“Nobody can predict the future,” said one of the greatest philosophers of our time, Nick Cannon. It’s true, except of course for people in goofy costumes and a crystal ball asking for money on TV commercials early in the morning. Outside of them, no one has had much success. Take these so called “draft experts” that sports channels parade in front of us every year come NFL Draft time. Todd McShay, Mel Kiper Jr, Dan Kadar, it’s like a veritable Pokemon of overpaid dudes talking about other overpaid dudes who throw a ball around for a living.
In fairness, nothing is more difficult in the world of sports media than trying to predict where a college football player might get drafted. We’ve seen some true shockers over the years, like Tim Tebow being selected 25th overall in 2010 or eventual Hall of Famer Tom Brady falling all the way to 199. There are always safe bets, especially at the top with the NFL’s lust for young quarterbacks, but even those “surefire successes” can flame out in a matter of months.
Many try to predict what player will go where and which players will become NFL stars, but few are actually employed by the NFL. The only one is Mike Mayock, and given his standing, you’d think he’d have a pretty good pulse on what the league was thinking. You’d be wrong as well, because in the 2015 Draft earlier this year, Mayock successfully projected all of 7 out of 32 picks. That puts him 4th on the list, which is all well and good, but again, you’d think a guy employed by the NFL and put on the NFL Network would do a better job from some guy from Times New, whatever that is.
What are some of the mistakes and misfires Mayock and his mock drafts had made over the years? Let’s take a look, shall we?
15 Dan Williams Projected 10th Overall
If you’re asking yourself who Dan Williams is right now, fear not, for you are not alone. Dan Williams is a defensive tackle out of Tennessee, now playing for the Oakland Raiders. Fellow NFL draft expert Mel Kiper picked Williams to be the 26th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and he was dead on the money. Mayock, on the other hand, put a little more stock into the now unknown defensive player, projecting him to go as high as 10th overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars (Man, when’s the last time the Jags picked that low?).
Instead, Williams fell 16 places below Mayock’s prediction, going to the Arizona Cardinals.
Williams played five seasons with the Cardinals before going to the Raiders last offseason. He was never a dominant player, used mainly to block up inside running lanes. His stats are hardly worthy of a top 10 pick.
14 Beanie Wells Has “An Explosion”
Chris “Beanie” Wells was one of the top running backs in college football when he entered the 2010 NFL Draft. He was expected to do big things in the league, provided he stayed healthy. Those health concerns dropped Beanie down some experts draft boards, but Mike Mayock would have none of it.
“With Beanie Wells, there's explosion,” he said of the young running back. “He had one of the best, if not the best, broad jumps. He has lower body explosion, but he isn't going to run away from a corner that runs a 4.3. What he will do is run over that corner, hopefully, and stay healthy because that's his biggest issue.”
What exactly “lower body explosion” is isn’t something I want to think about. Wells ended up going 31st to the Arizona Cardinals. He had a couple of decent years with the team, but sure enough, injuries cut his career short after only four seasons.
13 Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins
Let’s be honest, Robert Griffin III and his magnificent socks had us all fooled. Putting up big numbers at Baylor, RGIII as he would be known as, was expected to do big things in the NFL. Mike Mayock rated him as the second best QB in the 2012 draft, second only to Andrew Luck. While he was right about where he’d go in the draft, as Washington traded up to get him second overall, he couldn’t have been more wrong about how good the QB would turn out to be.
Interestingly, Mayock also ranked Kirk Cousins the #5 QB that year. Washington would end up selecting him in the fourth round, to be RGIII’s backup. When Griffin eventually faded out, Cousins went in to take his place, taking the reins on a permanent basis earlier this year. However, Cousins isn’t fairing that much better in the role, despite the “QB guru” Jay Gruden being both of their coaches.
12 Mark Sanchez is the Safest Pick
It’s hard to imagine a time when Mark Sanchez was thought to be the top rated quarterback coming out of college. 2009 was a terrible draft for quarterbacks, but even then, most analysts put eventual #1 overall pick Matt Stafford at the top. Not our good friend Mike Mayock, no siree! But Mayock took his Sanchez love to the next level, suggesting the Broncos trade up to get him.
“If they (the Broncos) don't try to get Mark Sanchez I think they're crazy,” he would say. “And the guy that fits them the best is Sanchez ... an intelligent kid that knows where and when to throw the football. Can pick up the offense quickly and get rid of the football, get it out of his hands. I think the safest pick is Sanchez.”
Man, talk about taking a massive leap, even before we know what we know about Sanchez (i.e. that he’s not very good).
11 Aaron Curry is Clean and Great With Rice
Aaron Curry was as much fool’s gold as anyone on this list. He somehow managed to make a name for himself at Wake Forest,and climbed the expert mock draft boards. Mayock, for example, projected him to go #3 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. He ended up falling, however, to the Seahawks at #4, a slide to rival that of Aaron Rodgers or Brady Quinn.
“Aaron Curry might be the safest pick in the draft,” he said, contradicting when he said earlier Sanchez was the safest pick. “He's clean off the field; you're going to hand him $30 million or $40 million and he's going to be like [Atlanta quarterback] Matt Ryan. He's going to put it in the bank and he's going to go to work.”
Thank goodness Curry is apparently good at finances, I’m sure the NFL was very worried about his 401k portfolio management. Where did Mayock get this information though?
Curry lasted only three seasons in Seattle, producing just 5.5 sacks and no turnovers. In his final year with the team, he started just two games. He went to Oakland to try to revitalize his career, but of course, Oakland is where players go to die and after two more seasons, he was out of the NFL.
10 James Hardy Exists
No, not James Harden or Greg Hardy, it’s James Hardy. Hardy, a wide receiver out of Indiana, was a football player. He caught the ball and some people thought he was pretty good, or something. Yeah, it’s very hard to find information on Hardy, even today.
He entered the 2008 NFL Draft as a big, power receiver who could go up and grab the football. Mayock projected Hardy to go #23 overall, but instead, Hardy fell into the second round, going #41 to the Buffalo Bills. He played for two teams in three years, before finding himself in the Arena League. He finished his NFL career with 10 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns.
The above two paragraphs might be the most ever written about James Hardy on the internet, in which case, I can only apologize. At least Mayock didn’t call him the safest pick in NFL draft history or anything.
Wait, nope, there is one other thing about Hardy. He was arrested last year for violently resisting arrest and putting two police officers in the hospital.
9 Melvin Ingram is a Freak… IN SPACE!!!
Melvin Ingram was a star in college his senior year, despite no one ever hearing of his name before. That should be a red flag, but it wasn’t. Ingram impressed draft experts coming out in 2012 with his many skill sets, including sacking the quarterback, stopping the run, blocking kicks and punts, and even being really effective as an trick play running back.
“He’s a freak. His athletic ability to drop in space, to catch the football… he could play tight end and be an All-Pro. […] With this league being a pass-first league, he’s got some natural pass-rush ability.”
He was a little less confident in this pick, projecting him to go anywhere between #9 and #18. He was selected 18th overall by the Chargers, and hasn’t really done anything in his four seasons with the team. He’s had just ten sacks and no takeaways in his linebacker position. The team attempted something different with him once, sending him out to return two kickoffs of all things in his rookie year. The result was two returns for negative one yard.
8 Josh Freeman is Also the Safest Pick
Has a single player ever fallen from grace so quickly? RGIII was on this list earlier, but at least he got a chance to prove himself. Freeman seemingly was dumped by the NFL after a handful of bad games, and ignored his good games and high potential.
Freeman declared for the NFL Draft in 2009, coming out of Kansas State after his Junior year. Many draft experts loved Freeman for his size, but questioned how ready he was having only played 16 games in college. Mike Mayock wasn’t one of those guys, saying he was the third best quarterback behind Stafford and Sanchez, and calling him a first round talent.
“Despite the fact that he's made 16 starts, I think he's the safest pick … His skill set translates easily to the NFL.”
Yes, that’s right. According to Mike Mayock, three different individuals all managed to simultaneously be the “safest” pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Perhaps Mayock should be a locksmith rather than a draft expert, because Freeman’s career in the NFL was short, and despite the potential, wasn’t very good.
7 Geno Smith Sucks the Least
While Smith might now forever be known as the guy who got his jaw broken by a teammate, he was once seen as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL Draft, at least, depending on who you ask. Many saw Smith as a product of West Virginia’s high octane system, but there was one guy who truly believed in him. His name was Mel Ki-just kidding, it’s our old friend Mike Mayock, who projected him to go #6 overall and the #1 quarterback.
“I watched a bunch of Geno Smith and he can make every throw,” Mayock wrote. “He's athletic, the ball jumps out of his hand but there's a lot of things that make me nervous about him. He misses people by wide margins for no reasons. I see a little bit of hesitancy with the blitz. His eyes come down and he makes mistakes."
He seems somewhat mixed on Smith, yet despite this, he still lists the West Virginia QB as the best available. You could hardly blame him compared to the rest of his list: Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib, and Landry Jones. There was also EJ Manuel, who went #16 overall, Tyler Wilson, and potential future Hall of Famer Brad Sorensen.
Mayock had to put someone at the top of the list of QB’s out of that dreadful class, but outside of Matt Barkley and EJ Manuel, no one has played worse than Geno Smith. Granted, none of the rest of them have played at all. Smith didn’t go #6 overall, “dropping” all the way down to the 39th pick in the second round to the desperate Jets.
6 Trent Richardson is the Best Running Back Since Peterson
Mike Mayock actually thought Richardson would be as good a running back as Adrian Peterson.
Mayock had Richardson going to the Browns #3 overall and he hit the nail on the head. He did his job and successfully predicted the pick. Good job, Mikey!
However, he didn’t predict that Richardson would be one of the biggest busts in NFL history, nor did he predict that Richardson would be traded to the Colts two years later, and would be out of the league entirely by 2015.
You could argue it’s not Mayock’s job to predict how good a player will be in the NFL and that all he needs to do is guess where they’ll get drafted, but what’s the point in that? If we just wait, we’ll know exactly where all these college stars will go, why stick some random guy on TV to guess? Although, knowing how good or a bad a player you’re about to draft is doesn’t really matter much either, does it?
5 Rey Maualuga Falls 18 Spots
Rey Maualuga was one of a trio of excellent USC linebackers, along with Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews. Matthews has done well, Cushing was great for his first year or two until the Texans drafted J.J. Watt and Cushing fell off the map, but Maualuga was expected to be the best of all three.
Mayock projected him to go #20 overall in the first round to the Detroit Lions.
That didn’t quite happen, as teams had concerns over his size and ability to tackle. The linebacker fell to 38th to the Bengals and many thought it was a steal… for a few months at least. In his rookie year, Maualuga struggled and he was frequently benched for exactly that, his inability to tackle and also his poor passing defense.
Maualuga has marginally improved over the years and is still somehow with the team. Still, he’s only had four sacks in now his 7th season and is little more than a run stopper. Not exactly one of the best linebackers in the league, is he?
4 Justin Blackmon Has Problems
Justin Blackmon has played in 20 games since being drafted by the Jaguars with the #5 pick in 2012. He played great in those twenty games, even before the Jags found a solid quarterback in Blake Bortles. Mike Mayock said Blackmon was well worth the #6 overall pick that year. In fact, Mayock was so in love with Blackmon, he didn’t give any of the other receivers that year a chance.
“This year to me, Rueben Randle has some questions; Alshon Jeffrey has some questions; Brian Quick from Appalachian State,” he said.
Sadly, due to his drug problems, he was banned indefinitely from the NFL in 2013 and so far there hasn’t been a peep out of the NFL in regards to that ban being lifted. To spend a top 5 pick on a guy like that is a huge waste. If the NFL does let him play again, he probably won’t be the same after missing two years plus of action and if he’s banned for life, well, that’s just a waste of a pick.
3 Blaine Gabbert is Serving Butt for Dinner
The Jaguars aren’t very good at this whole draft thing, are they? In 2011, the Jaguars picked QB Blaine Gabbert with the 10th pick in the NFL Draft. Mike Mayock must have been surprised, however, as he had strong words to say about the Missouri quarterback.
“If I’m telling you he’s a top-10 pick, I’m willing to put my butt on the line and say he’s a top-one pick,” Mayock said. “I mean one’s part of 10. Bottom line to me, if I’m telling you a kid’s a top-10 pick, I believe in Blaine Gabbert.”
Wow, talking about putting your butt on the line. Going on national TV and saying some words that you’re making up and not having to live with any consequences. Tough break!
Gabbert has gone down as one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history and has been accused of playing “scared” by analysts, fans, and even former coaches. With Gabbert at the helm, the Jaguars went 5-22 and went through two coaches, three if you count interim coaches. Remember, 2011 was a great year for rookie quarterbacks, and Mayock put Gabbert over Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick (ironic, now), Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor and TJ Yates (who won a playoff game in Houston if you remember).
2 Jimmy Clausen will get drafted twice?
Leave it to ol’ Mike Mayock to contradict himself. It’s hard to tell if he was high on Jimmy Clausen or not, because he thinks Clausen is a late first round pick and top 10 pick simultaneously.
“I do think he has the physical skill-set to be a top 10 pick the draft,” he told Cleveland.com. “I think he's going to go somewhere between 7 and 17 and I think he's got the ability and makeup to be a good starting quarterback in the NFL."
Despite this, a later mock draft shows Mayock projecting Clausen to be taken #30 overall, to the Minnesota Vikings. Now maybe he changed his mind in the eight days between the interview and his final mock draft, no big deal. But if he wasn’t sure, like he claimed to be in his initial interview, why put him all the way up at #7 overall, talking about how great a fit he’d be with the Browns?
Either way, Clausen fell all the way to #48 in the second round to the Carolina Panthers, who jumped ship after just four years and 10 starts.
1 Cam Newton is the Worst QB in Football History
For as much as Mayock loved Blaine Gabbert in 2011, he hated Cam Newton, with what seems like a burning passion.
“I really didn’t need to see the workout, nor do I need to hear about the workout. I’ve watched five of [Newton’s] game tapes. […] You and I in gym shorts at the local high school can throw pretty accurately, so I would guarantee you [Newton] would look great in a pair of gym shorts,” Mayock said.
Wow. He couldn’t even be bothered to watch Cam Newton on tape. Normally, he’d have a point. Anyone can look good in shorts, throwing the ball around to wide open receivers. But why single out Cam Newton specifically?
“[…] when you get to a certain skill level in the NFL, which this kid certainly has, at the quarterback position, what kind of kid is he? Is he going to be the first guy in the building? Is he a gym rat? Is he football smart?”
Couldn’t be bothered to watch the tape and saying he’s too dumb and lazy. Mayock projected Newton to go 21st overall and expected him to ride the bench as a developmental prospect.
Well, Newton proved him wrong by being taken #1 overall that year by the Panthers (eager to dump Jimmy Clausen) and set the league on fire, throwing for over 800 yards his first two games. Today, he’s considered a dark horse for MVP, while Gabbert is handed the reins to the NFL’s latest dumpster fire in pure desperation.