MIKE MAYOCK might not be everyone's cup of tea, but then, not everyone likes strong tea.

His blunt, reactive, honest style has served him well as an analyst on college and pro football broadcasts for more than 20 years, but charismatic color men are all over these days.

What sets Mayock apart is he has grown to be the most credible of the NFL draft analysts. He is less interested in promoting the Mike Mayock Brand and Hairstyle than with giving complete and informed impressions. He is self-deprecating, unafraid to volunteer an error - he thought Johnny Football was a good character bet - and deftly plays the game of "Who fits where."

That's what Mayock did yesterday in his annual pre-combine conference call. For nearly 3 hours, Mayock answered almost every question about every player from every school. Occasionally he didn't know a kid, but that was rare. He addressed NFL team needs, said that he would gladly welcome Peyton Manning back and (gulp) endorsed Jay Cutler in Chicago.

Mayock is honest, not perfect.

He will be featured on the NFL Network's combine broadcasts this week, and he has done his homework.

Mayock paid special attention to top-tier, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon, who could go first and second overall, to Tampa Bay, then Tennessee. Or, they could go first and second to other teams that are willing to trade up and gamble that the quarterbacks can overcome their shortcomings.

Mayock, a native Philadelphian, certainly did not endorse any plan in which Eagles' third-year coach Chip Kelly packages picks and players to move from No. 20 into the top two to get a shot at drafting Mariota, the high-character leader Kelly recruited and coached at Oregon.

"He's athletic. He's got a big arm. He's 6-4, 215 pounds. He's got great feet. He's going to run a 4.5, 4.55 [seconds in the 40-yard dash]. All the individual components are available. However, can he put them together in a pro-style offense where he has to throw with anticipation, has to go through progressions?" Mayock asked.

The scheme Kelly left behind at Oregon usually asked Mariota to quickly decide where to throw the ball, then allowed him to use his speed to run for yards. That, Mayock said, might have kept Mariota from more fully developing a sense of where pressure comes from; it might have made Mariota skittish in the face of a pass rush; and it might have made Mariota reluctant to throw into tight coverage.

Those are the main traits that rank Winston, who played in a pro-style offense, ahead of Mariota.

Of course, while Kelly's scheme might have made Mariota tough to grade, it also took Oregon to two national championship games, and Kelly's NFL version helped make him 20-12 in his first two seasons.

"I've probably talked to eight general managers, several coaches, and three or four college coaches in the last week," Mayock said, trying to divine whether they believe Mariota can thrive in the NFL.

"You can't kill a kid for not doing something he's not asked to do, right?

"He's not a project but it is a projection, and that is you think the kid is smart, you think the kid is tough, therefore you think if you gets enough reps in a new system he'll get a feel."

Mayock went on to say that the Titans, at No. 2, would have to absolutely love sixth-round rookie surprise Zach Mettenberger to pass on Mariota; and that the Jets, at No. 6, could probably upgrade from Geno Smith and reboot the entire franchise with a "clean slate" if they took Mariota.

Mayock left little question which passer he preferred: Winston, warts and all.

"Obviously, with Jameis Winston . . . I think he throws too many interceptions," Mayock said. "However, I can see everything I want on the field, on tape, beyond that. He's a pocket-aware guy. He throws with anticipation and timing, which is unusual in today's college football world."

Winston's apparent disregard for propriety makes Mayock a little gun-shy:

"I think the bigger concern is whether or not this guy can be the face of your franchise. Let's face it. He was the face of the Florida State franchise and that didn't stop him from making a bunch of bad decisions off the field."

Mayock is warier of Winston's indiscretions after last year, when Mayock downplayed the antics and attitude of Johnny Manziel, whose lack of professionalism in 2014 made the Browns look foolish to use a first-round pick on him.

"I'll be the first to put my hand up, and I hope I learn a lesson in that I kind of bought into Johnny just being immature," said Mayock, shamed that Manziel's issues reportedly include substance-abuse problems deep enough to warrant rehab - issues that were well-documented during Manziel's wild run at Texas A&M. "Apparently, there's a lot more than that."

Mayock added that he still believes Manziel can be a fine NFL quarterback, and, like most NFL experts, Mayock believes teams need a topflight quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Less than a dozen of those currently exist, Mayock said, and if a team believes they can add one - be it Winston, Manziel or Mariota - they should "Pull the trigger."

That sort of candor and discovering Mayock's draft philosophies made the 166-minute rap session fly by:

* If healthy, players always should run and throw at the combine. If they run fast they don't have to run again, and saving themselves for Pro Day workouts only increases pressure. If they throw hard, it sets up Pro Day.

* Running fast or running slow only matters if you run faster or slower than expected.

* Character issues don't influence him much until teams have completed their interviews of players, after which he weighs the scuttlebutt and adjusts accordingly. For instance, he rates Washington cornerback Marcus Peters No. 2 at the position, even though Peters was suspended, then dismissed, from the team.

That example especially resonates in Philadelphia, where Kelly has been quick to excise players who do not fit with his "culture." The Eagles need a top cornerback badly, but they almost certainly won't take a bad apple.

Mayock projects light Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson as a big NFL safety, and Kelly loves versatility and size - which might make tall LSU corner Jalen Collins a good fit, too.

Mayock made special note of 6-3 receiver Jaelen Strong, a West Catholic product out of Arizona State who could vault up the draft board with a fast 40 time.

Mayock often used the same expressions: Banging the Table at the End of the Day about Intriguing Thumpers with Get-off (no, not Gett Off), but that's to be expected over 2-plus hours. Most of his peers lack sufficient vocabulary to be original for 2-plus minutes.

He believes in patience and steadfastness; that players should stay in school a little longer and that teams should draft the best player for them at the moment: "Don't worry about the P.R."

He believes the Redskins' megadeal in 2012 that netted them Robert Griffin III will serve as a warning to teams considering similar moves; that is, teams like the Eagles, who would have to surrender a lot of equity to hook Mariota.

And, simply, he isn't sold on Mariota.

"When I was doing 'Thursday Night Football' games, I had a chance to ask Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, any number of those guys, how much of pocket awareness is innate and how much could be learned," Mayock said. "All of them said you could learn a little bit. For instance, you feel the rush, you duck your shoulder down, both hands on the football, ball security, little things you can practice to get better in the pocket.

"However, every single one of them . . . basically said, 'I kind of feel like I was born with it. You either get it or you don't.' So if that's the case, and you don't get to see these college kids practicing it, it's really hard [to expect it]."

You always know what to expect from Mayock.

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL