Who Has Mike Mularkey Helped Select in NFL Drafts?
While the focus is on the GM, the head coach has a say in drafts.
The talk all offseason leading up to the draft has been centered around how second-year General Manager Jon Robinson will handle the draft. Last year, we saw a substantial glimpse of what kind of prospects he favors. While it’s a stretch to say he has a specific “prototype”, he certainly values college production and good character highly. But when attempting to decipher what a GM’s draft plan will be, it’s easy to forget that there are other people in the front office whose opinions hold plenty of weight. Head coach Mike Mularkey is one of those people, and we must take into account the players he has drafted in the past.
Using last year’s draft will do us no good, as he was already a pairing with Robinson. We can deduce that him and Robinson have similar feelings on what kind of players they want to draft, but let’s try to prove that hypothesis true by delving back into his last two head coaching jobs.
Note: I’m aware that Mularkey didn’t solely draft these players, but he at least had some say on most picks.
Mularkey spent two seasons with the Bills, going 9-7 his first year and 5-11 his second year before resigning due to disagreement with the direction of the organization. Let’s take a look at his draft classes, starting with 2004.
Round 1: Lee Evans, WR, Wisconsin; Round 1: J.P. Losman, QB, Tulane; Round 3: Tim Anderson, DT, Ohio State; Round 4: Tim Euhus, TE, Oregon State; Round 7: Dylan McFarland, OT, Montana; Round 7: Jonathan Smith, WR Georgia Tech
Evans was a talented speedster who had a very solid career in the NFL. The Bills gave up a second and fifth round pick, as well as a first round pick in 2005 to get Losman. Losman was a massive disappointment, as many of you know. The rest of the picks didn’t make it past their rookie contracts.
Here’s what he put together in his second offseason in 2005.
Round 2: Roscoe Parrish, WR, Miami; Round 3: Kevin Everett, TE, Miami; Round 4: Duke Preston, C, Illinois; Round 5: Eric King, CB, Wake Forest; Round 6: Justin Geisinger, G, Vanderbilt; Round 7: Lionel Gates, RB, Louisville
Not much stands out here aside from Everett. The Bills double dipped with University of Miami pass catchers with the first two picks. Parrish was a speed demon (like Evans) with excellent return skills in college. Everett struggled with injuries early in his NFL career, which was bitterly cut short by a neck injury in an on-field collision in 2007. It’s notable that the team drafted another tight end in the first four rounds after drafting one in 2004. It’s become pretty apparent that tight ends are uber-important in Mularkey’s offense.
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After smaller coaching stints with the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, Mularkey got a second stab at a head coaching gig with the Jaguars in 2012. Mularkey lasted just one season, getting fired after going 2-14 with a horrible roster to work with. Here’s who the team drafted in his lone offseason as head coach.
Round 1: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State; Round 2: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson; Round 3: Bryan Anger, P, California; Round 5: Brandon Marshall, LB, Nevada; Round 6: Mike Harris, CB, Florida State; Round 7: Jeris Pendleton, DT, Ashland
Blackmon had character and long speed concerns coming out of college, but that didn’t keep the Jaguars from taking him with the sixth overall pick. He heavily struggled with alcohol through his first few seasons, and has been banned from the league since 2015 and hasn’t yet applied for reinstatement. Let’s hope Mularkey had no say in taking a punter in the third round. Branch and Marshall were easily the best picks here, but they’ve become solid contributors for their secondary teams after not playing or playing well with the Jaguars.
So, what have we learned from Mularkey’s previous draft classes? Not much, although some things stand out. First, his teams took a wide receiver with their first pick in all three offseasons where he was a head coach. Second, his Bills teams went tight end in the middle rounds in back to back years. He might’ve pounded the table for a tight end with the Jaguars if it was a better draft for the position and if they didn’t have an in-form Marcedes Lewis.
I don’t want to draw conclusions since he already has a draft with the Titans under his belt in which he went with an offensive tackle in the first round and defensive end in the second. But taking a receiver with the first pick in all three years as a head coach for those teams is very much something to take into account, especially with the Titans having two first round picks to get their guy this year. While John Ross fits the mold of Evans and Parrish, Corey Davis profiles similarly to Blackmon. If Mularkey chooses to draft a tight end in the middle rounds like he did with the Bills, look for a player like George Kittle, who blocks well and can catch if needed, to get his name called.
I truly don’t know if any of this has any bearing on what will happen in four days, but it’s good to look back in time and see how Mularkey used to do things. Whether he takes some previous drafting habits from his past into the future or has completely changed is yet to be decided. We’ll find out on Thursday night.