Mock drafts are fun. They are also futile. Here’s who all 31 teams with a first round pick should take, not who they will take.
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I get it, mock drafts are fun. We all get to play general manager for a few hours and put together the puzzle that is the NFL draft. Matching prospects with teams, getting inside the heads of some decision makers … they’re good, harmless fun.
They are also futile.
There’s all the misinformation even our most trusted sources whisper into our ears just to keep their plans as secret as possible. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, rookie contracts no longer turn into albatrosses even if a top-10 pick busts out, so the trades come fast and furious, screwing up the order as teams reach for one of their favorite players.
And then there are the most important areas: “hearts and smarts,” as Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert put it the other day. More than game film and measurables, whether a prospect truly becomes a player comes down to soft factors such as how much he will love the game with the potential distractions of more money and more free time and how quickly a player can process the pros after coming from the increasingly simplistic college game.
In that area, those of us without scouting staffs and the ability to sit with each prospect for hours (let alone full medical reports) are missing the biggest pieces of the puzzle when it comes to evaluation. You can certainly make educated guesses based on film, and there are indicators there, but NFL teams have way more pertinent information at their fingertips. And even they make mistakes—lots of them—year after year.
“I’m not going to be right all the time,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson remembers telling Bill Belichick in an early conversation, according to Peter King. “But my role will be to get everything organized for you so at the end of the season you can start the process of learning about these guys. I’ll strive for perfection, but I might make some mistakes.”
Robinson recalls that Belichick replied, “Are you kidding me? You know how many times I’ve been wrong?”
The best personnel man in the business makes multiple mistakes in his draft evaluations despite his experience and the staff around him. So I just don’t even bother predicting what the general managers are going to do.
Instead, I try to strip away teams’ compulsion to overvalue their own players, their need to hang onto their previous picks or free-agent signings, the pressure applied by their owners, their failure to see developing trends in the game—all to match the best prospect with the team’s scheme and long-term needs.
This is not a mock draft; it’s an anti-mock draft. So to review, don’t send tweets that read: “That moron Bedard says the Chargers will draft DeForest Buckner when they’ll obviously take a tackle.” I’m not projecting the pick, I’m making it myself. Correct troll form (feel free to copy and paste): “Bedard, you’re an idiot for thinking Buckner would be a good pick for the Chargers. #loser” Then, after these players have three full seasons, you can make fun of me all you want.
Until then, here is my third annual anti-mock draft with a bonus: no quarterbacks picked in the first round after Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. If the Rams and Eagles didn’t trade a haul of picks to move up, I’d have both quarterbacks in the middle of the round. The others need too much development or have too many flaws to go in the first round.