NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says the Senior Bowl is his favorite time of the year. It is there, on the turf of Ladd-Pebbles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., that the NFL prospects he has studied on film suddenly spring to life. The players either confirm Mayock's initial assessment or prompt him to intensify his film study.
"Basically, I'm a one-man outfit," said Mayock, who also works as a game analyst for NBC Sports. "I try to watch tape on as many kids as I can leading into the draft. My philosophy is to stack kids at the beginning based on pure scouting, on what I see on tape and what kind of player I think a kid will be. As more information starts to fill in as far as off-the-field issues, then I start to change some of what I have based on what I've learned. I'm not big on innuendo and I don't have a private security guy working for me. In reference to off-the-field issues -- and I'd lump medical, work ethic and any kind of trouble into one off-the-field-issue category -- I rely heavily on my contacts throughout the league."
The opening round of the NFL draft will commence April 28 in New York, but the next few weeks are when Mayock earns his money. He's spending this week at home in Philadelphia, watching tape provided by the Senior Bowl coaches. He'll then move on to the many underclassmen who have declared for the draft. Once Mayock concludes the process of going through all the prospects, he'll have a solid base for the NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place Feb. 24 to March 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
This column has often praised ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and respects his preparation. Same with Todd McShay. But Mayock has become the gold standard of the glamour NFL evaluators. What's refreshing is that he recognizes that his impact with teams is minimal.
"In the media world, if I say a kid is a first-round pick, people will pick it up and talk about it," Mayock said. "The only true reality is what is going on in the building of the 32 teams. They have big staffs to figure this out. How much they respect or don't respect my opinions is anyone's guess. I think you are giving me a little too much credit if you think I have impact on that.
"But I do I think that agents believe they can influence me," Mayock continued. "An agent's job is to get their best foot forward for their client, and I think I frustrate them a bit because they want to tell me how good their player is or give me some statistic. My reaction most of the time is, 'I appreciate the information, but the tape doesn't lie.' I'm a tape guy. If I don't agree with you, you can tell me anything you want to tell me, but it doesn't change my feelings for your kid."
"I had him walk me through his pass protection -- like the teams would do," Mayock said. "I wanted to get a feel for what kind of football IQ he had. For me, the quarterback position is the most important to figure out. The more I know about these kids, the better job I can do."
Last week the NFL Network released Mayock's initial
Blaine Gabbert might be most gifted quarterback in this draft. He might be the next Sam Bradford. On the other hand, he might be the next Alex Smith. At this point, I caution people. I gave out my top-five list, but this week is when I'll review all the Senior Bowl tape and more junior tape. These lists will change and get updated. Ultimately, when we get through the combine and these players get taken off boards because the teams have told me something, then my board starts to mean something. Right now, it is like a crossword puzzle. I'm mixing pieces in and out.
To me, Von Miller of Texas A&M is one of the most gifted pass rushers in this draft, though most of the teams look at him as a 3-4 rush linebacker, so he is not listed as a defensive end. You have Robert Quinn, and that's a kid where you have to take other considerations into play: How good a football player is he after he missed a year [because of suspension]? You have to go back to the tapes in '09. You know there is talent and ability there, but you have to do the homework with the coaches at North Carolina. There is a lot of work to be done on Robert Quinn. I put him in my top five because I recognized the talent, but I'm not going to confirm it until I recognize the kid.
(I asked Kiper the same question earlier in the week. His response: "I thought it was the best that it had ever been in terms of pacing, in terms of the way you were able to look forward to Day One and go through the day and the buildup to the first round. It gave teams a chance to redo their boards. And Day Three became a normal Day Two. ... I thought it was the best scenario rather than that whole marathon when the teams were kind of worn out. To sit there for that long and be sharp was not easy. This made it a lot crisper.")
Now as far as the external -- other people who do what I do -- the guy that I trust and like as far as an evaluator is
Don Ohlmeyer's 18-month tenure as ESPN ombudsman came to a close last week with
It is a principle everyone in sports media should follow.
Those who follow me on Twitter know my chief complaint with Ohlmeyer's tenure: a lack of timeliness to his columns and a limited focus beyond the television platform. The digital age forces the newspaper and radio ombudsman to work under a faster metabolism, and those at NPR,
Ohlmeyer wrote one column after Oct. 21, and in his final piece, he apologized for the spotty presence of his column, citing health issues. This column wishes him only the best of health. It is important for me to note that when I confirmed news of Ohlmeyer's health from a source outside of ESPN after an ESPN employee had told me Ohlmeyer had not been feeling well, I stopped tweaking him on Twitter for his absence. Whether Ohlmeyer should have been transparent earlier to the ESPN audience (or stepped down) is an issue reasonable people can debate.
The next ESPN ombudsman will be named shortly and the hope is that he or she will work in a real-time age. I've long floated the idea that the ombudsman should work in a real-time medium -- be it a blog, mailbag or even a Twitter account -- to react swifter, even if that reaction is to merely inform viewers and readers that their voices have been heard and a longer examination is coming. Plenty of issues that have risen at ESPN in the past six weeks -- such as Will Selva's plagiarizing an
As many of you know, Erin Andrews recently signed with Reebok to endorse ZigTech footwear and apparel, which means she's the only working sports reporter who can call both Chad Johnson and Alex Ovechkin teammates. Last week
The so-called hit referred to how Andrews reported that TCU football players were slipping in their new Nike cleats during the Rose Bowl. In his story, Brettman quoted the Poynter Institute's Kelly McBride, the organization's ethics group leader who often weighs in on ethics in journalism. "Journalists can review products, but they can't take money from a company to endorse them," McBride told the newspaper. "That totally ruins their credibility."
ESPN does not have a formal policy regarding the endorsement of commercial products by its talent. The network has long said that it evaluates each of the requests on an individual basis, and it was quick to respond to Brettman: "It's rare she would cover stories involving shoes in her role," an ESPN spokesman said. "With that said, if something relevant comes up, she would disclose her Reebok connection."
If ESPN is cool with Andrews' promoting Reebok -- or Applebee's and NutriSystem, as Chris Berman once brilliantly juggled concurrently -- she has every right to do so. Let me state unequivocally that I don't believe for a moment that Andrews' reporting at the Rose Bowl was done to curry favor for her about-to-be employer. Such brazenness strikes me as preposterous, especially since ESPN has senior news editors (with distinguished print credentials) on site at remotes to provide checks and balances on everything.
But the key word here is credibility. Andrews can sell the soap for Reebok and get rich doing it if her employer is cool with it. But it reconfirms what I've always said about her: She's
ESPN PR is indeed correct that Andrews doesn't cover the shoe beat. But Reebok does
Those are fair questions, and if Andrews is going to take Reebok's cash, then examinations of the issue are going to come, be it from
I've long been impressed by
The study (made up of 644 former players and commissioned by the network with additional funding by the National Institute on Drug Abuse) marked the first time researchers have explored the extent of the use and misuse of prescription pain medications by former NFL players. ESPN says
It's groundbreaking stuff, and worth your time.
Finally, one quick note about a previous item on Matt Millen. As I
If ESPN is fanatical about listening to the audience, as Bulgrin stated, and as I also believe to be true, the audience for this market seems to be saying something.