HERE'S THE thing about mock drafts: There's a site, thehuddlereport.com, that goes back and tallies the accuracy of experts' picks. They aren't very accurate at all. Last year, a guy named Reginald Brooks from "Fantasy Football 1on1" took top honors in the Huddle Report ranking, by correctly matching player with team 12 times in the NFL draft's first round. That's 12 out of 32, slightly better than one-third right.
A couple people, including the NFL Network's Mike Mayock, matched up 11 players with the teams that drafted them. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., the man who popularized the mock-draft concept and hairsprayed it into permanence, hit on six of his 32 predictions.
So, as we await the 3-day NFL draft that starts Thursday, why are mock drafts such a big deal, and why is everyone doing them now? This year, ESPN.com introduced an interactive feature, where you can go into Kiper's mock and change things around to suit your preference, then "Mel" will analyze how your changes affect the rest of the first round.
"It's impossible for anybody to get more than a handful," Mayock said recently. "More knowledge doesn't translate to more correct entries; one trade or off-the-wall selection can change the rest of the round. But it's fun. And a useful tool to anticipate a run on a position or a player sliding."
Now, maybe you are the kind of fan who actually has time to scour the Internet for clips of hundreds of college prospects. Maybe you have a sound reason to prefer Cyrus Kouandijo over Joel Bitonio among the offensive tackles, even though Mayock thinks they're interchangeable. But you do not have access to the medical information teams have compiled, the character evaluations, the interview process. And you do not know what the Tennessee Titans are thinking at 11th overall, or what the Kansas City Chiefs plan to do at 23. Odds are, Mayock and Kiper don't know all that, either.
So, why do you eat this stuff up? And why do you want to try your hand at it?
"It shows how everyone feels about this league," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said last week. Roseman meticulously compiled his own mocks as a young Jets fan in North Jersey. Now, "I go home at night and my 7-year-old son has his mock drafts for me, he tells me who he thinks we're going to pick and who everyone else in the league is going to pick," he said.
"For us to be here in May, and have people talking about the NFL draft, the players we're going to pick, it's awesome to me, it's exciting," Roseman said. "I remember being there in front of the TV, with my notebooks, with my picks laid out, I'm criticizing these teams for doing something. You realize then when you're in this league, [that as a fan] you don't have all the information . . . at the same time, there's nothing more fun than watching college football in the fall, writing up players, and then getting to draft day and trying to figure out where those players are going. I feel like that was part of my process here, in getting to where I am."
Tommy Lawlor is an Eagles fan in North Carolina who also writes about the team for Igglesblitz.com and the Eagles' website. Under the points system the Huddle Report devised, ranking not just how you matched teams with players but how many of your picks actually went in the first round, Lawlor's mock drafts are in the top 25 nationally over the last 5 years.
Lawlor recalls how thrilled he was in college, when he did a radio show at Appalachian State and successfully surmised that the Giants would take University of Minnesota offensive lineman Brian Williams 18th overall in 1989.
"I don't know that there is any other situation close to this in sports," Lawlor said last week. "The MLB and NHL drafts feature high school kids and college sports that aren't easy to follow. That makes them irrelevant to casual fans. The NBA draft is short, has a lot of foreign players and also had high schoolers for many years. It just isn't the same as the NFL draft.
"Mock drafts also tie in to the 'What If?' game. What would have happened if the Eagles used their first-round pick in 2000 on Plaxico Burress or Brian Urlacher instead of Corey Simon? If the Eagles had just taken Jason Witten over L.J. Smith in 2003, the team would have been much better off. If the team had taken Vince Wilfork over Shawn Andrews [in 2004], they might have won the Super Bowl. And so on. Fans know who they wanted. They know who they had mocked to go where and why. They don't forget those picks for a long time.
"When a fan doesn't get a pick right, he can argue that the GM/coach is at fault and not him. He can follow the player he picked and the one actually picked by the team and judge that situation for years. I wanted the Eagles to take [wide receiver] Chris Chambers instead of Freddie Mitchell [in the 2001 first round]. That tortured me. And I was unfortunately right on that. I actually yelled at the TV, 'Don't be Freddie Mitchell. Don't be Freddie Mitchell.' Ugh."
Lawlor also reiterated something Mayock said, that doing a mock or examining someone else's mock allows a fan to run through scenarios for his favorite team. Over the weekend, ESPN.com posted a "combo mock," in which Kiper and ESPN's other draft expert, Todd McShay, alternated picks. Kiper took Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews 22nd overall for the Eagles, with several other notable receivers, along with well-regarded Virginia Tech corner Kyle Fuller and perhaps most surprisingly, UCLA pass rush linebacker Anthony Barr still on the hypothetical board.
Those of us who cover the Eagles - and fans who've been paying attention - feel the Birds would love to get an elite edge rusher in the first round, but we get the sense that they don't think they can. Would they really pass on Barr, for Matthews, who might not be that different from the WRs available in the second round, given that this is an extraordinary wideout crop?
Probably not, but it's interesting to talk it over. Gives us something to do as we wait for Thursday.
"You get to see the various scenarios and choose your favorite one," Lawlor noted.