Blowing Smoke: A Look at The 2009 Draft and The NFL Smokscreen-Part One
Well the draft has come and gone and a new crop of NFL talent prepares for its first snaps of a new season. Let's take a moment to look back at to what led us to the this point.
The NFL draft is supposedly an intense game of cat and mouse with some elements of a poker world series match. Before the draft, teams are jockeying for position, disguising their moves, and trying to throw off every team as to what their true intentions are.
While it all sounds like a large conspiracy from the outside, teams invest millions of dollars in security groups and private investigators. They leak information to the media and hold their plans tight to their chest.
The main tool of the NFL organizations is the smokescreen. Many teams employ these to either push or pull draft picks to them. It can also be an effective way to get teams to trade up or down if done properly.
A smokescreen is defined by fans and the media as a comment, reaction, or statement declaring an interest in a subject or player that turns out to be false or meant as a distraction from the actual subject matter.
So, do smokescreens work? Well, after studying the draft for the past three years from a media perspective, they do. This can be seen in how often the mock drafts produced by both players and analysts change between the combine and the draft.
Do the smokescreens work at an NFL front office level? I would argue that they are maybe 50 percent effective. While some teams are pulled by a smokescreen to trade, there are equally as many teams that don't take the bait and just do what they have to.
There were some examples from this year's draft, after the media found out some secrets from behind the scenes and various other reports. The Eagles, fearing a trade up by the Giants to grab WR Jeremy Maclin, jumped up to 19 to get said receiver.
The Buccaneer's jumped up to get QB Josh Freeman, following speculation that the Broncos wanted to nab the K-State signal caller. The Browns and Seahawks both said that they wanted QB Mark Sanchez, which prompted the Jets to jump up to No. 5 to take him.
On the other side of the equation, you have the Patriots, a team notoriously quiet on draft day. They rarely release statements or comments. The Ravens and the Colts also follow this formula.
The above teams usually trade back or stay put on draft day. Do they make every pick correctly? No, but these teams seem to set themselves up for success.
As for smokescreens being effective on an NFL level, some teams just don't play the game well enough. This year, one of these teams was the Saints.
Prior to the draft they fooled a lot of people into mocking RB Chris Wells into their place. The comments fooled both of ESPN's draft experts, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper.
While Kiper and McShay kept flip flopping on the pick, as the draft grew closer they eventually landed on the true selection. Did this smokescreen work? Maybe, maybe not, as we have no way of knowing what trade offers were made and what teams called in.
As for seeing if they're effective from a fans point of view, I personally find most smokescreens to be poorly constructed and easy to see through. After just listening to the comments made by the coaches and GMs, one could see where and what direction the teams were trying to go for.
In the next article, we will go into further depth and take a look at various teams and their smokescreens (or lack thereof).
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