INDIANAPOLIS -- All eyes around the NFL were focused on Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday as the quarterbacks took to the field for their throwing sessions.
The excitement level was especially palpable this year because it was a rare chance to watch the draft's consensus top two signal-callers strut their stuff. Count NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock as one of those interested observers, and he walked away impressed with what he saw from the top passers at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I thought the two top guys, (Jameis) Winston and (Marcus) Mariota, were outstanding," he said. "The thing that I like about Jameis Winston is I think he throws an extremely catchable ball. He's got all the arm strength you want, but he makes it easy for the receiver based on the route. Naturally and innately, he gets it."
Such a quality performance from the last two Heisman Trophy winners probably won't do anything to change the top two in Mayock's quarterback rankings, but it did offer him another chance to check out Mariota up close and personal as he makes the difficult transition from spread quarterback to NFL field general.
"What I liked about Mariota was just the footwork," Mayock said. "You can see how athletic he is. He ran the 4.5. You can see that translate to his dropbacks, a sense of urgency with his feet. I know he'll be able to adapt to being able to get under center. It's the pocket awareness part that you can't tell out here. Physically, he'll be able to do all the things they ask of him."
Less than 11 weeks remain until the lights come on at the 2015 NFL Draft, and there will be plenty more to evaluate about the two polarizing quarterbacks from now until then.
On Saturday, however, there was little doubt that the most interesting show on turf featuring Mariota and Winston more than passed Mayock's eye test.
In addition to the big guns Saturday, Mayock also commented on a number of other top prospects:
» Baylor's Bryce Petty was another quarterback who Mayock wanted to see more of and thought he had a solid day throwing at Lucas Oil Stadium. While the ball jumping off Petty's hand might have been a solid effort in the eyes of the analyst, he also noted that Petty would be more than a one-year project for an NFL club looking to turn him into a starter in the league. Most of that stemmed from the unknowns the Bears signal-caller will face in the pocket. UCLA's Brett Hundley also has said concerns and could be a multi-year project.
» "Long corners are in," exclaimed Mayock and he's certainly spot on regarding that point. Michigan State's Trae Waynes drew high praise as a result and coming out of East Lansing will do nothing but help his stock. Mayock mentioned Marcus Peters, P.J. Williams and Jalen Collins as others to watch early in the draft.
» How good are guys like Randy Gregory, Shane Ray and Dante Fowler? Well, from Mayock's top five edge rushers on down, he thinks this is a loaded group. "I think it's the best edge class we've had since 2011. '12 and '13 weren't that great," Mayock said. "There's a whole class of guys down for the second, third and forth rounds coming off the edge, too, that I think are going to be fun." That 2011 class had J.J. Watt, Von Miller and Aldon Smith, among others, just for reference. High praise for this year's crop.
» West Virginia receiver Kevin White turned a lot of heads with his blazing fast 4.35 40-yard dash, and Mayock labeled him as not only his top guy at the position, but noted White has a higher ceiling over fellow top wideout Amari Cooper. That wasn't downplaying what the Alabama star can do, however, as the analyst called Cooper "the safe choice" for teams drafting early with a need at receiver.
» Path to the Draft star La'el Collins was a big winner when the offensive linemen worked out, and Mayock sees him fitting in at right tackle in the league if he stays outside but did believe he has the ability to play left tackle.