Twenty-three years ago this month, I was sitting in the San Francisco 49ers draft room, less than 24 hours from being involved in my first NFL draft. My career started with San Francisco as a glorified errand boy willing to do whatever job it took to learn all about football. A frantic call came into the draft room: "Michael, Coach Walsh wants to see you in his office right away."
Scared and nervous, I marched up to see the Boss.
Back in 1985 there were very few mocks and even fewer reliable ones. So off I went to get Bill the information he needed.
That next morning was draft day, and at 4 a.m. PST, with McDonough's mock in hand, I told Coach Walsh the news. He then told our general manager,
Each attempt we made to move higher failed, and with the 10th pick in the first round, the Jets selected the first of our three wide receivers,
Twenty-three years ago very few people did mocks. Eventually it got to the point that even my neighbors in Oakland would leave their mocks in my mailbox along with a few suggestions. Now everyone does a mock.
While I was with the Raiders, the mock drafts were important data for us to research. We would assign someone to sort all the Mocks and keep tabs on where and when any player was projected to go in the first round.. We would tally the amount of times we saw each player in the first round and had a pretty good idea, come draft day, of when players might be picked.
But most important to me were the players who were not mentioned. I knew certain players were really a perfect fit for the NFL, but would never see their names as a "top" player. I knew other teams shared the same thoughts and it made me wonder how high would these players rise in the actual draft?
A perfect example of a player who was never mentioned in the top 15 picks occurred during the 2002 mock draft period. The Raiders held two No. 1 picks as a result of the
The draft that year seemed to go as expected until the 11th pick. All the publications suggested Indianapolis Colts coach
Was it a reach? Could the Colts have traded down and still gotten Freeney? The answer is a resounding no. Trading down always looks appealing to the fans, but when you have a player you love and know he can make a difference in your team's success, why risk losing him? The key to the draft is not what team has the most picks, but what team makes the best picks. The most critical lesson to learn here is one that was taught to me by Walsh. He used to say to me all the time during our draft preparation, "It does not matter where we pick them, it matters how they play."
So to help you along, here is my basic set of rules for making a mock:
1. With one week before the draft, never believe any team officials' quotes, especially what direction they may be headed with their selection. It is not in their best interest to let anything out.
2. As you do your research, if the team and the player are always the same, then the chances of that player going there are not very good. This applies particularly in the bottom 15 of the first round. Think outside the box and remember misinformation is what most teams are trying to pass along.
3. Running backs tend to slip. Backs have a short career in the NFL, so picking one high in the first round is a huge investment.
4. If the mock you're reading does not have six defensive linemen in the first round, stop reading it. Defensive linemen will go quickly. You have to work defensive and offensive linemen heavily in the first round.
5. After the 10th pick in the first round, it is all about how well you know what each team needs. Study the team needs and forget about the "Best Player Available" theory. It no longer applies. The draft today is so even in terms of talent that teams just pick to fill their needs. Put the player in the spot that fits those specific team needs.
6. The Giants, Raiders, Dolphins, Jaguars, Cowboys and Packers are size/speed teams. They will pick players that fit the size and speed profile for the position. So think "big and fast" before putting a name in for these teams.