said Mayock of the NFL Network, is none of the top prospects seems able to contribute quickly as rookies. For that reason, he doesn’t rank a passer “anywhere near the top 10.” The quarterback-needy 49ers pick t No. 2.
“And it doesn’t mean that I don’t think there’s talent there,” said Mayock, who added he believed four quarterbacks have first-round talent. “All four of them have holes in their game. I don’t think any of them are ready to start Week 1.”
Mayock pointed to five players he thought were worthy of San Francisco’s second overall pick: Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett, Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, LSU safety Jamal Adams and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.
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The passer atop his list is Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, who has prototypical size – 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds – and arm strength for a franchise quarterback. Mayock said he thought Kizer had the most potential among the group of late-blooming quarterbacks.
Kizer, however, seemed to regress in 2016. The Fighting Irish went 4-8, losing to Duke and Navy.
“What I don’t like is how his game fell apart in the fourth quarter of a lot of games,” Mayock said. “It depends if you like him or you don’t. If you like him, you think his game fell apart because he tried to do too much in the fourth quarter this year. Or if you don’t like him, you say, ‘Well, it’s never going to happen.’ ”
Mayock’s other quarterbacks with first-round potential are Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. Trubisky started for only one season at North Carolina, and Mahomes operated out of a wide-open spread system that doesn’t translate well to the NFL.
Watson went 28-2 as a starter the last two seasons and was the star of Clemson’s national championship win over Alabama last month. Mayock noted Watson’s best games often came against the nation’s top defenses.
“When the game’s on the line, he gets better,” he said. “He does not shrink.”
But Watson threw 17 interceptions last season despite his experience in Clemson’s system. Most of those, Mayock said, came when Watson had to go to his second or third option.
“(He) has to show he can live in the pocket,” Mayock said. “And when he sits there and that first read is available – he’s really good. … When that first look isn’t there, it starts to break down a little bit. Part of his instinct is to try to get out of the pocket because he’s a good athlete. But when he stays in the pocket, his accuracy drops, his decision-making drops.”
Mayock rated Cal’s Davis Webb as the fifth-best quarterback in the draft. His critique of Webb is similar to that of Mahomes – he played in a wide-open spread system that doesn’t make for a quick transition to the NFL.
“He’s not ready to play,” Mayock said. “But he’s a big guy. He’s got a live arm. He’s got good enough feet. He’s another guy I would really like to develop.”
Contracts tendered – The 49ers tendered one-year deals to free agents Carl Bradford, a linebacker, and Mike Purcell, a defensive tackle. Both are exclusive-rights free agents, meaning they have played fewer than three full seasons and cannot negotiate with other teams.
Bradford, 24, began last season with Green Bay before joining the 49ers late in the year. Purcell, 25, started five games for the 49ers last season and finished with 26 tackles for the league’s worst-ranked defense.
NFL scouting combine
Where: Lucas Oil Field, Indianapolis
When: Tuesday through Monday
TV: NFL Network
By position: Friday: Running backs, offensive linemen, special teams; Saturday: Quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends; Sunday: Defensive lineman, linebackers; Monday: Defensive backs