I don’t really care for the draft analysis part of following football, but I do find a huge chunk of it to be hilarious. I know this puts me in the minority and that most NFL fans eat this all up. I know a lot of people love mock drafts and prognostications about where players will go. But the fact of the matter is that when it comes to the draft, no one knows what they’re talking about, and because no one knows what they’re talking about, people say hilarious things routinely. They also find creative ways to lie ... well, lie might be too strong of a word. They find ways to never be wrong about the big stuff. They use age-old techniques of fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and con artists to make bold proclamations which can be interpreted in many different ways.
The little things that give them away
They will be wrong about the little stuff, and that is where the impossibility of their jobs shows up the most. It’s actually impossible to know enough about each individual college player, each professional staff, their schemes, their development capabilities, and their tendencies to do the job well. It leads to things like Mel Kiper listing former Wisconsin DE Chikwe Obasih on his big board despite...
In his final Big Board rankings, @MelKiperESPN has Chikwe Obasih ranked as the No. 42 DE in the draft. I wonder if that ranking has taken into account that Obasih has lost 30+ pounds since the end of the season and isn’t pursuing an NFL career. #Badgers— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) April 25, 2018
Kiper also has D’Cota Dixon listed, and while he is a good player, he did not declare for the draft and is slated to be a senior captain for the Badgers next year. The Kipers and McShays of the world operate by throwing out so many big boards and mock drafts that nothing ever really sticks to them, especially in later rounds. They need to be plausibly informed on top level prospects, but most people won’t catch them or care late.
When it comes to the early part of the draft, where everyone focuses, and where QBs are the order of the day, prognosticators have a few ingenious method to hedge their bets.
The NFL Draft Scout and Hiding the Ball
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller is my personal favorite draft guru. He has so many odd idiosyncrasies that it’s almost impossible to tie him down. Miller produces a large number of mock drafts, big boards, and rankings. For starters, until this year, he assigned almost every quarterback as the “best at something.”
This includes Ryan Tannehill once having the best feet. But also being the biggest bust potential.
If any quarterback happens to succeed, Miller can point to this list and say something along the lines of “I had X as a first rounder, and as the best Y in the draft. He does this with some routine, and it always provides him with an out.
Maybe my favorite Miller quirk is his master spreadsheet. He generally keeps a google spreadsheet pinned to his twitter account that he cites as his official record. The only problem with this is that Miller publishes at Bleacher Report, and it is your actual published articles that matter, not an easily changeable google doc.
This came up late last year when Miller claimed that he always had Johnny Manziel ranked behind David Carr.
And again when he claimed he always had Cam Newton ahead of Blaine Gabbert.
His Google doc is currently in private mode undergoing “revisions.” The fact is that Miller, while claiming to be open about his mistakes, is always dancing around them. He will cop to mistakes that everyone made seeking safety in the herd, but never to anything truly embarrassing, instead backtracking, or changing his opinion from published results.
Oh, and Miller has 50 players in this draft with a 2nd round grade.
Which is a ridiculous way to look at a draft.
Miller isn’t really special in this regard, other than the fact that he is hyperactive on twitter. Todd McShay has all kinds of fun baggage too, as does Kiper, as does Mike Lombardi, as does everyone. The only way you can be successful in this game is that have an elite level of confidence, and a short memory for bad opinions. When you’re watching the draft just remember that the while the broadcasters and prognosticators may put in a ton of film work and study, they’re about as accurate as a magic 8-ball.