I love the draft and I love draft analysis. I love it almost as much as Nagler hates it, which is a tremendous amount.
That said, the entire process and some of those in it can be exhausting. So this will be some self-indulgent venting, as well as pitfalls and traps readers—as well as analysts—will fall into the next three months.
So come with me as I guide you through five pieces of bullcrap draft analysts tell you, as well as themselves.
Keep in mind, these are my opinions—and they are just that (though I think they’re right). When it comes to draft analysis, all of this is about opinions. Far too many people want to paint this junk as black and white—the reality is shades of gray.
It’s Important Mock Draft A is More Accurate than Mock Draft B
Let me let you in on a little secret—the real point of mock drafts isn’t guessing which team will take what player when. I mean, it’s great when that happens, but aside from the opening five to ten picks, it’s blind luck.
Someone recently put it this way: Bragging about mock draft accuracy is like bragging when you get the lotto numbers correct.
No, the reality is, accuracy is in no way indicative of talent as an analyst, inside information or anything else. Draft analysts who spend a ton of time telling you how accurate they were after April are only proving two things: one, they are worried about the wrong thing and two, it’s a contest to them
The point to mock drafts, as far as I am concerned is twofold. Well, three if you want to add “be entertaining” or “start debate”.
First though, a good mock draft should tell you what the teams need—or what the author of said mock thinks they need since what we think and what teams think can be worlds apart.
A good mock draft should be clear in it’s knowledge of the teams, what they need and why they need it. Those points should be supported by logical arguments. Saying “the Jets should pick defensive lineman X with their first pick” isn’t helpful. Saying “the Jets should pick defensive lineman X because of A, B, C” is (or should be).
Oh by the way—the deeper the mock draft, the less the accuracy is important (and possible, let’s be honest).
It is nearly impossible to predict who the Giants are taking in round 6 with their compensatory pick. Hell, hitting on the position of a player is hard—forget the actual name of the player a team picks.
The later you get, the more the effort is about addressing team needs, analysis of players and overall thoughts on the draft class as a whole.
Worrying about accuracy in a seven round mock is like worrying that about what your kid will be like when you’re eleven. Sure, it’s a fun exercise but it’s ultimately a waste of time.
As with all things draft it’s INFORMATION which is vital, not whether the dart you threw from across the bar hits.
Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
Oh and if you picked 80% of the first round right last draft?
I Can Tell Intangibles from Game Tape and Media Interviews
Also known as the “CAM NEWTON SMILE RULE”.
Do you remember that? When Pro Football Weekly draft expert Nolan Nawrocki said—well, let me quote directly because it’s THAT good.
“Very disingenuous — has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law — does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room . . . Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness — is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable.”
Now, Nawrocki had sources which told him this about Newton. Of course, sources have agendas and those sources could have been agents of other top picks, teams hoping Newton would fall, ball boys from Auburn with a grudge—you get the idea.
Now maybe Newton is a jerk and deserving of the nickname “Cam the Sham” but Nawrocki—who didn’t interview Newton himself as far as I know—is only relaying rumors. About his attitude and most laughably of course, his smile.
Now, some guys in the media will actually have covered these college players. Some will have interviewed them one on one in all sorts of situations. I used to spend a ton of time at Pro Days interviewing players and even then I would say I had to couch my opinions in words like “from what I saw” and “it sounded like”.
The smile thing was an extreme example but this happens all the time and is, at the end of the day more an issue for the fringe draft experts than the mainstream media—though by NO means are they free from the same problem.
So when you read about someone’s attitude based on a slouch, frown or even smile—keep in mind that there could be a whole layer of subtext which doesn’t reach the page.
Measurables are Everything/Measurables are Nothing
There are some hard and fast rules about analysis but by and large everyone has their own way of doing things.
The biggest debate (or one of them at least) is how to handle measurables—in other words, how much should height, weight, arm length, hand size, vertical leap and so on, count?
Like so many things about the draft, people seem to get stuck in a black/white area here where it needs to be either/or.
Here’s where I stand—and what this section is really about: it’s a tool. Measurables, film, stats, Pro Days, Combine, All Star games—they are tools in an analysts toolbox. None of them should get you too high or too low, save maybe game film which really is the arbiter of good and bad.
And really, even game film can lie without context, especially if it’s not All 22—which the vast majority of us don’t have.
But blown assignments by others, bad play calls, phenomenal play by poignant—they can all impact film and sometimes in ways you don’t see.
Now the longer you do it, the more likely these things stand out to you on film—which is why it’s the one thing that all analysts point back to as the end all-be all. If it’s not on tape, it’s usually not there, period.
In the end though, every single aspect of the process is important.
Analysts like to tell you that “A” is more/less vital than “B” or worse that “B” is completely irrelevant—if you listen closely, it’s because it doesn’t fit the narrative they are working from.
That’s usually not a conscious thing either. I have it happen to me all the time and it’s tough to change.
But I find that writers have a hard time grappling with processes which differ from their own, so when someone is talking to you about how hand length is overrated or the three cone is vital, just remember they have their own point of view and it’s fine to disagree.
Oh, except for—
40 yard dash Is Overrated
Which is totally, 100% true. Speed is important for some positions, but even running backs don’t run in a straight line for 40 yards, like, ever, in a game.
Call this the NFL Network effect—because visually it’s one of the more exciting things at the Combine, they spend a ton of time on it. Well, that and Rich Eisen runs it every year, to much amusement.
Remind me to tell you my plan for a draft analysts Combine sometime.
And all respect to the NFLN because we can watch the Combine at home in ways we never could before and what it can do for analysis is pretty incredible.
But there is an inordinate amount of buildup to an “event” which showcases a skill that isn’t nearly as vital as it is made out to be.
Especially since a lot of these guys are coached up on how to run an incredible 40 yard dash—when to pop up, how to get that explosive first step, how to finish.
Note that none of that has anything to do with football. But you can train to get a good 40 time which is not indicative of how fast you play.
Now, that’s not to say elements of the 40 aren’t vital. If you watch the track meet, you’ll see guys with stopwatches at about 10 and 20 yards. Measuring those distances give scouts a chance to see how quickly a player can accelerate.
There are other things you can look for in a 40 yard dash.
But it is the single most out of wack, over-examined and overrated part of the draft process. It gets more pub, with less meaning than almost anything else we see or hear about all winter.
People will make a ton of noise about player A running too slow or faster than expected but the real relevance of that tidbit will be dubious for an awful lot of players.
Falling: Risers & Fallers
THIS JUST IN: SOURCES TELL ME THAT GENO SMITH EATS TOO MANY RAISINS AND IS DROPPING DOWN DRAFT BOARDS—
—is what I would tell you if I were being ridiculous.
All too often though, the whole “Risers and Fallers” thing hinges on stuff that’s—while not that silly—is pretty silly.
The problem is, people end up doing these articles weekly and there just isn’t enough reason to do it that often. There are a lot of reasons they get done that often, but the result is the same—barring some major catastrophe, writers and analysts are just looking for reasons to move pieces around.
So a doubt which was a small thing last week, is a bigger thing this week because you have to move someone and dammit, Geno Smith DOES do X, Y, Z so I guess that’s why I dropped him.
You can dress it up all you want, but ultimately, it’s splitting hairs.
But we make a big deal of it because we’re convinced there has to be movement.
Now the truth is, the “value” of players does indeed rise and fall for teams. Of course, the other side of that is, different teams have different players rising and falling at any given time. And why they rise and fall usually—not always but usually—have nothing to do with the news we happen to be parsing in any given week.
Hell, by the time we hear of the news, 99% of the teams have already heard it, processed it and forgotten it. It’s not news to them.
It could be that they saw someone they liked more. It could be they decided the value at the spot they might be picking at would be elsewhere. There are a thousand reasons which we never know.
None of which stops many analysts from taking the most vague and miniscule piece of rumor and proclaiming that player X is headed for a fall or rising up boards.
For teams, those players have probably risen or fallen for much different reasons weeks ago.
The reality is, if some of these guys knew as much as they said they did, they probably wouldn’t be throwing out “risers and fallers” adjusted for news items from that week.
That’s not to say there aren’t good lists or that there aren’t analysts who adjust their own rankings based on film work and other things.
That’s the final, most important difference to watch out for with these lists: are the measuring how the players are rising/falling on their own boards or are they trying to predict what the value is according to the NFL?
Because one is possible, and one is a fool’s errand.
I could go on.
As I said, I love the NFL draft. There is nothing like discovering a new player, or seeing the emergence of a truly talented kid about to take the next step in their lives.
There’s a lot of bullshit that goes on in the process though and if you’re going to have to spend the next several months hearing about it, I think it’s important to do so with clear eyes.
There are some tremendous writers out there who do exemplary work analyzing the draft, guys whose work I respect a ton. We’ll talk about them over the next few months and some guys you will like and some you will think I must be out of my mind for quoting or listening to.
And that’s fine. Keep in mind though, a different opinion—no matter how out there it seems—is still one you can learn from.
When you see an opinion which flies in the face of what you think, consider why the writer feels the way he or she does. What do they see you don’t? Or how do they see what you see, but differently?
You never stop learning when it comes to draft analysis (or to be a little meta, in life).
I guess that’s the #6 bonus segment of this article—nobody knows a damn thing. Oh, you think you know. You believe. You are pretty sure. But you don’t know.
Because wacky crap happens every year in the NFL draft, stuff which flies in the face of everything we knew. Stuff which changes the face of the league (mobile QBs anyone?).
So anyone assaulting someone else’s opinion, anyone stomping on the table and shouting how right they are, anyone who acts like they know everything—they don’t know a damned thing.
It’s a moving target. You get caught up in the last target you shot at and how good a shot you think that was, you’re going to fall behind and miss the next three.
Keep learning, keep your eyes, ears and most importantly, your mind open, and keep watching.
You follow people who do that and do that yourself, well, you’ll be as informed as you can be by late April.
And then you’ll be just as wrong as everyone else is when the Kansas City Chiefs do something the screw the whole draft up with the first pick.