If you give even the tiniest shrivel of a rat’s ass about football, you’ve probably read about three dozen mock drafts at this point of the year. And that’s a fairly conservative estimate. It’s hard not to – sports fans of all ilks are unreasonably drawn to the mock draft. Is my team getting someone good? Who’s at the top of Mel Kiper’s big board this week?
Here’s the thing: it’s all a bunch of complete crap. Seriously. No one knows anything, and everyone changes their mind about every player every week. Has anyone questioned why Kiper and McShay are constantly updating their big boards? How can I trust you if you’re going back on what you said last week? And I already know you’re going to go back on it again next week? Sometimes, mock drafts appear to have a shred of credibility when everyone agrees on who the best players are – like in 2012, when it was generally understood that Luck and RG3 were the two best guys. But this year, there’s a ton of really good players and no one has much of a clue who’s better than who, and anyone who pays attention long enough can figure out that the alleged experts don’t know much more than you or I do.
The lead-up to the draft has been starkly similar to the 2012 Republican primaries – every week, there’s a new frontrunner. Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, and Johnny Manziel have all appeared at the top of either Kiper or McShay’s Big Board at some point. Now, really, if five different guys are all considered to be the best player available within a three-month stretch, isn’t it pretty likely that no one has even the most microscopic inkling of who the best player is?
This might surprise you, but pretty much any idiot can make up a mock draft. All you need is a reasonable amount of knowledge of who the most highly touted players are, and then you can re-arrange them in a bunch of different orders over and over again. And, if you’re lucky, ESPN pays you to make them, and makes other people pay them to read them. Let’s be honest, does anyone really have any idea how the Mock Draft Illuminati make these things up? Isn’t it entirely possible that Todd McShay just rolls out of bed, puts on his slippers, brushes his teeth and says “you know what? I like Bortles today!” And then, he puts Bortles at the top of his mock draft that ESPN makes you pay money to read, and suddenly, the General Consensus is that Blake Bortles is the most talented quarterback prospect in the draft. Out of nothing.
But of course, there’s a lot of research and development involved in the decision making process that lead to Tim Tebow being a first-round draft pick – and none of it makes any sense whatsoever. Can we talk about how fucking stupid “pro days” are? Bill Barnwell had a pretty good dissection of this process at Grantland last week, but here’s the basic concept: we’re evaluating quarterbacks based on how they perform in conditions that have nothing to do with what an actual football game is like. “Hey, I know Teddy Bridgewater is really good at making tight throws under pressure, but when he was launching 60-yard bombs with no defenders anywhere him or the receiver, he missed a few. I’m totally dropping him on my big board.”
And that’s the prevailing logic, and of course it leads to Russell Wilson dropping to the third round because he’s short even though Drew Brees exists, while JaMarcus Russell goes #1 overall because POTENTIAL! JAW-DROPPING, JIZZWORTHY POTENTIAL! Decisions are made based on mindless, inconsistent logic over and over again. Johnny Manziel moved up the charts because he did a good job of playing football. He fell back down because Ron Jaworski said he didn’t like him. That pretty much sums it up.
Mock drafts are irresistible because they give us something to argue about, and because we’re perpetually obsessed with the well-being of our team, and thus, we worry endlessly about whether or not they’re going in the Right Direction. But really, they aren’t that important. If you pay reasonably close attention to football, your opinion on what team should draft what player is as valid as anyone’s. So before you fork over your cash to ESPN’s mock draft paywall, just keep in mind that these guys probably aren’t telling you anything you don’t already know.