March 19, 2009
By Donald Starver
Several readers have written to me and asked when I’ll be publishing my 2009 NFL mock draft. The answer is, “never”.
The problem that I have with mock drafts is that most fans don’t understand how useless they really are. I don’t want to add to their confusion by posting my own useless mock draft.
The fundamental fallacy of mock drafts is that they pretend to be something that they are not. Most mock drafts pretend to have a good handle on how the upcoming NFL draft is going to play out. Draft pundits like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay spend countless hours touting their predictions as though they have access to some crystal ball that the rest of us aren’t privy to. Even more worrisome, some of them even make you pay money to get access to their “forecasts”. Why would I pay money for something that, by definition, is bound to be inaccurate?
This same flawed thinking makes its way to message boards and fan forums all over the internet. Fans argue and debate about what order players will be selected in. Some fans become so adamant about their opinion that terms like “moron”, “idiot”, and “#$*@$%!!” are used to describe anyone who disagrees with them. If only they understood how silly this is. But of course, the irony is lost on them.
Mathematically speaking, arguing about mock drafts is illogical. In fact, it’s downright stupid.
If you look at the number of possible permutations for just the first round of the NFL draft, you’ll quickly realize that predicting it correctly is extraordinarily unlikely.
One of my favorite football websites, Cold, Hard Football Facts, did an analysis of how some of the top draft “experts” did on their 2008 first round NFL mock drafts. They found that Mel Kiper Jr. only got 22.6% of his first round picks correct. That means he got 77.4% wrong. That’s right, 77.4%!! I don’t know of any profession where you can be wrong 77% of the time and be considered an “expert”. Heck, even the weatherman is more accurate than that.
Mel’s partner in crime, Todd McShay, also got 77% of his picks wrong. That’s not an indictment of Mel or Todd. Most mock drafts did even worse than that. The know-it-all on your favorite message board probably got less than 15% of his picks right last year. But of course he’ll never admit that.
I’ve even seen sites that do 7 round mock drafts. The folly of this boggles the mind. There are 224 picks in the standard 7 round NFL draft. There were also 28 compensatory picks in 2008, taking the total number of players drafted to 252. Accurately predicting the order of selection for 252 draft picks is a mathematical impossibility. In fact, most 7 round mock drafts were 100% inaccurate on their picks beyond the 2nd round. But statistically speaking, that result is to be expected. Your time would be better spent trying to predict the next Powerball jackpot than trying to predict who your favorite team will select in the 7th round.
In my opinion, mock drafts fall into the same category as those psychic hotlines that were popular back in the 90′s. They’re fun, but there is almost no chance that they will accurately predict the future, so they should come with a disclaimer that says “for entertainment purposes only”.
I don’t have a problem with discussing the draft. Guessing who your favorite team will select can be lots of fun. Should your team select an offensive player or a defensive player? Will your team take the guy with superstar talent but off-field issues? Will your team draft a franchise quarterback? Will player X reach his potential? These are all fun questions to discuss.
However, if you are on your favorite team message board, and some know-it-all calls you a “moron” for disagreeing with his “expert prognostication”, don’t engage him in name calling. Instead, simply sit back and enjoy the irony of the situation. After all, he has just proven which of you is really the “moron”.
If we look at our local team, the Steelers, the point gets made pretty clearly. Which mock draft predicted that the Steelers would select Rashard Mendenhall in the first round last year? None. Some did predict that the Steelers would take Lawrence Timmons the year before that, but that is only because rookie head coach Mike Tomlin announced who he wanted long before the draft. He learned from his error, and won’t be making that mistake again.
Most mock drafts seem to think that the Steelers are going to take Alex Mack or Max Unger in the first round. Perhaps they will, and perhaps they won’t. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about the Steelers, it’s that they seldom do what fans think they’re going to do. Moreover, even though they don’t do what we expect them to do, the Steelers usually get it right.
Remember, evaluating talent is an inexact science. Nobody knows how any given player is going to do at the next level. Look at Oakland Raiders’ offensive lineman Robert Gallery. In 2004, he was considered the only “sure thing” in the draft. He was selected #2 overall, and some thought that he might be the #1 overall pick. Gallery was selected ahead of Larry Fitzgerald, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Sean Taylor, DeAngelo Hall, Shawn Andrews, and Steven Jackson. It just goes to show that there is no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to the draft.
So go ahead and enjoy the mock drafts. Continue to watch Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Just remember, they’re for entertainment purposes only.
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