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Saturday, May 10, 2014
Why Mock Drafts Fail
We've all seen them and we as writer-bloggers have all held them. I've done more than I'd like to in an entire lifetime.
I'm talking about "mock" drafts. They're ALWAYS, without exception, WRONG.
First, it's impossible to get inside the heads of 32 General Managers. Sure, you can make a nice-LOOKING mock, but that's more your own thoughts, matching needs with best players available. Some of them actually do look quite good and logical on the surface. One problem.
Not all GMs are good nor logical, and one early miss - often in the top-five but for sure by the top-ten - can and does throw off the entire draft tree from that point forward.
Case in point this year: #3 Jacksonville taking Blake Bortles. As the commercial said years ago: "Duh - umb."
At that point, they had to know someone would trade up with them to get Khalil Mack, a beast from Buffalo. I won't even get into the "big school/small school" debate here, but he's proof that if the talent is there, the NFL will find you and take you.
Although I like what the Jags are doing overall (QB, 2 WRs), I also know they could have and in fact SHOULD have traded back - even if it were only a couple of spots - as none of the other teams had Bortles on the radar THAT high. Others had higher grades. I suppose if Bortles is "Your Guy," you can't trade back but I just don't see all that much daylight between him and other top QBs in this year's draft. No Cam Newtons. No Dan Marinos. Clowney was this year's Freakazoid. I guess they were afraid Bortles could have been Cleveland's "guy" but it became more and more clear in the last few days that Manziel would be their man....and not even as their first draft pick. They played it better, trading back themselves.
It brings up another point - you never do know who is going to trade with whom. A team that needs a linebacker/edge rusher trades back with a team who needs a left tackle and "boom goes the dynami...er the draft." It has a cascading effect as that edge rusher you had mocked in is now available to later teams, one of whom will certainly grab him, which messes up TWO picks. Unless both those picks were the exact same ones swapped in the real draft with your fake one, it will mess up other picks as well.
Then there's the "best available" argument vs. the "positional value" argument. Sometimes they work in concert; sometimes they work against each other. The cold truth is some positions are more valuable in the 21st Century NFL than others. The fact that in this year's draft, the first running back was taken the latest of any draft in history bears that out. 30-carry RBs just don't exist today unless your name rhymes with Madrian Schmeterson.
Bo Jackson v. 2.0 might be a top pick, but short of another guy like that (ie: a clone - they broke the mold when he was made), no backs were taken in the first round at all and is a trend that should continue.
Nope, it's QBs, left tackles, edge pass rushers and tight ends that are the high draft picks as a group and on the rise while running backs, cornerbacks, safeties, and interior OL and ILBs have become less valued. I've seen some really superior inside O-linemen slide since the Miami Dolphins spent a #14 pick on center Mike Pouncey, and part of his inflated value was that we already had NFL data points on him - indirectly - by virtue of his brother's play with the Steelers as a rookie the previous year so even that's a bit anomalous.
I recall top guard David DeCastro sliding - once again, to Pittsburgh - but taken at #24 overall if memory serves. No guards at all were taken in the first round this year.
Receivers, strangely enough, don't seem to have been affected so much by this "positional shift" in draft thinking. A highly-touted one still will go high (Sammy Watkins, Megatron) but you don't see it every single year like you do with the QBs, LTs, edge-rushers, or freakishly athletic tight ends.
Then, there's the smoke-screens so many teams throw out there during the process. Just last week I read an article on NFL.com about the Raiders and how they loved WR Mike Evans. Now, I know enough about the process that it told me the opposite. What I came away with was "If you want Mike Evans, you're going to have to trade up with us at #5." It was simply an oafish, overt attempt to generate trade talk for a team with more holes to fill than draft picks to use in a deep draft.
Lastly, you cannot forecast any particular team that "falls in love" with a prospect that doesn't seem to be the best fit from the outside looking in. Maybe a coach is looking for scheme versatility instead of a higher-end specialist but who has a narrower skill set. Maybe THEIR "BPA" isn't who YOUR "BPA" is. There are numerous reasons for any particular team bypassing the "obvious" position pick in favor of another player.
There's just too much to take into account and get spot-on for anyone to have a good mock draft much past the top five but as C-Cubed co-founder +Anthony Dunn told me earlier today....it's the only fan-food out there this time of year.
Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye