I once had a client, DT Jim Hoffman of the famed early 1990’s Desert Swarm defense, listed in USA Today as going in the first round. He went undrafted because of an undisclosed knee issue discovered at the Combine.
An NFC North GM told me in 2010, a day before the draft that my client, Iowa LB Pat Angerer would most likely go late round or undrafted. The Colts drafted him in the 2nd round.
Last year multiple writers at bleacherreport.com had Geno Smith going 2nd overall in the first round. He was picked 37 slots later at number 39 in the 2nd round.
Some mock draft boards last year had QB Matt Barkley still going late in the first round. He was a 4th round draft pick.
In 2005, the most well known media draft experts had Pro Bowl Patriots OL Login Mankins rated as low as a 5th round pick. Others had him as a 3rd or 4th rounder. He was drafted in the first round. Mankins and these other examples of how most mock drafts are off the mark, are not outlier examples. They are the typical norm of how inaccurate mock drafts can be.
I’m not picking on any one draft expert or media outlet, everybody, including this site has had its major misses.
Each year, prior to the draft, I have to realistically set my clients and their families’ draft expectations. There is nothing worse than a player having a draft party on Thursday (1st round) and/or Friday (2nd and 3rd rounds), thinking he is going to have his named called in front of his friends and family. These depressing settings, which are usually inspired by mock drafts (along with a dash of the players’ ego and a spoonful an agent’s optimism), result in a very negative embarrassing draft day experience.
So why are mock drafts so misleading? I will tell you why:
The draftees’ medical condition: There is not one so-called draft expert or media outlet that has access to all the players’ medical information. A well connected former NFL evaluator such as Greg Gabriel, Daniel Jeremiah, Charlie Casserly, and/or a even a well-liked Mike Mayock, may get some whispers on which players are damaged goods. But the fact is that college medical files and Combine physicals are not for public consumption. Actually, if any of this information was released to the public without the player’s permission, it could mean lawsuits for anyone who does.
Another interesting fact about medical information is that different teams have different tolerances for different injuries. For example, my retired client OL Eric Steinbach (2003 33rd overall pick) was red flagged by several teams for having a bad knee and was moved way down their draft boards. Other teams never saw an issue. He played 9 years only missing six games on that knee before retiring due to a back issue.
Furthermore, teams rarely ever share medical findings with agents and players.
Seasoned area scouts can also get medical information from college trainers or coaches they have good relationships with. This information rarely trickles down to the media draft experts.
Medical information also includes drug testing for performing enhancing drugs, stimulants, and other banned substances.
Character/work ethic: With the exception of those who work for NFL media partners, most draftniks don’t even get college coaching tape but just some TV or highlights film, nor do they attend the all-star games and/or Combine and/or pro days.
In addition, they don’t have access to the players’ college coaches who know the players well. Some draftees may be great game day playmakers but they may lack intangibles that will help them excel in the NFL over a sustainable amount of time.
Character, work ethic, and their love of the game will ultimately determine the depth of a draftee’s career. Talent may get you on a draft board but the intangibles will determine how long you play in the league.
Most top NFL evaluators/scouts have access to coaches throughout college football. This helps them to collect detailed information about each and every player in the draft. Not all teams are complete in this area but most do the diligence needed to see the whole picture of a player’s make-up. So while the mock drafts have a player ranked high or low based solely on their talent and production alone, team draft boards have accounted for the intangibles as well.
Football IQ and fit: There are players who did horribly on the Wonderlic, don’t come across as intelligent but have amazing football IQs. This may be one of the toughest areas for evaluators to project and some teams do a better job at it than others. There are players in each draft who struggled learning their college playbook. Those same players will struggle even more at the next level. Unlike Major League Baseball, the NFL is an impatient league and they want fast learners.
As for “team fit”, some LBs and DBs just aren’t good fits for most schemes. The same goes for some TEs and RBs. Players who are one-dimensional wont have draft values as high as other players who are multi-dimensional. Most draftniks don’t have the personal experience and football IQ to project a player to be a fit for all 32 teams.
So while some draft experts have great experience, watch hours of film, and have an eye for evaluating, they simply don’t have the same buckets of information that teams have on draft prospects. So while entertaining and sometimes accurate on the beginning of the first round, don’t take projections of a player too seriously.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta