February 27, 2004

Mock Drafts

About this time of year, the NFL Draft experts come out of the woodwork with predictions, rankings and analysis of both player talent, and the personnel needs of NFL teams. And in recent years the Mock Draft phenomenon has combined with the Internet to balloon into a cottage industry.

I've got to assume that most really good evaluators of professional football talent are gainfully employed by NFL teams. That leaves the people who can't get those jobs to publish "Draft Reports" and Mock Drafts. (I think there's an analogy in here somewhere for "writers" and "bloggers".)

There are two or three primary scouting combines that sell subscription services to NFL teams, but everybody else in the Draftnik business seems to be doing it with no visible means of support. People like Ourlads and Mel Kiper do a thorough job and I understand that they do sell their reports to NFL teams in addition to "draftnik" fans, but most Mock Draft sites are created by NFL fans or sports web information sites. In the week or two before the draft, every major newspaper in the country will publish their own version, but for now all we have are a couple hundred of these things, give or take. Kiper (on ESPN Insider) and The Sporting News charge real money to see their Draft predictions, but they are the exceptions to the rule.

Speaking of Mel Kiper; I used to buy Kiper's Draft Report for a four or five year period in the early 80's when he first started publishing it. Back then, before he got rich and famous and on ESPN, he used to work out of his house, and he put his home phone number on the front cover of his Draft Report so you could order it by phone. One time when I called to order the report, we got to talking about individual players, and he was gracious and understanding of my obvious Buckeye bias, as we debated the pro prospects of OSU players and others. So since he encouraged me (by not hanging up) I would occasionally call him to ask his opinion on individual players. Once I was all excited about a junior wide receiver for the Buckeyes who hadn't received a lot of national hype, but I was convinced from watching him that he was a star waiting to be discovered. If I recall, Kiper thought he was a 3rd or 4th rounder. His name was Cris Carter. I realize that means nothing. A lot of people underestimated Carter, but I like telling the story.

So it's a fan thing, (because there can't be any real revenue in this). Mock Drafts are popular because we all want to know what our favorite team is going to do, in the 1st round at least. The best 25 or so players are pretty much identifiable each year. Just about everybody knows who they are, and there isn't a lot of difference among mock drafters on the matter of who comprises the top 25, just in what order they will be drafted, and by whom.

This is one of two reasons why many of the Mock Drafts are limited to a projection of the 1st round. Shuffling the top 32-40 players and slapping them into a web site with NFL helmets is pretty simple. With a basic knowledge of a team's personnel needs, an observation of coaches statements and following the players they scout and bring in for interviews, or reading what the team's beat writers are saying, a draftnik can establish a pretty good track record of successfully predicting first round selections, say 15 out of 32, maybe a couple more.

The second reason many Mock Drafts only project one round is that it is absolutely insane to try to predict beyond the first few picks of the second round. After that it is truly a crapshoot.

Which brings us to the Browns, who will pick 7th this year, and are looking to improve themselves at offensive line, tight end, defensive backfield, and if Tim Couch tells them to stuff their renegotiation of his contract, maybe quarterback too. Lots of fans who are tired of seeing the team neglect the offensive line are praying that Tackle Robert Gallery from Iowa is still around by pick #7. That's unlikely, since the Giants (#4) are said to be enamored of Gallery, and Cleveland used up all of it's Pro Draft luck for this decade on LeBron.

But the nice thing about Mock Drafts is that if you look at enough of them, you'll find one or two that project exactly what you want them to project. "Browns pick Robert Gallery, T, Iowa, with the #7 selection."

As for this blog's preference, I'll say that I would love to see Gallery in an orange helmet, but I would also be ecstatic to see us land Sean Taylor or Kellen Winslow Jr., either of which is a plausible scenario. Or if one of the two top QB's (Manning or Roethlisberger) or top 3 WR's (Fitzgerald, Williams or Williams) somehow falls to us, I could live with any of those guys. But what do I know?

Here's what the experts say. (After the name of the Mock Draft, I have indicated in parentheses the name of the player that draft predicts will be taken by the Browns at #7.)

About Football Mock Draft (Shaun Andrews)

NFL Countdown Draft (Winslow Jr.)

NFL DraftWorld (Winslow Jr.)

Draft Notebook (Gallery)

Falkon Online (Gallery)

CBS Sportsline (Winslow Jr.)

Fox Sports (Taylor)

NFLFans.com (Andrews)

The Huddle Report (Gallery)

Great Blue North Report (Roy Williams)

An entire page of links to Mock Drafts

NFL Football Web Directory- NFL Draft Page

Posted by dan at February 27, 2004 2:09 AM