We’ve written about Mike Mayock and his tendency to over or under-evaluate potential NFL talent before. He’s been way off in some cases, but at least he’s better than the Todd McShay’s or Mel Kiper’s of the world. Still, unlike many others, when Mayock is wrong, he is really wrong. When you have a job on TV like that, the name of the game is hyperbole, something that can be difficult when you’re genuinely good at your job.
We’re all guilty of it every now and then, and Mayock is no different. So for this article, we decided to take a look at a few circumstances when Mayock so overhyped a player it makes him look absolutely ridiculous, and leaves you scratching your head. You can bet that time he said Blaine Gabbert would be better than Cam Newton would be on this list, as that might be the biggest draft evaluation mistake in NFL history this side of the Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf debate. See?
Get ready to see other cases of Mayock getting way to high on someone’s gym sock sweat, like with Manti Te’o or Aaron Curry. You remember a guy named Limas Sweed? Well, Mayock probably hopes you don’t.
15 Jermaine Gresham
When you’re talking about how good an NFL player could or will be, it’s important to look at not just their first few years in the league, but their entire career. How will he influence the game long-term, not just how many yards or catches they’ll get. There are few better examples of that than Jermaine Gresham and Rob Gronkowski.
In the 2010 draft, Mayock placed Oklahoma tight-end Jermaine Gresham ahead of Arizona tight-bro Rob Gronkowski. As we all know and hate to admit, Gronkowski has changed the position and revitalized the Patriots offense without even needing to at the time. In comparison, Jermaine Gresham has been solid, sure, but not better than Gronk in any way.
Mayock said that Gresham has a “rare blend of size, speed and athleticism,” which is utterly false. He’s 6’5” and weighed 261 lbs. at the time, a normal size for a tight-end. In comparison, Gronk’s 6’6” size and 264 lbs. was described as “prototypical.” Otherwise, these two profiles read almost identically, yet Gronk seems to drop a spot to Gresham because of his injuries in college, despite Gresham’s own 2009 injury, which Mayock himself even mentioned.
14 Stephen Hill
This position could easily be taken by Justin Blackmon, whom Mayock rated as the #1 receiver in 2012. That might be unfair though, given Blackmon’s drug problem that few saw coming, at least to the degree that would get him kicked out of the NFL completely. Instead, this spot has to go to Steven Hill.
Hill was Mayock’s fourth ranked receiver in 2012, ahead of former South Carolina star Alshon Jeffery, who has easily become the best of the bunch that year.
While still technically in the NFL, Hill has only played two seasons. Both of them came with the Jets, at the height of Mark Sanchez’s time as a starter there, so this too may be unfair. Still, Hill has a combined career stat line of under 600 yards receiving and only four touchdowns. Even the Panthers this year with an injury depleted receiving core and an MVP at quarterback didn’t bother to play him, despite being on their roster.
13 Jarvis Jones
2013 wasn’t a great year for outside linebackers, I’ll give you that. But project Jarvis Jones to be the fifth overall pick feels like Mayock was just picking names out of a hat. It didn’t help when he said “the fifth pick and the 25th pick are very similar,” in the same interview.
“Now that’s a good football player,” Mayock told media members in a conference call. “Jarvis Jones is an impact player and an explosive player and is ready to play now as an outside linebacker in a 4-3. He’s a guy that makes a lot of sense for Detroit.”
When you get past the superlatives and the fluff, what you have is Mayock saying Jones fits the Lions’ scheme because he’s a 4-3 player. That’s not much to go on, especially considering he wasn’t the only 4-3 player in the draft.
Regardless, the Lions picked Ziggy Ansah with the pick and Jones fell all the way to 17th to the Steelers. There, Jones has been a failure, totalling five sacks in three years. This offseason, the Steelers declined the fifth year option on him entirely.
12 Montee Ball
It’s incredible to think how highly Mayock placed Ball amongst running backs in 2013. Ball was #2 overall on his list ahead of Le’Veon Bell, Andre Ellington, and Giovani Bernard.
Yeah, Ball was great in college, setting all kinds of records. But he also had one of the best offensive lines in college and a terrible quarterback for most his time there forcing the team to run a lot, along with Russell Wilson in his senior year to help him.
“He is a downhill, tough kid,” Mayock said in another conference call. “He's got really good feet. He's a fairly large back. […] He showed toughness, balance, vision. He's a one-cut, north-south runner. I think he fits most of the offenses in the NFL.”
It was that “largeness” that doomed Ball. He wasn’t fast or elusive enough for modern day offenses. Montee Ball ended up playing just two years in the NFL, rushing for just 175 in his sophomore outing.
11 Dion Jordan
The same year Mayock rated Jarvis Jones the top 4-3 OLB, he did the same with Dion Jordon in the 3-4 category. Jordan was rated so highly though mostly because of his fast 40 time at the combine. He ran a 4.60, the third fastest at the combine that year. After watching his combine performance, Mayock had this to say.
“This young man, I think he's got the potential to be the player that I compare him to, which is Jason Taylor, who ironically played for the Miami Dolphins. I also think he looks like an Aldon Smith, and if he puts on 20 pounds on that 6-foot-7 frame, one day he might be as good as a DeMarcus Ware."
Comparing him to Jason Taylor or even DeMarcus Ware is a complete joke in hindsight, but even then, comparing a raw recruit to two inevitable Hall of Famers is enough to make your eyes roll out of your head.
In two NFL seasons, Jordan has all of three sacks and zero forced fumbles. He was suspended the entire 2015 season for substance abuse issues, which to be fair, Mayock couldn’t have possibly have seen coming.
10 Jake Locker
If Mayock has one weakness, it’s in his evaluation of quarterbacks. There was no better example of that than the 2011 draft, including calling Jake Locker the second best quarterback and saying the Washington QB was worthy of a top 15 pick. He also put Blaine Gabbert at #1, but we’ll get back to that, of course we will.
Mayock stated Locker had problems with throwing the ball in the pocket, which is a pretty big deal for a relatively immobile quarterback. But he also said Locker is best on the play action when he can get outside the pocket.
That proved to be too true, as he was good when outside of the pocket. The problem was, the Titans (who drafted him 8th overall) didn’t have a good enough offensive line to establish the play action, forcing him to either stay in the pocket or run around like a chicken with his head cut off.
The only saving grace for Mayock on this one is Locker’s surprise retirement at the age of 26 after just four seasons in the NFL.
9 Limas Sweed
No, I didn’t just make that name up from a wayward can of phaseolus lunatus’s (thanks Wikipedia).
Limas Sweed is a wide receiver formerly from Texas, drafted by the Steelers in the second round in 2008. Mayock had him as the third best receiver in the draft, ahead of Jordy Nelson, Pierre Garcon, Eddie Royal, Steven Johnson, and I can go on. Anything he said about the wide-out has been lost to time, but he did rank him as the 19th best player in the draft at one point.
Sweed played in the NFL for all of two seasons, racking up less than 70 yards receiving and had a grand total of zero touchdowns. Yeah, the Steelers were deep at receiver at the time, but no one else in the NFL wanted him, and even the CFL gave up after a few seasons.
8 Manti Te’o
Poor Manti Te’o. If he keeps playing at the level he has been the past three years in the NFL, he might be known for his fake girlfriend scandal above all else forever. Which is a shame, at least in Mayock’s eyes, who evaluated Te’o as a late first round draft pick.
Te’o ended up getting drafted early in the second round and has been thoroughly mediocre at best in his years with the Chargers. He’s got only 1.5 sacks to his name and his first two seasons in particular have been completely forgettable.
To Mayock’s credit though, or maybe discredit, he never seemed very sure about his assessment. He admitted Te’o wasn’t the fastest guy on the field and constantly talked about his off the field issues. Perhaps my favorite thing he said however is this:
“You either like this kid and you believe he's a three-down linebacker and hence worthy of a first-round pick, or you don't.”
You either think he’s worthy of a first round draft pick, or you don’t. There’s some insightful, in-depth commentary right there folks.
7 Trent Richardson
Everybody missed on Trent Richardson, the all-star running back out of Alabama. He came into the league with all the hype in the world and his first season with the Browns was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, he was a Brown though and sure enough his career took a fast nosedive from then on.
Mike Mayock in particular was very high on Richardson. Not only did he tell Philly.com that Peterson was “the best non-quarterback in the draft,” he went even further.
“He won't make it past [the 6th pick]. He's as close as I've seen to Adrian Peterson. He's a three-down guy. He pass-protects. He's a bear with the ball in his hands and he's an adequate pass-catcher.”
That’s quite a bold statement no matter how you look at it. Maybe he wasn’t saying Richardson would be as good as Peterson, only comparing their play style. But when a guy like Richardson plays as poorly as he did, you have to really wonder what the hell some of these “draft experts” are talking about sometimes.
6 Brandon Weeden
Might as well keep piling on the Browns, because it’s okay now that the Cavs won the NBA Championship. In the same draft the Browns selected Adrian Peterson, they also drafted a quarterback who can “make every throw,” yes, that old chestnut analysts throw out whenever they run out of things to say.
Brandon Weeden could make all the throws, assuming those throws were to the opposing team. He threw 17 picks in his rookie year and nine more in his second season in only eight games. He was out of Cleveland after only two years, and out as a backup in Dallas after a year and a half.
Mayock said Weeden was the fourth best quarterback in the 2012 draft, behind Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Ryan Tannehill. He also said he expected Weeden to go in the second round. That might not sound like overhyping, but when you look at the rest of the QB class that year you see how ludicrous this though was.
Mayock thought Brandon Weeden was better than Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, and Brock Osweiler. He even had Weeden above mediocre guys like Nick Foles, Case Keenum, and Austin Davis, who are at least better than the Browns QB pick.
5 Robert Griffin III
Where to even begin with Mayock’s assessment of RGIII? Do we start with his comment about the Baylor QB being “one of the most gifted kids in the last several years?” How about “I have not seen any of those red flags,” regarding the quarterbacks perceived selfishness? Or how he said it “won’t matter” that Washington gave away so many draft picks to get their hands on Griffin.
Maybe instead we’ll look at how creepy “I love everything about the kid,” sounds taken completely out of context.
Regardless, Mayock turned out to be wrong on all counts. Griffin isn’t any more “gifted” than guys like Cam Newton or Blake Bortles. Reports suggest that he was and still is selfish or otherwise not a great person to be around.
4 Mark Sanchez
We’ve talked before about Mayock’s incredible, endearing love for former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, but some things bear repeating.
“[Sanchez] is an intelligent kid that knows where and when to throw the football,” he said at the time. “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.” He also said Sanchez had the highest floor(!) out of any of the quarterbacks in 2009 and reminded him of Matt Ryan.
Funny enough, he thought the best place Sanchez could go would be Denver coming out of the draft. Now that he’s filling the shows of some guy named Peyton Manning, we’ll see if Mayock ends up being right (He won’t be).
3 Aaron Curry
The next three players on this list were so overhyped, and Mayock’s evaluations of them are so full of hyperbole, that I’m surprised they don’t just let anyone call themselves a draft expert.
Former Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry might be the biggest non-quarterback bust from the NFL Draft in the last ten years. See what I did there? Yet somehow, stunningly, Mayock rated Curry the top linebacker in the draft and one of the top three or four players in the draft, period. Mayock rated him above Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing, and Clay Mathews.
Maybe the most bizarre part is Mayock’s actual evaluation of Curry.
“Aaron Curry might be the safest pick in the draft. […] He's clean off the field; you're going to hand him $30 million or $40 million and he's going to be like Matt Ryan. He's going to put it in the bank and he's going to go to work. […]He does everything well, and he's extremely coachable. You can insert him Day 1, and he's a starter, your defense is better.”
Based on Curry’s 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and zero interceptions over his four year career, it might be safe to say Mayock was just making all of that up.
2 Blaine Gabbert
In 2011, Mayock rated Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert higher than Heisman Trophy winner and eventual NFL Rookie of the Year winner, three-time Pro Bowler, and MVP Cam Newton.
“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 told a Cincinnati writer. “Bottom line to me, if I’m telling you a kid’s a top-10 pick, I believe in Blaine Gabbert.”
It’s funny because a little over a month later he said:
“There is not one quarterback this year that I can pound the table for and tell you he's Sam Bradford or Matt Ryan," Mayock said. “Every year there's been a guy I've pounded the table for. This year, there are four guys with first-round talent, none of whom I'd pound the table for.”
Maybe he had a change of heart, maybe he-no he’s still all in on the Gabbert train despite what he said earlier in that same interview.
“Gabbert's the only one I would take with one of the first five picks. And even with him, there's going to be a time frame of learning, whereas with guys like Bradford and Ryan, you could see.”
1 Johnny Manziel
This is just sad more than anything else.
In the 2014 Draft, Mike Mayock said that Johnny Manziel was the best quarterback available, that Teddy Bridgewater was “average at best,” and placed Manziel above Blake Bortles and Derek Carr. How you feeling about that now, Mayock?
“If I'm a GM in the top 10 and I had to take a quarterback today, it would be Johnny Manziel,” he said on the NFL Network. His reasoning? “A lot of it is on the strength of defensive coordinators not wanting to deal with that style of play, and me buying into the kid. I'm buying into the kid as a competitor more than anything.”
Yeah, he thought Johnny Manziel was the best quarterback available because he could run fast and because he’s a competitor. As tempting as it is to jump on Mayock for this, keep in mind we’ll dealing with a man who lost his buttocks in a terrible, overhyping accident.
Poor guy, at least he can still make all the throws.