Before I even start this opinion post, let me throw in a quick disclaimer to keep the wolves at bay:
This article is written with all due respect for those who have posted mock drafts on this site and elsewhere. My comments are targeting the Mel Kipers of the world and those making a living off predicting draft orders, not the casual fan having fun predicting the draft.
Okay, with that out of the way, I’ll start with a basic fact... mock drafts are fun to create, read and debate. Most of us that visit this site, at one time or another, have conjured up some sort of mock draft – whether it be just for the Lions picks or a complete team-by-team breakdown of every round. I’ve tried my hand at it several times… terribly, I might add. But where does my information come from? Do I really watch enough college ball and know enough about talent evaluation to try to predict the order in which teams will draft players? Absolutely not. Do any of us? I highly doubt it. If you think you might have the skill, knowledge and know-how, think about this: If sportswriters didn’t exist and there was no internet or sports-talk radio… could you, simply by watching college games, scout enough teams and enough players to create an accurate mock draft? If you’re honest, I think the answer would be no. NFL teams have people that scout college talent year-round and still get it wrong. It’s a tough gig and not anywhere near an exact science.
Now please don’t think that I’m insulting your acumen here. I read the comments daily and there are a lot of football savvy fans that post intelligent thoughts on this site. But the fact remains that we primarily get our information from the myriad of draftniks that come crawling out of the woodwork this time of year. Most of which have as little talent evaluation skill as the rest of us. Our information surely doesn’t come from NFL personnel, who are keeping (or should be keeping) their information on potential picks very close to the vest. So in late December, the first of the billion or so mocks start to trickle out onto the net. Thus, we begin to form our opinions of which players are worthy of what picks and the heated debates begin.
Then comes the actual draft and it all goes out the window. Players that the “experts” deem top candidates slide and commentators are “shocked” at what is transpiring. Then there are the teams who are “reaching” for players that are deemed later-round picks and the “experts” chastise the teams by grading them with an “F” five seconds after the draft concludes. Doesn’t this all seem a bit silly? Especially when you got guys like Mel Kiper talking about can’t-miss prospects like Mike Williams and why it is such a jaw-dropper that he fell to number 10. Kiper said he was the best talent in the draft! I can’t imagine where he would have fallen to if Millen hadn’t been such an idiot and made the worst pick in franchise history. So that begs the question: What credentials do Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and others have that qualify them to be such experts? Doing something year after year doesn’t make one an expert. If these guys are so great, why has no team tapped them for positions in their scouting departments? If I should listen to anyone at all, it should be the former scouts or general managers that have had draft success with a professional program. But you know what? I fall into the same trap as everyone else, scouring the net and the sports channels looking for information as to who the Lions are going to draft and joining in the fun of mocking. So I too have a hand in passing on all the misinformation that goes along with predicting the draft.
Here is where Kiper ranked the following players in one of his first early mocks last year:
#1 - QB, Brian Brohm
#5 - WR, Early Doucet
#6 - QB, Andre Woodson
#7 - T, Gosder Cherilus
#8 - DT, Frank Okam
#10 - LB, Dan Connor
Okay, I could go on, but you get the picture… and this was only his top ten. He had Chris Long ranked number 18. By draft day, of course, he had reshuffled his draft to more closely resemble what took place last April. But prior to the combine and pro days, he did no better than what the average fan could do. So why come out and post such drivel several months before the draft? Because it’s his career, that’s why. Why is it his career? I have absolutely no freakin’ idea. Obviously, we all have a hand in paying Kiper’s salary because we subscribe to this “mockery” due to our insatiable appetite for all things football. And once the Super Bowl is over, it’s all things draft. For Lions fans, by late November, it’s all things draft. I guess we kind of ask for it.
These “famous mockers”, in more of a hard-line stance, actually mock the hard work that NFL scouts put in. How so? Well, they get fans caught up in who they think the “good” players are based on these misinforming mock drafts. Then when a team drafts a player, that through excessive scouting they’ve deemed the best fit for their team, the fans have an ill-formed opinion and then jeer the pick. Sometimes the opposite can apply. The fan thinks the team picked a great player based on popular mocks, creating an unfair expectation of that player, which in turn generates a perfect environment for a player to bust. This is unfair to the team, the fans and the players. The problem is, these “analysts” are nothing more than glorified college fans and don’t understand the pro game very well. The single largest factor in a draft choice succeeding is the transition from the college game to the pro game and this is very hard to judge. Like I stated earlier, even the best of pro scouts have a problem efficiently predicting how well players translate to the NFL. Kiper and his cohorts are just taking a glorified stab in the dark with their early mocks and then conforming to everyone else’s by the time the draft takes place. Sure there are a few talented guys out there that put good mocks out early, but most are of the cookie cutter type. Personally, I like Mike Mayock on the NFL network.
All in all, mock drafts within the fan ranks are harmless, good fun. As for the Kipers out there, I’m sure that the pro scouts don’t pay much attention to “The Hair” or any of the other “pro mockers” out there. It does make me a bit crazy that these guys are making good money on crackpot predictions three and four months before the draft. It makes me even more crazy that they sit on national television during the draft grading teams and picks like they know for sure who is and isn’t a good choice. They have no better crystal ball for this than the educated fan out there.
Anyway, have fun with the mocks guys as I enjoy them too. Feel free to share your thoughts about this as well.