Reading mock drafts are required on everyone's agenda for the next month, including NFL teams, which use our mocks to explore and anticipate scenarios so they aren't caught unawares once the bullets fly in the first round. I'm afraid that most of the mocks I see don't actually make an honest attempt at a first round that could conceivably match reality. It makes the task more difficult, but here are some ideas for conveying more valuable information and realistic possibilities in a first-round mock:
Project Four or More Draft Day Trades - I generally don't project trades in my first round because it decreases the usefulness of the mock as a predictor of the highest number of team-player matches. Still, an honest attempt at depicting how the first round will really go should have about six trades, the average number of first-round draft day deals over the last five years.
Also, pay attention to which GMs have been wheelers and dealers in the first in years past, and tell a good story as to why the team would covet a player so much as to move down and why they would be afraid of losing the player at that point in the first round. Use your trades to illustrate what we can predict about a war room's behavior on draft day based on history.
Project Risers and Fallers - Too many mocks keep every player within a five-pick range of their consensus draft ranking. That never happens in reality. Project a few potential early-round picks to fall to the late teens or 20s, and a few late first-rated prospects to rise to the top 15.
Project a Surprise First-Round Pick and Exclude One "Sure Thing" - Again, every year we'll hear at least one name get called in the first round that few have in their mock drafts. We'll all be scratching our heads at one player who has to wait overnight to hear his name called on the second day. Take a stab at who you think those players could be.
Project a Pick or Two that Makes No Sense Based on Team Needs - Not every team will use their pick on a position of need. In fact, one or more will use their pick on a position that seems like one of their strengths. They are often looking two or three years into the future at contract situations, or just believe in a player so much that they are compelled to take him. It is more important to hit on a first-round pick than it is to use it to plug a hole.
Understand The Track Record of Decision Makers - Some prefer high floor/high character sure things. Some prefer rare athletes and trust their coaching staffs to mold the players. Some avoid certain positions or get fixated on certain positions in the first round. Some are predictably unpredictable. Some trade compulsively in the first round, some never make moves. Credible first-round picks make sense against the background of a decision maker's history in the first round.
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