The 2009 draft was supposed to be a bonanza for so-called 'tweener pass rushers, and the prize of the group was an undersized speedster who ran a blistering 4.59-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. The prospect's name: Aaron Maybin.
"I think he will be able to play on his feet," said the dean of draft gurus, Mel Kiper, prior to the draft. "He has tremendous quickness out of the blocks. He's as quick out of his stance to a three-yard area as anybody. He's a gifted athlete with closing speed. He's a one-year wonder, but he took advantage of it. He should go in the top 15, and as an outside linebacker should have a pretty good rookie year."
Maybin, drafted 11th overall by Buffalo, did not have a good rookie year. He started only one game in 2009 and finished with six tackles and no sacks. He didn't start a single game last season and again finished without a sack. Maybin's bulk was an issue in the run up to the draft. He weighed only 227 pounds at the February combine before reassured scouts by tipping the scales at 252 pounds at his pro day in mid March. The 49ers did not have Maybin rated very high because they didn't think he was stout enough to be a three-down player.
This morning, I asked Kiper about another small-ish pass-rush prospect, Texas A&M's Von Miller, who Kiper sees being taken third overall by - you guessed it -- Buffalo. Miller weighed in at 237 pounds at the Senior Bowl in January and 246 the following month at the combine.
Kiper said he saw no issues with Miller's size. "He's not that small," Kiper said. "He's 245 pounds. I checked Lawrence Taylor when he came out of North Carolina, and he was 242." And while Maybin had two years of eligibility remaining at Penn State, Kiper noted that Miller had four years of production with the Aggies and is one of the few seniors among the Top 15 prospects.
Kiper raved about Miller's speed and balance off the edge, and he likened Miller's ability to turn the corner to a motocross rider taking a curve. I asked about his ability to set the edge and stop the run. Said Kiper: "There are times that he can be handled. But they all can be. ... But he's not getting paid to stop the run. He's getting paid to run to the QB."
Another difference: There is a lot more consensus this year about Miller than there was about Maybin two years ago. While Kiper liked him, for instance, NFL Network's Mike Mayock thought Maybin should have stayed at Penn State another season. To be fair, though, Mayock called pass rusher Robert Ayers, the 18th overall pick to Denver, "a special player" and "the best defensive player coming out of this draft." Ayers has 1 ½ sacks in two seasons.
The two-year totals for other 2009 class of 'tweeners:
- Brian Orakpo, 13th overall, Washington: 31 starts, 106 tackles, 19 ½ sacks
- Larry English, 16th overall, San Diego: 4 starts, 53 tackles, 5 sacks
- Clay Matthews, 26th overall, Green Bay: 28 starts, 111 tackles, 23 ½ sacks
- Everette Brown, 43rd overall, Carolina*: 3 starts, 45 tackles, 6 sacks
- Clint Sintim, 45th overall, New York Giants: 1 start, 21 tackles, 1 sack
- Connor Barwin, 46th overall, Houston*: 0 starts, 18 tackles, 4 ½ sacks
- David Veikune, 52nd overall, Denver: 0 starts, 3 tackles, 0 sacks
- Paul Kruger, 57th overall, Baltimore*: 1 start, 12 tackles, 1 sack
- Cody Brown, 63rd overall, Arizona: 0 starts, 0 tackles, 0 sacks
- Michael Johnson, 70th overall, Cincinnati*: 10 starts, 52 tackles, 5 ½ sacks
- Lawrence Sidbury, 125th overall, Atlanta*: 0 starts, 5 tackles, 1 sack
* plays defensive end.
-- Matt Barrows