Nobody can deny that Mike Mayock is one of the most respected names among NFL Draft analysts. Mayock is dedicated and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of everything to do with the upcoming draft class. He can go on and on about this guy or that guy, regardless of position or school. Sometimes the details get ridiculous, but the man is always impressive.
That said, knowledge about what skill set a player has or being able to make ridiculously in-depth rankings doesn't mean he always pinpoints the sure-fire, top-flight NFL players in each year's class. We thought it might be interesting to go over the last few years and take a look at Mayock's rankings.
As always, hindsight is 20/20, and this is less a call-out and more an exercise in curiosity. We're going to look at some of the top players in Mayock's pre-draft rankings for each of the last five years and try and get a handle on where he has scored, where he has looked silly (the first name on the first list we looked at falls into the latter category ... you'll see) and whatever else we can find.
There are a couple caveats. First, we'll be assigning a simple score, but don't take it to heart too much. We lay out Mayock's top five players at each position, and assign a pass/fail grade to each player based on if we think they are a solid contributor. Saying definitively whether a guy like Jake Locker,for example, is a hit or a miss is nigh impossible.
Second, it's possible the players we've listed were not in Mayock's final pre-draft rankings. We went with what we could find, but it's worth noting that these rankings are probably in tune with Mayock's thoughts at the time of each year's draft -- all of these rankings were released between late March and late April.
We'll start with a simpler time, before new collective bargaining agreements did away with horrific rookie contracts ... 2009.
|1.||Mark Sanchez||Knowshon Moreno||Michael Crabtree||Brandon Pettigrew||Max Unger||Andy Levitre||Eugene Monroe|
|2.||Matt Stafford||Beanie Wells||Percy Harvin||Cornelius Ingram||Eric Wood||Duke Robinson||Jason Smith|
|3.||Josh Freeman||Donald Brown||Jeremy Maclin||Shawn Nelson||Alex Mack||Kraig Urbik||Andre Smith|
|4.||Pat White||LeSean McCoy||Darrius Heyward-Bey||Jared Cook||A.Q. Shipley||Tyronne Green||Michael Oher|
|5.||Stephen McGee||Shonn Greene||Brian Robiskie||James Casey||Antoine Caldwell||Herman Johnson||Eben Britton|
|1.||Robert Ayers||B.J. Raji||Rey Maualuga||Aaron Curry||Malcolm Jenkins||Louis Delmas|
|2.||Tyson Jackson||Peria Jerry||James Laurinaitis||Brian Orakpo||Vontae Davis||Patrick Chung|
|3.||Everette Brown||Ziggy Hood||Jasper Brinkley||Brian Cushing||Darius Butler||William Moore|
|4.||Paul Kruger||Rob Brace||Darry Beckwith||Clay Matthews||Alphonso Smith||Rashad Johnson|
|5.||Michael Johnson||Fili Moala||Jason Phillips||Larry English/Aaron Maybin||Jairus Byrd||Chip Vaugn|
The 2009 NFL Draft saw some pretty darn good players enter the fold, but the top of Mayock's list, at least on offense, is off to a pretty terrible start. At some point, Mayock joined the crowd of people that believed Mark Sanchez out of USC was the top quarterback entering the NFL.
Now, Mayock is hardly the only person who had that stance, but given the way Sanchez's career has gone thus far, we have a pretty solid indication that things on these lists can stink in hindsight. At the time, Matthew Stafford was generally considered the consensus top quarterback, but he did not inspire a whole lot of confidence.
Still, the Detroit Lions went with him and things worked out well for them. The first round saw three of Mayock's top five go, with the other being Josh Freeman. Obviously, Sanchez and Freeman have been disasters, and we're not going to say much about his fourth and fifth options, Pat White of West Virginia and Stephen McGee of Texas A&M.
Mayock notably hits with running backs Knowshon Moreno and LeSean McCoy, but flames out with Beanie Wells and Shonn Greene. He fares very well with wide receivers, hitting on Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin, but missing on Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brian Robiskie. Tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Jared Cook worked out; not so much for James Casey, Shawn Nelson and Cornelius Ingram.
There were some very good linemen gracing Mayock's list, including centers Max Unger and Alex Mack, guard Andy Levitre and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe. On the defensive side of the ball, things get a little ugly. None of the top defensive ends inspire a ton of confidence, and the defensive tackles are about as underwhelming as it gets with guys like Peria Jerry and Ron Brace occupying spots in the top five.
The most egregious error down the rest of the list is placing Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry among the best players at his position. Mayock is hardly at fault for this, however, with several big-name analysts tabbing Curry as a safe bet. He was complete, NFL-ready and was supposed to be a smart way to spend big bucks atop the first round. Whoops.
|1.||Sam Bradford||C.J. Spiller||Dez Bryant||Jermaine Gresham||Maurkice Pouncey||Russell Okung|
|2.||Jimmy Clausen||Ryan Matthews||Demaryius Thomas||Rob Gronkowski||Mike Iupati||Trent Williams|
|3.||Tim Tebow||Jahvid Best||Golden Tate||Dorin Dickerson||Jon Asamoah||Bryan Bulaga|
|4.||Colt McCoy||Toby Gerhart||Emmanuel Sanders||Dennis Pitta||John Jerry||Anthony Davis|
|5.||John Skelton||Dexter McCluster||Arrelious Benn/Eric Decker||Ed Dickson||Zane Beadles||Rodger Saffold/Charles Brown|
|1.||Jason Pierre-Paul||Gerald McCoy||Rolando McClain||Sergio Kindle||Joe Haden||Earl Thomas|
|2.||Derrick Morgan||Ndamukong Suh||Sean Lee||Sean Weatherspoon||Kyle Wilson||Eric Berry|
|3.||Brandon Graham||Dan Williams||Brandon Spikes||Jerry Hughes||Kareem Jackson||Taylor Mays|
|4.||Jared Odrick||Tyson Alualu||Donald Butler||Daryl Washington||Devin McCourty||Nate Allen|
|5.||Everson Griffen||Terrence Cody||Pat Angerer||NaVorro Bowman||Chris Cook/Patrick Robinson||Major Wright|
It's difficult to say if Sam Bradford is a success. He has obviously struggled, but the St. Louis Rams in general have been a relatively big mess. The team's receiver position in particular can be best summarized by a picture of a dumpster fire. Bradford may be performing well given his circumstances.
There's some definite hits here, to be sure. The defensive linemen in particular were nailed rather well, and the cornerback and safety positions aren't bad, either. Putting Earl Thomas above Eric Berry was not the most popular decision at the time, but Thomas has emerged as possibly the best safety in the NFL. Jason Pierre-Paul has certainly earned his place, as well.
There are also some misses. Mayock only nailed one running back, and missed on more than a few linebackers. Sergio Kindle and Rolando McClain, the top inside and outside linebackers, respectively, both flamed out.
|1.||Blaine Gabbert||Mark Ingram||A.J. Green||Kyle Rudolph||Mike Pouncey||Anthony Castonzo|
|2.||Cam Newton||Ryan Williams||Julio Jones||Lance Kendricks||Danny Watkins||Tyron Smith|
|3.||Jake Locker||Daniel Thomas||Titus Young||Luke Stocker||Rodney Hudson||Gabe Carimi|
|4.||Ryan Mallett||Mikel Leshoure||Jonathan Baldwin||D.J. Williams||Marcus Cannon||Nate Solder|
|5.||Andy Dalton||Kendall Hunter||Torrey Smith/Randall Cobb||Virgil Green||Clint Boling||Ben Ijalana/Derek Sherrod|
|1.||Robert Quinn||Marcell Dareus||Martez Wilson||Von Miller||Patrick Peterson||Aaron Williams|
|2.||Cameron Jordan||Nick Fairley||Casey Matthews||Akeem Ayers||Prince Amukamara||Rahim Moore|
|3.||J.J. Watt||Corey Liuget||Colin McCarthy||Bruce Carter||Jimmy Smith||Marcus Gilchrist|
|4.||Aldon Smith||Marvin Austin||Kelvin Sheppard||Dontay Moch||Ras-I Dowling||Ahmad Black|
|5.||Da'Quan Bowers||Muhammad Wilkerson||Akeem Dent||Justin Houston||Brandon Harris||Quinton Carter|
You'll notice Mayock was particularly effective along the defensive line this year. Players like Robert Quinn, J.J. Watt and Aldon Smith have developed into game-changing stars. All three would make any team in the NFL instantly better.
Mayock's take on 2011 quarterbacks is interesting. Andy Dalton has been solid, but totally ineffective in the playoffs. Cam Newton is set as the franchise quarterback in Carolina. We went ahead and gave Jake Locker a pass ... he could go either way, but prior to his injury his 2013 campaign was looking particularly strong.
Photo: Grant Halverson
Once again, Mayock missed the mark with running backs and multiple linebackers, which is a trend at this point. This trend could also coincide with the fact that running backs have had a diminishing role in the NFL these days, and it's been getting worse every year.
Mayock's offensive line rankings were solid, which is also a trend. He has a knack for evaluating interior linemen, though those positions tend to see the least amount of deviation between analysts. It's easier to come to a consensus on the top five guards and centers than tackles, it seems.
|1.||Andrew Luck||Trent Richardson||Justin Blackon||Coby Fleener||Peter Konz||David DeCastro||Matt Kalil|
|2.||Robert Grifin III||Doug Martin||Michael Floyd||Dwayne Allen||Philip Blake||Kevin Zeitler||Riley Reiff|
|3.||Ryan Tannehill||David Wilson||Kendall Wright||Orson Charles||Ben Jones||Amini Silatolu||Cordy Glenn|
|4.||Brandon Weeden||LaMichael James||Stephen Hill||Ladarius Green||David Molk||Kelechi Osmele||Jonathan Martin|
|5.||Kirk Cousins||Isaiah Pead||Alshon Jeffery||James Hanna||Quentin Saulsberry||Brandon Brooks||Jeff Allen|
|1.||Chandler Jones||Fletcher Cox||Luke Kuechly||Shea McClellin||Morris Claiborne||Mark Barron|
|2.||Quinton Coples||Dontari Poe||Dont'a Hightower||Melvin Ingram||Stephon Gilmore||Harrison Smith|
|3.||Courtney Upshaw||Jerel Worthy||Mychal Kendricks||Whitney Mercilus||Dre Kirkpatrick||Brandon Taylor|
|4.||Vinny Curry||Michael Brockers||James-Michael Johnson||Lavonte David||Casey Hayward||DeQuan Menzie|
|5.||Bruce Irvin||Devon Still||Tank Carradine||Andre Branch||Trumaine Johnson||Phillip Thomas|
We're going to refrain from assigning a score to the two classes after 2011 because they occurred too recently. We can't objectively say whether someone like David Wilson was a good selection just yet. But there appear to be some definite hits here for Mayock.
Not just throwing darts
Not just throwing darts
For one, it's obvious that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were both solid picks. Both players were as good as advertised, leading their teams to the playoffs. Brandon Weeden, meanwhile, was a big swing and miss.
Ryan Tannehill can go either way, it seems. When it comes to running backs, it looks like Mayock missed huge with his No. 1 in Trent Richardson. While the Indianapolis Colts traded for Richardson and believe in him, he has shown very little on the field and has yet to live up to his draft slot. Mayock seems to have done a good job parsing out the best wide receivers and offensive linemen.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mayock is again up-and-down. The defensive backs class looks promising, and Luke Kuechly is one of the most dominant linebackers in the NFL, but Vinny Curry and Courtney Upshaw could be misses.
|1.||Geno Smith||Eddie Lacy||Tavon Austin||Tyler Eifert||Brian Schwenke||Chance Warmack||Eric Fisher|
|2.||E.J. Manuel||Monte Ball||Cordarrelle Patterson||Zach Ertz||Barrett Jones||Jonathan Cooper||Luke Joeckel|
|3.||Matt Barkley||Giovani Bernard||Justin Hunter||Gavin Escobar||Travis Frederick||Kyle Long||Lane Johnson|
|4.||Ryan Nassib||Andre Ellington||Keenan Allen||Travis Kelce||Khaled Holmes||Larry Warford||D.J. Fluker|
|5.||Tyler Bray/Mike Glennon||Le'Veon Bell/Christine Michael||DeAndre Hopkins/Robert Woods||Vance McDonald||Braxston Cave||Brian Winters||Justin Pugh/Menelik Watson|
|3-4 DE||4-3 DE||ILB||3-4 OLB||4-3 OLB||CB||S||DT|
|1.||Star Lotulelei||Ezekiel Ansah||Manti Te'o||Dion Jordan||Jarvis Jones||D.J. Hayden||Kenny Vaccaro||Sharrif Floyd|
|2.||Datone Jones||Bjoern Werner||Kevin Minter||Barkevious Mingo||Arthur Brown||Dee Milliner||Matt Elam||Sheldon Richardson|
|3.||Margus Hunt||Damontre Moore||Alec Ogletree||Jamie Collins||Sio Moore||Xavier Rhodes||Eric Reid||Sylvester Williams|
|4.||William Gholston||Tank Carradine||Jon Bostic||Michael Buchanan||Khaseem Greene||Desmond Trufant||Jonathan Cyprien||Kawann Short|
|5.||Jesse Williams||Alex Okafor||Kiko Alonso||Corey Lemonier||John Simon||Johnathan Banks||D.J. Swearinger||Johnathan Hankins|
The players taken last season are even harder to quantify, given they have all played just one season. These players are mostly listed for completion's sake. We do know that Geno Smith struggled mightily with the New York Jets and was out-performed by E.J. Manuel. We also know that the the running backs generally exceeded expectations and that Tavon Austin struggled at receiver.
So without scoring the last two years, we're still able to notice some trends here with Mayock.
For one, Mayock struggles with quarterbacks ... but so does everybody, right? Mayock "missed" on running backs, but then again, the running back position has seemingly been devalued by teams in recent years. Is his top five really wrong if no running backs from that class amount to much?
Wide receivers, offensive linemen and defensive backs seem to be his strengths as an evaluator. He has hit on multiple receivers each year and has made some pretty impressive calls when it comes to safeties and cornerbacks. That's no surprise, given that Mayock used to be a defensive back.
Our rudimentary scoring system may not have much value, but seeing all of the names laid out provides an interesting look at the thinking of one of the top analysts in football. He is consistent with some positions and consistently inconsistent with others ... which is about what we've come to expect from NFL talking heads.