Secret Superstar: Aaron Maybin, OLB, New York Jets

| 5 years ago

Secret Superstar: Aaron Maybin, OLB, New York Jets

If there was a sentence 12 months ago I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be uttering, it’s that Aaron Maybin is anybody’s Secret Superstar. That is how things can change in the NFL these days.

Usually the players we highlight in the Secret Superstar series ply their trade well below the radar, producing unfairly anonymous seasons while other guys get all the name recognition and praise. Maybin isn’t like that, because he has serious name recognition.

Aaron Maybin is just 24 years old, and yet this time last year he was looking like a colossal draft bust. Just another in a line of misses by the Buffalo Bills, with all anybody knowing about him that he hadn’t shown a thing in the NFL. Now he is coming off an impressive season for the Jets, and is young enough to once again be a promising young star-in-the-making.  

Earning the ‘Bust’ Tag

The Bills were crying out for a pass rusher in the 2009 draft, and selected Aaron Maybin 11th overall. The first edge rusher taken–ahead of players like Brian Orakpo and Clay Matthews III–the Bills hoped that the Penn State product’s upside would counter his inexperience and need for development.

Maybin really had only one season of production at Penn State, but it was a season that earned him All-American honors as well as a slew of other awards and recognitions. As a pass rusher he demonstrated a rare first step and burst that had to get NFL coaches excited about his prospects at the next level. Weighing anywhere from 235 to 250lbs, he was always an undersized player, and never going to be an all-around force, but in a league becoming ever more specialized, being purely a devastating pass rusher is more than enough to earn you a place on most teams.

Maybe the Bills thought they could turn Maybin into a complete player with time, but they likely wouldn’t have cared if they could rely on his pass rush productivity and used him purely situationally. In essence, they were expecting Maybin to be their version of Aldon Smith, and maybe more in time. It never happened.

He finished his Buffalo career after just two seasons and only 332 snaps without a single sack. More troubling, though, was that he notched just two knockdowns and nine more total pressures; displaying none of the explosive first step that made him such an enticing prospect. He looked like just another player who thought he had made it simply by reaching the NFL and stopped trying to improve. The Bills quickly tired of trying to find the talent and cast him aside four months after his 23rd birthday.


Redemption 385 Miles Away

Players can be thrown on the scrap heap incredibly quickly in a cutthroat business that is the NFL, especially if they show a lack of desire or a poor attitude. But young players with physical attributes that can’t be taught will always get a second chance somewhere. The New York Jets came calling and signed Maybin just two days after he was waived by the Bills and, though they waived him in early September of 2011, they eventually re-signed him before the end of the month and he has stuck since.

Rex Ryan loves players with ability, and he is one of the league’s best at putting his players in situations to succeed. It’s doubtless that this helped Maybin who ended up playing 219 snaps for the Jets in 2011, notching six sacks in the process. The Jets were able to isolate what he does well and turn him loose, with Maybin rushing the passer on 185 of those snaps, and having very little to do with the run game or coverage.

Though the Jets made it easy for him, Maybin finally showed the burst and speed around the edge that was never on display in Buffalo. He finally put down on NFL tape what scouts had seen on his college tape, and he finished the season with a +7.5 pass-rushing grade which, from under 200 snaps rushing the passer, is an impressive achievement.

His sack total of six was enough to lead the Jets last season, but Maybin also showed a knack for the Holy Grail play of pass rushers, the strip-sack. His first two career sacks were both of this variety, and he ended the season having forced five fumbles in addition to his sacks. In short, Maybin had become a playmaker for a team in desperate need of a pass rush.


Back on the Development Train

Last season was a pretty good rookie season from Maybin; the only problem for him is that it was his third season in the NFL. Going into 2012 and beyond, he needs to show that 2011 wasn’t a fluke, and that’s what he should have been bringing to the table from the outset of his career. At his age he was better placed than most to be able to write off his first two seasons in the league, but he needs to continue to produce now, and to carve himself a larger role in the Jets’ defense.

The good news is that the Jets still have a big need for an impact pass rusher, and they can afford to ramp up the number of snaps Maybin sees on the field in the hope that he can continue to grow and maintain his level of play. Last season Calvin Pace was the closest Jet to Maybin in sacks (five), but Pace played over 700 more snaps and rushed the passer almost twice as many times. The Jets need to get Maybin to see more of the field in 2012, and they can treat him as a bonus draft pick.

Already on to his second career at the age of 24, Aaron Maybin had two strikes against him in Buffalo, but he connected with his first pitch in a Jets uniform. He heads into 2012 with a chance to emerge from the wreckage of those first two seasons and show people why Buffalo chose him as high as they did. Aaron Maybin was the Jets’ Secret Superstar in 2011, what can he become in 2012?



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| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • OedipusRexRyan

    Even at age 24, he’s still more than a year younger than 2011 rookie Brooks Reed…

  • BufLove

    From the beginning of this article I was a tad worried you would be bashing Buffalo’s handling of Maybin, thankfully that wasn’t the case. The problem with Maybin was, he didn’t want to be in Buffalo, and he was damned if he was going to even try. He was known in the locker room as a slacker, not much of a workout guy, always underweight, he just hated Buffalo.

    He’s got talent, that is true, it’s sad as a Bills fan to see kids who get a job and act like a petulant child for not getting their way, maybe he’s finally happy in NY, stings as a Bills fan, but thats the NFL for ya.