Bust. Epic bust. Aaron Maybin.
After generating 12 quarterback sacks and 20 tackles for loss during his final collegiate season at Penn State, Aaron Maybin was projected as an early first round selection during the 2009 NFL draft. Mel Kiper Jr. wrote at the time that Maybin "is another combo type who is explosive out of the blocks and relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback." Eventually the Buffalo Bills selected Maybin No. 11 overall during the 2009 NFL draft.
During his first two seasons there, Maybin failed to generate a quarterback sack, totaling 24 tackles in 25 games. During his four career seasons, including the last two with the New York Jets, Maybin compiled 691 defensive snaps, posting six quarterback sacks, six hits and 32 total pressures on the quarterback. Comparatively speaking, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins (12.5 sacks, 13 hits on the quarterback and 53 pressures) and Michael Johnson (11.5 sacks, 8 hits on the quarterback, 34 pressures) surpassed Maybin's career in 2012 alone.
Defining Maybin as anything more than Mike Zimmer's 2013 pet project, a player that offers the same amount of risk as any street free agent or undrafted college free agent, would be a stretch.
We reached out to Buffalo Rumblings and Gang Green Nation--the respective Bills and Jets SB Nation sites--after Cincinnati signed Maybin on Friday to get a feel for why his NFL career is so heavily associated with the word "bust".
"I don't think anyone questioned Maybin's work ethic, at least not publicly," Matt Warren with Buffalo Rumblings told Cincy Jungle. "He was a high motor guy by all accounts. Two things really doomed him in Buffalo. The first and most important was his weight. He was never able to beef up to an acceptable weight to be a defensive end in the 4-3. I watched forgettable offensive tackle Ed Wang handle Maybin with ease in training camp because Maybin had no power behind his pass rush once Wang got his hands on him."
"Here's a breakdown: run straight up the field so I don't get engaged by the tackle, eventually circle around, get the sack on the unsuspecting quarterback who thinks I ran out of the play," recalls Warren. "Of course, Bills fans didn't see a Maybin sack until a game against Buffalo in November of 2011 when he was with the Jets."
John Butchko with Gang Green Nation goes one further. "It's 100 percent lack of talent. By all accounts, he's a good guy and a hard worker. He's got a great motor," Butchko said. "He just doesn't have the tools to play in the NFL. He doesn't have the bulk to play in the front seven. He gets driven back the second he gets engaged. He isn't strong enough to shed blocks. He has no pass rushing moves. He's a pure speed rusher. He added bulk this year trying to make himself better, but that seemed to hurt his speed.
"With one exception, every sack he had with the Jets was either a coverage sack as a result of hustle or the offensive line blowing an assignment allowing him to become a free runner."
Maybin's first four seasons boil down to one thing: He believes that what he has naturally, is all that he's ever needed. Though his work ethic and motor aren't problems, any player growth has compounded the problem. Look at it this way. If you're at work, you do a good job working hard to accomplish those tasks. That doesn't mean you accomplished those tasks, nor that your job is overall made better through personal growth. Anyone can play hard. But can that player grow? That's the question with Maybin.
"The dude also came out way too early, which was the first sign of an immature guy thinking he was 'big time' before he'd really done anything," Brian Galliford of SB Nation's Buffalo Rumblings tells us. "He's always given off this attitude of thinking his shit doesn't stink, but it's hard to see because he's an okay kid and he does have a good work ethic. Go find the story of Maybin walking out in the middle of a charity endeavor when he found out the Jets had cut him - that's indicative of his biggest problem."
From Newsday on Nov. 13, 2012.
The Jets cut Aaron Maybin on Tuesday, a source told Newsday -- the same day he was scheduled to appear at a Jets charity event in the Bronx supporting the Food Bank for New York City. The outside linebacker -- who was a healthy scratch Sunday in Seattle -- received a call about his release shortly after arriving at the Jets charity event. He promptly left.
Though Maybin cites Cincinnati's ability to revive older and dysfunctioning NFL career, his arrival in Cincinnati is certainly an opportunity to shed the image and characteristics that's defined his first four seasons.
"When you see what guys like Terence Newman did last year and how much success they had, it did factor into me wanting to come here," said Maybin on Friday after the team announced the move. "I wanted to feel like I would have an opportunity to contribute wherever I played next."
If Maybin fails to achieve an impression to grow improving his pass rushing moves while adding bulk to his frame, it could be a short marriage. Though free agency could break Cincinnati's front seven down significantly, we highly doubt that the Bengals coaching staff will rely on Maybin as one of those replacement components. In fact we give him the same chance as any undrafted free agent. It'll be up to him to make a convincing argument that he belongs on the 53-man roster.