In defense of NFL mock drafts

"Nick, congratulations. Let's talk about your 'value'." - Al Bello

The inevitable backlash to the backlash against NFL mock drafts.

2013 mock drafts seem to be making some folks kind of upset. Understandable. At this time of year, mock drafts are about as rare as air molecules. Every blogger, every website, every prognosticator has their own idea of which college player will be drafted as the next big-time cash cow for his NFL team. Most draft "experts" don't do a mock past the first round, but you'll see some places with full seven-round mocks, which at some point turns into a complete joke (for example, nobody had Nate Ebner anywhere on their draft boards except, apparently, the New England Patriots). Every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the world of #hot #sports #takes has a mock draft, and basically every one of them is going to be wrong.

So why bother making a mock draft if everyone else on the internet already has made one and they're all wrong? In fact, why bother drafting at all? Well, the simple answer is really that everyone wants to be in the know and everyone wants to be proven right, even if "right" is essentially a lucky guess. No one saw the Seahawks taking Bruce Irvin last year except maybe some Jim Bob McDraftblogger in Minot, North Dakota whose website is hosted by Geocities and who hasn't watched a college football game since 1999. Yet year after year, football pundits try again to sift through all the misinformation available, dig through the Augean stables of draft rumor mills, scouting takes, false measurables and grainy YouTube video in order to perform one of the most futile acts in the sports blogging world. For most draftniks, predicting a player's selection within +/- 5 draft picks, or even in the right round is good enough to be considered a success.

Mock drafts are not necessarily meant to be slot-accurate predictions of which team will take which player. They are more meant to indicate what range a player might be drafted. That's why the top five of all mock drafts are all going to be very similar but the bottom five will be radically different – it is much easier to find a player with a late first-early second round grade than a transcendent star worthy of a struggling franchise's hope. A buzzword heard often in the draft world is "value". This refers to the ideal location that a player should be drafted relating to the projected contribution to his team. Ideally a starter would be drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round, a special teamer drafted in the 6th or 7th, and a Pro Bowler drafted in the first round. Of course it rarely pans out this way, but as Bill Barnwell points out, teams have a relatively limited data set set to go on. Mock drafts actually help fans, pundits, and even some scouts understand where a player should be drafted as compared to where a majority of the internet thinks he should.

With the advent of Twitter, each amateur draft analyst with no sources or background information available has his or her own personal soapbox where any assertion can be backed up with "I'm hearing...that Boko the Clown is high on the list of the Saints due to a low hip-drop and excellent strength at the point of attack." Other amateur draftniks will do one of two things: nod and go about their business, or react forcefully. Many Twitter arguments (Twit-guments?) between draft experts boil down to a simple sentence: "Do you even WATCH tape, bro?" The answer is typically "no", or "um, well, I watch YouTube".

But this is the beauty of the Internet in general. This is America, where uninformed opinions are not only accepted, they are expected and welcomed along side more informed opinions. Mocking drafts (and mocking those who mock) is best left to professionals, but some amateurs do it really well, and others do it poorly enough for some solid entertainment value. And in the end, isn't that what we're all looking for?

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