A few years ago, there was a great story about why the Browns made the terrible decision to draft future bust Johnny Manziel in the first round: a homeless guy told them to (yes, this is real).
This seems silly, but I don’t think it’s that far off from the types of whims that drive every draft and have a major impact on the results each year.
As a fan, it’s so easy to just say “take the best player” or “build a roster” or my person favorite: “X player sucked, they should have taken someone better.”
I encourage everyone to run their own mocks and do about 50 while trying to really build the best talent base you can (here’s a look at the tools available). I think doing about 50 is the critical mass where you really start to understand the things that impact a draft.
Here’s some of the things to consider on each prospect when making a pick:
- How guys will make the jump from college (where they play 18 year old kids right out of high school) to the pros (where they face the most freakish physical athletes in the history of the world when they all want to inflict pain on them)
- Scheme fit and wondering if the fact that that receiver who only ran stop routes and crossing patterns in college can’t go deep even though he ran a 4.39 at the Combine or if that gap shooting Defensive Lineman could really hold up in a two gap system – he has the size, why didn’t his college coach ask him to do that (this also alludes to the fact that college coaches care a lot more about winning, than they do displaying their players talents for NFL scouts).
- How players bodies will grow as they reach physical maturity, as well as how their outlook and work ethic may or may not evolved over time – don’t forget that each of these guys has been “the man” their whole life and is used to everyone fawning over them… something that won’t happen for the Day 3 guys.
- How their injury history may play out in the future – where those college injuries freak occurences or a sign of things to come?
- Why did that guys Combine results not match up at all with his on-field productivity?
But that’s just a small sampling of the things to consider with each individual player. Things get a lot tougher when you aren’t evaluating a single player, but looking at each pick in terms of the value you can get out of the entire draft class.
Sure, you have that Guard at the top of you list, but there’s that Cornerback you like, too. The Cornerback isn’t as good as the Guard, but there’s like 11 more Guards you think are almost as good and that Cornerback is the last one you like in the draft. Your next pick isn’t for another 32 slots. What do you do? There’s various shades of this that make things difficult.
But where things really get tough for GMs in real life is when they have to start balancing the other tough questions that most of us don’t have to face:
Last Minute Information
We targeted a guy in the first round and he fell to us, but an hour ago we learned he has a heart defect of unknown severity and there’s a second test that might just clear the whole thing up but the results aren’t in yet. There’s another you really like, but just now a tweet came out with a rumor that he hit a woman. Now what?
Sure, you are convinced that this Guard is the next Quenton Nelson, but the owner just came in. He sits on the board of a Fortune 100 company and one of the other board members went this college and he really, really likes this Wide Receiver. The owner doesn’t care if no one is projecting him until the second round, he doesn’t want to take a chance – you better get him in the first. Now what? If you take the receiver and he flops and everyone calls you stupid, then what? Or maybe it’s not that specific. Maybe after you carefully comb through hundreds of players and rank them with 20 other scouts, and have found the perfect defensive lineman for your new scheme, the owner comes in and says he thinks the team really needs to upgrade safeties and he wasnt to see results.
You were the only team that even showed up to pro day at Backwater U in Nowheresville and you just knew the next John Randle was hiding there, so how the f#ck did your division rival grab him in the top of the 7th when he was your guy? You passed up at least 4 other chances to get a Defensive Lineman because you knew he would be there. Now you’re on the clock… who are you taking?
Remember that regional scout that got all p!ssy and threw a steaming hot coffee in your face? You calmly explained to him that wasn’t acceptable. His contract is up in May and he knows he’s not staying, so he takes a copy of your draft board over to the team that picks three spots ahead of you. They keep grabbing your targets and you don’t realize what happened until a month later when that scout is announced as a personnel director at the other team in June. Think this doesn’t happen?
You’ve heard it from multiple sources that a certain player has a certain issue that pretty much removes him from your board. Is it possible that your sources were paid to say that by an agent or another GM? No, no one would ever do something like that… but if they did, would that mean you have to discount everything from all those sources, or just the stuff about that one guy? It gets harder when their information was really valuable in the past.
You need a Defensive Tackle and a Linebacker and it’s your turn. There’s 5 DTs you really like, but only 1 LB. You pick again in 8 slots, so of course you take that one LB. Then a DT run starts, everyone else snatches them up and they’re all gone. Later you learn that no one was going to take an LB for another 2 rounds. Does that make you a terrible GM?
While dealing with all that, don’t forget that you need to balance winning right now to keep your job with having a sustainable talent base so you can be successful in the future.
Really, the amount of information is just staggering. Nevermind that this game has 22 players moving in different directions at the same time on every play. The outcome of each game is determined by over 100 players and dozens of coaches.
It’s nearly impossible to accurately “know” that you are making the right pick at any point in the draft.
There’s so much randomness that you might as well just let a homeless guy make your picks for you.
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