Mocking the concept of the NFL draft mocks

by Gary Shelton on April 24, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Not even the mockers had the Bucs trading up for a kicker./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Not even the mockers had the Bucs trading up for a kicker like Aguayo./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

The first truth about NFL mock drafts is this: Everybody does one.

The second truth about NFL mock drafts is this:  No one has any idea what they're talking about.

Between the truths, you will find the essence of the draft, the most hyped, talked about event under this (or any other) sun. There has never been more opinions wrapped around less knowledge in the history of the planet. A bunch of guys -- some of whom don't know that a football team gets four downs at a time, counting the ones on which they punt -- want to convince you that they, and only they, know what they're talking about.

And they don't.

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There are "experts" who will tell you what the Tampa Bay Bucs are going to do, and what they should do, although some of those "experts" have never been inside of the press room at One Buc. There are writers who don't even live in this country who want your attention. There are writers who have come up with several versions of the mock draft -- which, for some reason, deliver "hits" -- in which they contradict themselves.

Me? I find it to be more fun than The Big Bang Theory.

Here's the thing: Those guys don't know anything, either. They don't talk to scouts. They rarely talk to agents. They certainly don't talk to players. They talk to, well, they talk to each other, I suppose. There has never been so much digging for so little ore.

Start with this: One of the biggest names in the draft this year is Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, right? Heck, some mocks have him going first.

Well, who in the heck has seen Josh Allen play? You can't find a game locally with a mediocre Wyoming football team on it, assuming that you'd be able to grade Allen's play if you did. You can't scout off of YouTube.

Yet, every mock draft has him near the top. Why? Because Mel Kiper's mock has him near the top, and everyone knows that the first thing you do in conducting a mock is to see what Kiper thinks. Ask yourself this: When is the last time that every one of the top 20 draft picks didn't appear in someone else's first round? Now tell me about independent thinking, won't you?

Ask yourself this: How many of these self-professed "experts" can really break down the skills of safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James? Of tackles Mike McGlinchey and Connor Williams? Of receivers Christian Kirk and D.J. Moore? Of tight ends Hayden Hurst and Dallas Goedert? But if the other online mocks have McGlinchney over Williams, you're probably does, too.

Hey, I understand. The draft is the most popular version of picking-up-teams since the crusades, and everyone wants whatever information that's out there. No one is going to hold a wobbly mock draft against anyone. And so the world hits the reset key on whatever mock draft they can get. I just think it's amazing when arguments ensue over Vita Vea's 40-time.

Still, the readers continue to project, and to do their own mocks, and to argue over their impressions. Why? Because, frankly, the professional scouts don't do that much better. With all of their information, and all of their interviews, and all of their background, they seem to bat about 50 percent. Sometimes, the guy isn't as athletic as they thought, or he can't handle wealth, or competition depresses him.

That leaves it to the draftniks to take over.

As I understand it, one or two of them have actually watched a game.

Hey, I'm no expert either. I'd be horrible at trying to guess the moving parts of the NFL draft. The difference is that I realize I'm the dunce in a room full of Einsteins. I'm understand that I can't argue for Sam Darnold over Baker Mayfield over Lamar Jackson. In a house filled with lights, I'm the dark room.

I remember when I started covering the NFL a few decades ago. At the time, the resident expert was a guy named Joel Buchsbaum, who put out a book every year and would do a million interviews. He was always great to talk to early and late.

One year, Joel had some health problems, and his mom (yes, he lived with his mom) said he was in the hospital. He'd want you to call, she said, but let it ring for a while.

And so I called, and after an alarming period of time, where I imagined doctors at his bedside, Joel answered. Sorry it took so long, he said. He had to drag his IV across the room to the phone. I felt terrible, and guilty, for imposing. I wanted off the phone as soon as possible.

I apologized for calling, and I took his book information and said my goodbyes. And, with a weak, lifeless voice, Joel said "Don't you want to ask me any questions?"

And I did. And he answered them all, expertly.

As for the professionals, there was a time they'd answer your calls, and they'd at least tell you whether this tackle was better than that one. Those days have disappeared. It's liar's poker these days. Ask about a player, and you'll hear praise, but nothing in context, nothing where you can get a clue about what the team you cover is about to do.

People lose the point of the NFL draft. It isn't just "who are they going to pick?," it's "why are they going to pick him?" The Bucs strode confidently to the front of the room when they picked Booker Reese, too, and Eric Curry, and Charlies McRae, and Kenyatta "Pinata" Walker, and Keith McCants, and Dexter Jackson and Gaines Adams and Roberto Aguayo and all the rest. They were certain they had struck gold. Wow. How a team can consistently pick near the top of the draft and do so badly is amazing. It's like a blindfolded dart thrower.

This year?

This year will be different, right? This year, the Bucs will find a star who will dominate.

Won't they? Your guess is as good as mine.





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