Prior to this year’s NFL draft, analyst Mike Mayock called Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict a “non-draftable kid.” Burfict protested that Mayock was being “hurtful,” but it turned out that the NFL’s 32 teams agreed with Mayock, as Burfict went undrafted.
But the Bengals signed Burfict as an undrafted free agent, and he has played very well, entering the starting lineup in Week Three and starting every game since. On Thursday night, Burfict will start his 12th game of the season, the most ever for an undrafted rookie in Bengals franchise history. So does that make Mayock think he was wrong about his assessment?
Nope. Mayock, who will call Thursday night’s Bengals-Eagles game for NFL Network, told Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he still believes, based on the information available to him at the time of this year’s draft, that “non-draftable” was the correct grade to put on Burfict, who had a disappointing final season at Arizona State and bad workouts at both the Scouting Combine and his Pro Day.
“I was on record as saying point blank on the way he played he was non-draftable. I would still stand by it. I saw the same thing NFL teams saw based on the way he played,” Mayock said.
What has really impressed Mayock is the way the Bengals’ coaching staff has made the most of Burfict’s abilities and turned him into a much different player than the one who was playing for Arizona State a year ago and working out for NFL teams nine months ago.
“I give [the Bengals] a ton of credit, [especially linebackers coach] Paul Guenther,” Mayock said. “First thing they did was get the kid in shape. You could see he was gassed. He looks completely different. I can tell he looks quicker and lighter. He looks like the kid that was advertised a couple years ago. I believe that Cincinnati thought the kid had ability, got him in shape and Guenther has done a good job getting him ready to play.”
The Bengals’ coaches deserve a lot of credit. But Burfict deserves credit too. This “non-draftable kid” has made a bigger impact this season than a whole lot of rookies who were drafted.