Cubism had Picasso, the piano had Mozart. The virtuoso of the NFL Draft doesn't reside in Bristol, New York, or Los Angeles, he lives in Dallas, Texas.
Rick Gosselin has received the top scores over the last three years for both the first-round mock draft and the Top 100 draft prospects list.
Rick was kind enough to spend some time talking with NE Patriots Draft:
NE Patriots Draft: What brought you to covering the NFL draft? What interests you most about the process?
Gosselin: I became the NFL writer for the Dallas Morning News in 1992 and, as part of my job, the newspaper asked me then to grade drafts. If I was going to be fair in assigning grades to teams, I needed to know what I was talking about.
So I started pouring myself into researching players and creating my own draft board. I talk to NFL talent evaluators and try to build a board that reflects the league consensus at each position.
My network of sources has grown over the last 18 years. Obviously, the more information you can collect, the smarter you can look. That said, mock drafts are mostly luck. If there's one trade or one surprise pick, especially early in the round, the board takes off in a different direction.
I always felt if you could score direct hits on 8-12 picks (of the 32), you had a good mock. But I put more stock in how I fare on my Top 100 board than on my mock. The Top 100 runs on the Friday before the draft both in the Dallas Morning News and on our website dallasnews.com.
That's a truer indication of whether you have a handle on the draft, moreso than accurately identifying a dozen of the first 32 players in a 255-pick draft. What interests me and challenges me the most is starting from scratch every February and trying to figure out where a whole new class of players fits in a draft.
NE Patriots Draft: We know you don't want to give away your secrets, but what makes your mock drafts more successful than others on a consistent basis?
Gosselin: I talk to the people that evaluate talent for a living. I'm a writer, not a scout. I can't tell you the difference between Matt Ryan and Brian Brohm. But NFL talent evaluators know the difference, so I talk to them. Their input allows me to build a fairly accurate draft board. I'll research 500 players leading up to the draft (200-plus players won't even be drafted) and try to build a a board that reflects the value of each player. Then, when I do my mock, I try to match up the value at the pick with the need of the team.
NE Patriots Draft: In your first mock draft, you have the Patriots taking Vernon Gholston. What do you make of the reports that he is this year's Mike Mamula?
Gosselin: There are no sure things in any draft, be it the first overall pick or the 255th pick. You find that the higher a player is on the draft board, the more he gets criticized and picked apart leading up to the draft. No one cares that a pass rusher from Emporia State in the sixth round might be the next Mike Mamula. But put that label on a guy who got 14 sacks at Ohio State and folks will pay attention. Gholston also might be the next Hugh Douglas. History says a guy who collected 14 sacks at Ohio State should be a pretty good player. He also has the measurables the NFL likes, which is why he sits near the top of the draft board with the label best pass rusher in the draft. I gave him to the Patriots in my first mock because I thought he was a terrific value at the seventh overall pick.
NE Patriots Draft: Do you feel like the new drug information will hurt the stock of prospects like Manningham, Jackson, and Talib?
Gosselin: It depends how accurate the information is. In today's NFL, teams research the backgrounds of players as much off the field as they do on the field. Sure, past drug issues can impact a player's draft standing. So can past injuries. Each team trusts what it has researched on its own in terms of character issues, not what it might read in a newspaper, hear on the radio or see on television. By and large, teams have already researched those problems before they ever become public knowledge.
NE Patriots Draft: Thanks for your time, Rick.
Gosselin: I talk to the people that evaluate talent for a living. I'm a writer, not a scout. I can't tell you the difference between Matt Ryan and Brian Brohm. But NFL talent evaluators know the difference, so I talk to them.
Gosselin: There are no sure things in any draft, be it the first overall pick or the 255th pick. You find that the higher a player is on the draft board, the more he gets criticized and picked apart leading up to the draft.