If there’s one thing sports fans love more than actually watching sports, it’s projecting sports.
When the NFL draft rolls around every year, hundreds of thousands of NFL mock drafts hit the Internet, with everyone and their mother weighing in on how they think the first round will go down.
I’m no different. Just this week, I posted a first-round NBA mock draft, pretending that I could get into the heads of 30 NBA front office executives and project their picks months in advance. (The NBA draft takes place on June 24).
In reality, last night’s wild first round of the NFL draft proved why mock drafting, as a whole, is nothing more than glorified sports entertainment and should be taken with about a million grains of salt.
The best part about the NFL draft (or worst part, if you’re a Raiders fan) is its unpredictability. After the first five picks of a draft, it’s a total freaking crapshoot .
Go check out your favorite expert's mock draft. Good luck sorting through the wreckage after the fifth pick.
Mock drafters: The only people who can be paid to be wrong more than weathermen.
Last night’s first round highlighted some major reasons why mock drafters can guess the first few picks correctly, then watch as their mock is up in flames by the 10th pick.
On the surface, draft-day trades destroy mock drafts more than anything else.
In theory, when you’re constructing a mock draft, you’re doing it based on a player’s talent and a team's needs. Teams don’t always stick to the “draft the best player available” mantra, and they’re not afraid to reach for a guy to fill a position of need.
As evidence, seven trades went down during last night’s first round, starting with San Francisco trading for Denver’s No. 11 overall pick.
Given that, any NFL mock draft this year would have crumbled after the first 10 picks.
Sure, you could project that Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, and Gerald McCoy were going to be the first three off the board. Heck, ESPN’s Mel Kiper predicted the first six picks perfectly.
But Kiper’s mock disintegrated when the Browns went with Joe Haden seventh, and he only correctly projected four picks out of the final 26.
Realistically, there was nothing Kiper could have done to prevent his mock draft from being torn asunder. How could he have known the Chargers and Eagles were about to jump 10 spots to pick Ryan Mathews and Brandon Graham, respectively?
Speaking of Mathews and Graham, didn’t last night’s draft seem to feature more teams than usual who fell in love with a particular player?
This screws writers that can’t interview all 30 NFL front offices when they’re making their mock drafts. Knowing a player’s strengths and weaknesses and predicting which teams he’d logically fit with is only half the battle.
For one, teams don’t publicize the results of their individual workouts. The coaches will give some pleasantries about being very impressed with the player, his work ethic, and his character, but that’s just about all you’re getting.
ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli revealed that the Broncos fell in love with Tim Tebow at the draft combine ; then again, he mentioned that little detail in his post-first-round draft story about Tebow. When the Broncos selected Tebow with that 25th pick, no one besides Tebow’s agent saw that coming.
GM Trickery and Buffoonery
The real question I’ve wondered about mock drafts: Do the writers who work at ESPN/SI, who have inside access to NFL front offices, stand to benefit or harm themselves more from all of the inside information they glean leading up to the draft?
It’s no secret that NFL GMs love throwing up smokescreens, pretending to be in love with one player before pulling a 180 and picking someone completely different on draft night.
On the other hand, Al Davis still manages to shock the world on a yearly basis with his always controversial picks, and this year was no different. Selecting Rolando McClain eighth overall, when Derrick Morgan was still on the board, may haunt Raiders fans as much as the Darrius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree decision last year still does.
The Raiders weren’t the only team to make an eyebrow raising selection last night. At No. 10, the Jaguars selected Tyson Alualu, a guy who hadn’t really been in the first-round conversation leading up to the draft.
And let’s not forget the Tebow pick, which Denver acquired by trading away a second, third, and fourth-round pick in this year’s draft.
With the combination of draft-day trades, teams falling in love with players during workouts, and NFL front offices throwing up smokescreens or bungling their sure-fire draft picks, mock drafters are fighting a losing battle if they hope to accurately predict how everything will play out.
Until someone actually creates a mock that even slightly resembles how the first round goes down, mock drafts should hold about as much weight as NCAA tournament bracketology done in January.