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Mock Drafts: An Oral History

In the early years, a few self-made draft experts toiled in solitude, tracking down tape, working the phones, analyzing prospects—and becoming trusted sources of info for coaches and GMs. As the NFL draft grew into a juggernaut and the internet offered a platform to all comers, mocks emerged as a mini-industry with a massive audience. But has the beast gotten out of control?

No one seems to remember who penned the first mock draft, or when the form first came to be. But it is safe to assume that it was born at some point during the rise of The Draftniks, a small group of self-made experts who began evaluating NFL draft prospects essentially as a hobby.

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People have been making lists of draft prospects as far back as the 1940s. Ray Byrne, a Pittsburgh-area funeral home manager, is believed to be the first person to publish the names of available prospects. Then over the years, a few others started making a career of it. The Sullivan brothers, the Marasco brothers, Joe Stein, Palmer Hughes. Some of them even went on to work in pro football.

By the late 1970s-early ’80s, a handful of people started publishing their own draft books, complete with player rankings, scouting reports, and, yes, mock drafts. Jerry Jones—no, not that one—was a pharmacist in Mariemont, Ohio, who, in his spare time, produced a book called The Drug Store List. In Brooklyn, a reclusive 20-something named Joel Buchsbaum convinced Pro Football Weekly to hire him as a draft expert; he became the author of the PFW’s draft book. Then down in Baltimore, Mel Kiper Jr. dropped out of college and started making his own book in his parents’ basement.

Mel Kiper Jr., Draft Analyst, ESPN: “When I started in this business, the only way to improve a football team was through the draft. There were no trades, there was no free agency. If your team was going to change from last year to this year, it was through the draft.

“I knew that people would want to know who these players were. There were only one or two college football games on Saturdays then, not 35 or 40. The fans had no access to it. I had the big satellite dish, I was getting tapes from all the schools. I was able to watch all of these kids. I was able to tell them about all these players nobody else could tell them about. So when [their team] drafted a kid from Bethune-Cookman, he was written up in the book.”

John McClain, writing in the Houston Chronicle, 1998: “Buchsbaum went to State University of New York (Albany) to major in political science and become an attorney, just like his father. But his hobby was writing scouting reports on football players. It began when he was a teenager reading the scouting reports of Carl and Pete Marasco in Pro Football Weekly.

“… In 1974, Buchsbaum had transferred to Brooklyn College. He was 20 years old, and he sent his résumé—complete with scouting reports—to 120 newspapers and magazines to see if they would be interested in having him write about the NFL draft. Roger Stanton, the publisher of the Football News, hired him. The 1975 draft was the first one Buchsbaum evaluated for publication.”

Hub Arkush, Publisher, Pro Football Weekly: “I want to say in ’77, He just started hounding us, wanting to write for Pro Football Weekly. In the summer of ’78, my dad thought, ‘Well, why not? Let’s give him a shot.’ He did a couple of columns with analysis. We knew we had somewhat of a following for the draft stuff, so in the spring of ’79 we published our scout’s notebook, where we actually had scouting reports on the top 250 prospects. Then it became a regular feature.”

Bob Trumpy, former NFL tight end and Cincinnati radio host, in a story at“[Jerry Jones] was bored to death and started putting together his list. He sent me it. I’m like, ‘What the hell is this?’ It had Mariemont, Ohio, on it. ‘Who is this guy?’ I didn’t pay much attention to it really. It wasn’t a book. It was sheets. We would do the draft live. I’m looking at it. I’m like, ‘Holy Christ, this guy knows what he’s doing.’ When the draft was over, I called him. I said, ‘Look, I don’t know who you are, but your list was almost perfect.’ ”

Mel Kiper Jr.: “When I first started doing this, I put everything in there. I put overachievers, underachievers, sleepers, players who improved their rating with an All-Star [game] performance, all kinds of different lists. I did team-by-team NFL write-ups when nobody was doing them. I did draft needs for each team. I wrote up each position of each NFL teams. I had everybody—freshmen, sophomores and juniors—all rated by position. I had all of that in the draft report. … The first book I ever did [in the late ’70s], I had a mock draft of round one, and I also had a mock draft of who I would take. Then it became a three-round [mock] draft. And after that, I went to six.

“That’s what the readers wanted. They wanted the mock drafts. They wanted every round projected and mocked. We gave them what they wanted.”

Why Do People Love Mock Drafts?

Around that time a small group of sportswriters also started writing mock drafts for newspapers as part of their job as beat writers. Unlike The Draftniks, most sportswriters didn’t watch hours of tape. They worked their sources around the league and tried to come up with a close approximation of how the draft would actually unfold.

Frank Cooney, founder of NFL Draft Scout and former NFL writer for the Hearst papers in San Francisco: “In the late ’70s, early ’80s, not many people were covering the draft at all. Go back and look, see if you can find any. I remember I had to fight to get content in the paper. I remember being told, flat-out, ‘Who cares?’ ”

Howard Balzer, former Pro Football Editor, Sporting News: “I think it was somewhat of a novelty because there weren’t a lot of people doing them. But the other thing, too, sometimes we didn’t know who was doing what. If it was in the Sporting News or Sports Illustrated, people knew. But if Will McDonough was doing one in the Boston Globe, it wasn’t like a lot of people saw it except in Boston. People just didn’t see what all the other newspapers were doing. There might’ve been more people doing it than we realize.”

Gil Brandt, former Vice President of Player Personnel, Dallas Cowboys:

“Will McDonough would call teams and say, ‘O.K., you’re drafting third. St. Louis ahead of you is taking [so-and-so] the quarterback, the Chicago Bears have taken so-and-so, who are you going to take?’ McDonough had great credibility so people gave him [information]. They wouldn’t do it today, but at the time they did, because you weren’t able to get a newspaper from Boston if you lived in Dallas. The internet? There was no such thing.” 

John Czarnecki, former NFL writer, Los Angeles Herald Examiner:    

“I went to my first combine in ’82 or ’83, and I think there were only four of us there. Coaches would sneak me into the combine, give me their nametags and stuff like that.

“I built up a lot of good contacts [at the combine]. It was interesting how freely general managers talked about who they liked, who they didn’t like, and they meant it. So you could take it to the bank when you were doing your mock draft. As a reporter it was sort of like being a conduit between other teams. I would exchange information from three or four personnel guys with other people. Like when Jimmy Johnson was the coach in Dallas, he loved the draft and wanted to know everything about the draft. And so he and I had an agreement: I’ll give you these three teams if you can find out what these three teams are doing.

“I would actually have lunch with Bill Parcells and Bill Walsh behind the curtains and talk football and talk picks back in those days. I knew enough head coaches that they felt O.K. talking freely. Because they weren’t really being harassed. I felt lucky. But I knew when to take someone on and off the record.

Frank Cooney: “John McVay came to the 49ers [as general manager in 1980]. We would sit around and talk about [the draft]. They would usually be drafting late, so he had to have a pretty good idea of who was drafting ahead of them. One year we worked together, and I did a mock draft in the newspaper in the early ’80s, and we picked all but two players to the correct team in the first round. I credit John for that, but I had a couple of guesses in there.”

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John Czarnecki: “As long as they were being honest with you, there was always enough information to exchange. I think some years I got every first-rounder right, and the ones I missed should’ve been first-rounders.” [laughs]

John McClain: “[On ESPN’s draft coverage], Paul Zimmerman [of Sports Illustrated] would give his opinion. ‘The Giants are going to take this guy.’ And then they’d take somebody else, and he’d get so mad. ‘Well, I talked to the general manager!’ ”

Howard Balzer: “It was 1981 [Zimmerman’s first draft on ESPN], and the Packers took Rich Campbell, a quarterback from California, sixth overall. I’ll never forget, Paul said right on the air: ‘They lied to me!’ And then he made a comment or something like, ‘I’ll never talk to him again — he lied to me.’ He was accustomed to people telling him the truth about what they were going to do! That might’ve been the first smokescreen in mock draft history.”


Mel Kiper Jr. was the one on TV, but among sportswriters and The Draftniks, Buchsbaum of Pro Football Weekly was the person who perfected the mock draft. He worked out of a small apartment in Brooklyn, watching hours and hours of tape and calling coaches and executives from around the league. The only contact he had with most other people was when he would call in to answer draft questions on radio stations in St. Louis and Houston.

Rick Gosselin, former NFL writer, Dallas Morning-News: “He’s the guy who started this whole mock draft thing. He’s the godfather.”

Gil Brandt: “He was the pioneer. And he did it with great accuracy.”

Hub Arkush: “He was a fascinating character. He was famously reclusive. He never left his apartment in Brooklyn. He lived in an eight-story apartment building, next door to his parents, where he was raised. He did all of his scouting from conversations with NFL contacts, and once VCRs came along he would record whatever games were on television. Then he solidified relationships, where teams would provide tape to him.”

John McClain, writing in the Houston Chronicle, 1998: “The light in Apt. 4L may be on at all hours of the night as Buchsbaum analyzes videotapes of college and NFL players. He works 12 to 14 hours a day in his apartment. In the weeks leading up to the NFL draft, he will spend 16 to 18 hours a day working. A computer and two television sets with VCRs are on his desk. Another television and VCR are in his bedroom so he can watch tapes before he falls asleep.”

Howard Balzer: “No one had ever seen him, and they would hear the voice. Whatever question you asked him about some third-string guard from Pittsburg State, he would have an answer for you. And there were all these crazy rumors. People were saying, Does this guy really exist? Is he handicapped? Is it a computer voice?”

Hub Arkush: “Part of his [appeal] was he had this Brooklyn twang, very nasally.”

John McClain: “I got more questions about Joel Buschbaum, from readers and fans, than any Oiler. People were just fascinated with his accent, his knowledge, how quick he had every answer, and just how it was possible anyone knew as much as he did.”

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McClain, writing in the Houston Chronicle, 1998: “Buchsbaum is 5'8 ¾" (leave it to a draft guru to include the fraction) and 130 pounds. He wears thick glasses. His hair is neither short nor long, just straight. Because of stress, he is allergic to different kinds of foods, so he doesn’t eat much. He eats at home, unless he goes to an identical apartment building next door to eat with his parents.”

Bob McGinn, former Packers beat writer, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “He had unbelievable sources. There was hardly any national media at that point, so GMs weren’t overwhelmed by phone calls and messages. And when Joel would call these guys, the titans of the industry, he knew about the players, he knew about the center at Georgia Tech or the defensive end at Washington State, where nobody else in the national media had any idea about these things. So when Joel would call a Ron Wolf or a Dick Steinberg or a Bobby Beathard, they would be like, ‘Woah, this guy’s really got it, he’s on our level.’ He had unreal sources.”

Buchsbaum died in his apartment of natural causes in December 2002. Only then did his peers and contemporaries fully grasp how influential he had been.

Hub Arkush: “Joel was an only son, and his dad had passed six or seven years before him. Very few friends. No immediate cousins. His mother, Frances, relied on me to help [with the funeral]. I got out to New York on Monday. On Tuesday we go out to the cemetery in New Jersey. All I remember is it was about an hour from the funeral home in Brooklyn. Once we got to the cemetery it was another 15 minutes—I had no idea where we were. We get out of the limo. There were one or two cars in the procession, maybe a dozen, dozen and a half people there. I’m helping Frances to the gravesite and I look over my shoulder and there’s four guys standing off to the side, about 30 feet away. I did a double take and got a closer look. It was Joel Bussert [of the league front-office], Ernie Accorsi, Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli.

“I introduced myself to Belichick, and he said, ‘Oh, I know all about you. Joel and I talk all the time.’ ”

Bill Belichick, Patriots coach: “In the two months leading up to the draft, I spoke to Joel at least once a week, sometimes more. Joel did a tremendous job researching the background of players, such as sprint times they ran in high school track and participations and accomplishments in sports other than football.  He literally had every name. Joel was a hard worker who was always at his apartment—you could reach him 24/7. He was able to compare players that I had not seen with ones that everyone had scouted, so for the ‘sleepers’ we were able to get an idea of the players’ style and playing skill without actually watching him. In those days, film was sometimes difficult to acquire, so having another set of eyes on a player was very helpful.”

Hub Arkush: “That year at the scouting combine we held a memorial service for him. I rented a room at the Westin. It was in the old Colts’ stadium at the time. There was seven head coaches, I think three team owners, about 12 general managers, at least 30 or 40 scouts, at least 30 or 40 members of the media. They all showed up for this! I think it was at that moment when it kind of crystalized for everyone the impact that Joel had on this whole thing.

“Not only did Belichick get up and speak, but he started his comments by telling everyone in the room, ‘Joel Buchsbaum was one of my best friends.’ ”

John McClain: “We were all stunned that Bill Belichick talked to Joel.”

Bill Belichick: “Joel was a personal friend, and we were close because we were honest with each other and trusted that any information we shared would remain private. He was a one-man band who produced an incredible amount of accurate information … We tried to hire Joel in Cleveland, but he was committed to his book and personal research.”

John McClain: “[Belichick] could’ve paid Joel more money than he could imagine, but Joel said, ‘I appreciate the offer, but I feel like I work for every team.’ ”

As the NFL grew in popularity in the ’90s, newspapers started hiring more national NFL writers, who would cover the whole league and not just one particular team. One of the job requirements: mock drafts. Newspaper editors finally understood their appeal.

This created an awkward dynamic, though. As more reporters started doing mock drafts, the mock draft became more accessible; radio hosts discussed them on air. All that draft info that was spreading faster than ever before. Naturally, teams wised up and stopped giving out information as freely.

Reporters had to find ways to adjust, and again the mock draft shifted. Only the most plugged-in reporters, or holdovers from the previous era, could get info. Putting together a mock draft became more of a guessing game—or, maybe, an educated guess.

John Czarnecki: “It seemed like it was a requirement in the mid-’90s, I think, for every NFL writer or solid beat guy to have a mock draft, as the draft became more popular on TV.”

Gil Brandt: “Then the mock drafts went to talk shows. The way they would do it, they would line up the [reporter] in Cleveland. And they would have a writer from [every] team, from every city, and they would give their mock draft. They would have on Rick Gosselin, and he would say that the Cowboys are going to draft so-and-so.”

Rick Gosselin: “I moved to Dallas in ’90 to cover the Cowboys. I covered the Cowboys for two years. Then in ’92 I was moved to the national NFL beat. They said, ‘We want you to grade drafts.’ And I said, ‘Well, if I’m going to grade drafts, I better know what I’m talking about.’ That’s when I started researching players and trying to build my own draft board. That’s how I figured out what to do with the mocks. I always put more time into building the draft board than I did the mocks.

“I go to the combine, I get the combine numbers, and I start building my lists. I started early on with the scouts. I would talk to regional scouts and say, ‘I’ve got this guy here, where do you have him on your wide receivers list?’ And then I’d move from scouts to assistant coaches. Then I’d move from assistant coaches to personnel directors, and then from personnel directors to GMs, and then finally, the last 10 days, I was talking to head coaches. When it was all said and done, I was talking to over 100 people from around the league. And I wasn’t looking at any film.”

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Bob McGinn: “My motivation was to just learn about players. The last thing I would do is ask anybody who they’re going to take in the first round. I didn’t really care about that. To me, that’s privileged, private information. I’m not trying to push for a great mock draft. I’m trying to learn about 400, 500 players, and then at the end I’ll throw a mock draft together. But that’s about two percent of what I’m trying to do with my draft series.”

Rick Gosselin: “All it was, was knowing the draft board, know what the teams want, and then pair up the need with the player. Never once did I ask a team, who are you taking?”

John McClain: “It used to be, I would do one [mock draft] right before the draft. And I would study for that thing, I would read, I would talk to people. It was kind of like picking games: the more time I spent on it, the less likely I got it right.”

Then came the internet. Suddenly it became that much easier for football fans to research draft prospects and post their own opinions online. They weren’t canvassing the league like a reporter. They were self-made scouts, watching tape sitting on their couches—in the same vein as Buchsbaum and Kiper. The next generation of Draftniks was born.

Mel Kiper Jr.: “My whole thing with everybody was, just go ahead and do it. I encouraged everybody to put out a draft [report], put out a blog. I told kids back in the day, get a blog, do a website, put your ratings on the internet. They’re all doing it now. I can’t tell you how many kids are on the internet doing it now who I encouraged back in the day.”

Scott Wright, founder“In 1997, I was a junior in high school, and I knew I wanted to work in sports in some form. We had a class where they taught us the bare-bones basics of HTML, So I knew just enough to do a website, and I had an American Online account. I thought, I’m going to start a website where I can practice writing, put my opinions about the draft out there. I thought it’d be good practice for college.

“I would literally write handwritten letters to the colleges requesting tapes. At one point I even enlisted my mom to help out and act as if she was my secretary, just to request tapes. I thought it would sound a little bit more credible if I had a secretary, instead of this 17- or 18-year-old kid calling up. We had some success. Some schools were very accommodating. Some, not as much.”

Walter Cherepinsky, founder“The site started as a high school project in 1999. We had an internet class and the teacher asked us to make a website about something we liked, and I loved football. So I made it as a project, and then [the teacher] told me to continue the project throughout the year. I kept working on it, and then it became a hobby. Then I changed my major to journalism in college, and it became something I’d want to put on my résumé.

“In the fall of 2007 an advertising company reached out to me. I never even thought I could do this full-time, and then when I saw the ad contract I was like, ‘Wow, I can do this full-time.’ I was a loan officer for a mortgage company [at the time]. That company doesn’t exist anymore.”

Rob Rang, Senior Analyst, “I’m a full-time [high school] English and History teacher now, and when I was in college [in the early 2000s], one of the classes we had to take was Technology in the Classroom. And the final project was that you were supposed to create a mini-website to show that you can use the internet. Well, when everyone else was doing their stuff on English and History or Math or Science, I did mine on football.

“While I was still in college, I got a call from this company that asked for me to go scout the Senior Bowl for them. And so I decided, what the heck, I’m going to try it.”

Dan Kadar, SB Nation NFL draft editor: “I do the draft stuff as a hobby, basically. I work at a newspaper full-time [as an editor at the Akron Beacon Journal].”

Dane Brugler, Senior Analyst, “My first job out of college, I was a PR director for a minor league baseball team. But all the while, I was doing my draft analysis on the side. Then I was able to parlay that into a career with my draft guide. It’s 450 scouting reports. There’s over 1200 players ranked. I just break down each player, from background info, family, to strengths and weaknesses, how many games he started as a freshman, a full list of injuries, all the stats you need to know about the player.

“Once social media took off and I gained a following on Twitter—that year I gave out my draft guide for free. I said, if you’re interested, shoot me a message, and I’ll send you a guide. Then I realized, ‘Oh wow, I just gave out 5,000 draft guides for free. I should probably sell this.’ ”

Dan Kadar: “The team-building aspect always seemed interesting to me. We’re the Madden generation, so there was that part of it, too. Even though it’s just a video game, it kind of let you take control. You’re not just picking the plays, you’re picking the players and making trades and doing contracts and all of that stuff. I enjoyed that aspect of the video games more than actually playing the games themselves. It’s just fascinating how teams build themselves and evaluate players and go about it. A mock draft is just like the full encapsulation of all of that.”

Rob Rang: “There are a lot of very intelligent football fans out there, sitting on couches, who can essentially do the same job I do, just as far as evaluating players. If you watch enough football, you can recognize a good player fairly quickly.”

Dane Brugler: “Just like anything else, [the internet] provides more of a voice for everyone and anyone. I get a lot of questions about, how do you get into the business? I tell them to really lean on social media, lean on the internet. Because you can get your stuff out there, you can get your voice out there. Develop that voice. Then if you’re good and you know what you’re doing, you’ll get a following.”

By the early 2000s the draft—and by extension, the mock draft—had become a mainstream phenomenon. You could be a full-time draft expert and carve out your own corner of fame in the sports world. Mel Kiper had long been the star of ESPN’s draft telecast, and now Mike Mayock (NFL Network) and Todd McShay (ESPN), two former college players turned analysts, joined him in the spotlight.

As mock drafts grew in popularity, though, a new conflict emerged. Web traffic for mock drafts was skyrocketing, and editors wanting to capitalize on that audience pushed their reporters and analysts to write more mock drafts. Some people, especially those who were self-made scouts, happily complied. Others pushed back.

Mike Mayock, Draft Analyst, NFL Network: “When I entered into it [in the early 2000s] the NFL Network wanted me to do a bunch of mock drafts, and I refused. I said it’s crazy to do one before free agency, because it all changes. And you really shouldn’t be doing them and publishing them until you’re closer to the draft, because that’s when you have all of your information in and you can make a more intelligent decision. I only do one a year, and I do it the night before the draft. Finally, they turned it into a TV show.”

Rick Gosselin: “They were pressing me early on to do more mocks, and I always refused. I wouldn’t do it. I said, when I have something credible to mock, I’ll mock it.”

John McClain: “In the past, we’ve always done mocks starting right after the combine. Then when the internet came along and they saw how many hits they got, they said, Hey, we need to start them sooner. I looked at the numbers and said, Jesus, we need to start ’em in September! Who gives a [expletive] if they’re right? People love that stuff.”

Frank Cooney: “We create biographies on 1,000 draft-eligible players, and we have a database on 12,000 players who may be draft-eligible someday. But the silly mock drafts are the most popular thing there is. You put those things on talk radio and you’ve got an infinite grist for talking. It brings the ability to argue with a reason to the front.”

Walter Cherepinsky: “I make sure I have a new mock draft up every week, unless it’s July or something where nothing’s going on. I want to have mock drafts up in advance, too. I already have a 2019 and a 2020 draft up on the site.”

Dan Kadar: “I’ll do one right after the 2018 draft is over. Then I like to do one before the college football season starts, a couple during the season, and then I start doing them every Monday [starting] in December.”

John Czarnecki: “You can look at some mock drafts and know the guy had no idea what was going on. It’s easy to put a player with a team that has that need. A team needs a receiver, so you throw the best receiver there without knowing really what the team is going to do. [The system] created a lot of guys who are borderline fans who do mock drafts. It created a crazy sensation to it all, without them talking to anybody really.”

Mel Kiper: “I don’t think a lot of people understand, mock drafts are for entertainment purposes. Fans love them. They’d love to see a mock draft every other day!”

It’s reached the point now where the day after the 2018 draft ends, news organizations and individual sites will post mock drafts for 2019. Then soon after, the mocks will start coming again in a steady flow, nearly year-round.

Some fans can’t get enough of it. But the trend has set a dangerous precedent where college players, especially underclassmen, see their names on these mock drafts and think it means they’re a lock to be a first-round pick.

Todd McShay, Draft Analyst, ESPN: “It’s my least favorite exercise of the year. But I’m contractually obligated.”

Dan Kadar: “These mock drafts are never right, let alone a year out. It’s really corny, but it sets a roadmap a little bit for the next draft.”

Mike Mayock: “God Bless them. I don’t know how they do it.”

Frank Cooney: “I wish I could remember the first time a client asked us to do a mock draft for the next year the day after [the previous] draft ended. I just thought was … that is really a mockery. I mean, I’m serious. You don’t even know who the hell is going to finish where yet! But you know what? Everyone does it.”

Dane Brugler: “Really, they serve no purpose except entertainment. It’s interesting to look at different scenarios. That’s all it is, looking at different scenarios of what could happen.”

Todd McShay: “I take a day or two and I pull together a list of players that I think have a chance. And then I’ll give a call to a couple guys in the league. And they don’t even know. The initial scouting list hasn’t even come out yet. The only thing you’re basing it off of is if some guys have flashed or what you’ve seen on TV. The thing that’s so frustrating about doing that [mock draft] is that … I take almost a week off after the draft, and then I start on the 2019 class in May and June, before I take some vacation in July. So I’ll be sitting there, I’ll watch some tape on a guy, and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, no, this guy’s a fourth-rounder and I just put him at, like, the 14th pick of this mock draft.’ I don’t know! No one reads it, but the first line is basically a disclaimer that I’m basically throwing darts more so than any other [mock draft] that we do. But the problem is, and it’s a very good problem to have: it is the most-clicked-on article that I write all year long.”

Gil Brandt: “It makes parents feel good, like, ‘Oh, my son is going to get drafted in the first round!’ Then it doesn’t happen.”

Todd McShay: “I’ve had many college coaches call me, like, ‘What’re you doing? You’re killing us, you know?’ And sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re not right. It’s tough. … You could have a sophomore who’s coming off a really good sophomore season, but he’s got two years left of school. He reads this mock draft that I put up in May, and now he’s like, ‘O.K., I’m a first-rounder, I’ve got this locked.’ And the mentality can change in some guys. It shouldn’t. No one should care. But unfortunately there are some people giving bad information, and an agent gets hold of it. They’re not supposed to be, but they’re contacting these young men, saying, ‘Hey, you’re projected as a first-round pick, I want to talk to you, I want to sign you.’ And now you’re pushing up the process in a way you don’t want to.

“Matt Barkley is a great example. I think he was in the top-five of that May mock draft that I do. I went and watched tape and was like, ‘Oh, no, this guy is like a third-rounder.’ I think he went in the fourth.

“I don’t want to put false hope in one of these young men’s heads. And I begged to not do it for that reason, but it is what it is.”

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The number of mock draft purists around the country is dwindling. The NFL is only getting more tight-lipped. The vast majority of mock drafts on the internet now are written by draft analysts doing their own research. Fans don’t seem to care. They can’t get enough mock drafts.

Frank Cooney: “It’s the chicken or the egg. Did [mock drafts] become popular because they’re everywhere on the internet? Or are they everywhere on the internet because they became popular? Both, I think. Access makes something popular. Back in the day, it was damn hard to get information on players. So not many people did it. So as it becomes easier and easier to get information, more people become experts.”

Todd McShay: “I’ve seen the [traffic] reports that my editors have given me in years past. It’s overwhelming. I always get frustrated. I would rather break down wide receivers—Who’s going to be a good X receiver? Who’s going to be a good slot receiver? Who brings versatility?—than just put up another mock draft. But I look at those numbers, and I don’t know if it’s 10-to-1 or 8-to-1 compared to an article I would write on anything else having to with the draft, and I just hand the report back to the editor. ‘Yep, I get it.’ ​”

• YES, WE ARE PROMOTING OUR OWN MOCK DRAFT IN THIS STORY: But we waited until the very end to direct you to Albert Breer’s latest mock, which is pretty good.

Mel Kiper Jr.: “People like Christmas morning because they don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what Santa Claus is going to leave you under that tree. It’s the anticipation of Christmas morning. You know you’re getting something, you know you’re going to be happy, you just don’t know what it’s going to be. I think that’s what the draft is. Draft day has the same anticipation as Christmas morning.”

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