For the last few months, I click to open NFL.com and the other NFL-news websites, but there is nothing to read. For the last month at least, “mock drafts” have dominated NFL coverage. “Big Board Mock”, “Consensus Mock Draft”, “Final Mock Draft”, “Seven Round Mock”, “Superduperawesomecrazyoneofakind Mock Draft”. But here’s the truth: Mock drafts are stupid. They are pointless, inaccurate, and should not be taken seriously. But many do, despite the fact that the word ‘mock’ is half of the name.
Yes, there are NFL experts out there that scout and study the players, and write up mock drafts accordingly. They analyse the team needs, the team position financially and draft-wise, the current age of their players on the roster, etcetera. I do not doubt their expertise and their knowledge in the field, but as good of a job that the experts might do with regard to all of that, they simply do not know what any specific franchise is planning. Sure, that team needs an offensive lineman, their offensive line is getting old, they are in perfect place to take so-and-so offensive lineman with their current draft position and it fits.
This was certainly the case where experts and other NFL analysts projected the Cowboys to take either an offensive lineman or a defensive back in the 2010 NFL draft. WalterFootball.com had the Cowboys taking Mike Iupati, nfldraftdog.com had the Cowboys taking Bruce Campbell, draftking.com had Donovan Warren, and others having the Cowboys pick the likes of Taylor Mays, Anthony Davis, Charles Brown, Rodger Saffold, and Morgan Burnett.
But was that what actually happened? Hell-to-the-no. OklahomaState’s Desmond (Dez) Bryant dropped, from where he was widely projected to go (to New Englandat 23) to pick 27, where Jerrah simply could not resist. Why did draft experts not see this coming? Dez had always shown some ‘character issues’, missing games due to suspension, having a prostitute for a mother (Classy, Jeff Ireland), and I think Dez killed a guy. He stabbed him in the heart with a trident. His stock was bound to fall a little. Few if any mocks had the Cowboys to taking him though. Many reasoned that the Cowboys had emerging Wideout Miles Austin already, and with so much money invested in Roy Williams, they would not take Dez Bryant even if he fell to the 27th spot. But he did, and the Cowboys snapped him up.
The point of all this is: no expert anywhere knows what a team is thinking. You can analyse and predict all you want, but in the end, it is all just guesswork. It does not matter whether a team has a specific need, and a specific player falls to them at their pick. Draft day trades happen, new information is released, players’ draft stock will rise and fall on draft day. Things can change in minutes, even seconds. Draft day trades happen every year. A player falls to a pick that another team wants, and the team holding the pick thinks they can get more value by trading down. This happens every year, and the one franchise name that keeps showing itself as a wheel-and-deal genius is the New England Patriots.
Mock drafts simply cannot predict these trades happening. The chemistry of draft day also affects the picks taken. Teams can panic and reach for a player out of depseration.
Quarterback seem to be the position that teams reach for the most; Tim Tebow, Christian Ponder and Jake Locker come to mind. I’m not saying these players won’t be successful, in fact some of them already are. But teams reached to pick them, and mock drafts were made inaccurate by influencing factors that no expert could predict.
Below is a table of WalterFootball.com’s first round mock drafts over the last few years. The names highlighted in yellow are players that were taken either at that pick, or one pick before or after what was predicted. I consider those ‘successful mocks’. The rest were either taken later or earlier in the round, by more than one pick, or not taken in the first round at all.
26 out of the 96 picks were accurate. This gives us a success rate of 24.96%. You will also notice that it is much easier to predict the first few picks than the rest of the first round.
Mock drafts are inaccurate, and I just don’t see why they should be taken seriously. They’re a complete waste of time. Yes, they may give an indication as to where certain players rank with other players who share the same position, but other than that they are simply not accurate. You may know all about the rookies and successfully analyse team needs, but when the time comes and the pick is taken, nobody will have any idea what the franchise is planning.
If you have 30 minutes a day to kill, and are that starved of football news, go for gold. But personally, I think that (to paraphrase William Goldman) when it comes to the NFL draft, no one knows anything.