Mock Draft Experts: Guess Work at its Worst
With the NFL draft only days away, the fervor over who gets picked when and by whom is reaching a nauseating peak. In the last several weeks I have seen more mock drafts than I care to recall. It became readily apparent that none of these mock drafts are consistent. Sure, a handful of them show Stafford going first, but mostly it depends on what day you’re reading.
Last night, I had the pleasure of watching Mel Kiper Jr. blow a head gasket arguing his points about who will be picked. Mel Kiper Jr., an ESPN analyst, is generally regarded as the draft expert and has been presenting draft analysis since 1984. According to his Wikipedia entry, Mel is credited as playing a large part in making the NFL draft the big spectacle that it is today; “He has played a major role in transforming the draft from a quiet meeting few fans understood or cared about into a major public event over the course of the last 25 years.”
I’d say that makes this guy a pretty safe bet when hunting for draft predictions, right?
Hardly the case. A little internet research turns up this gem from coldhardfootballfacts.com; over the course of the last four drafts (2005-2008) our boy Mel has compiled an abysmal record of 32 correct picks out of 127 in the first round or about 25.2 percent correct. He hardly seems like the pillar of accuracy he is touted to be, and, moreover, serves to illustrate the futility of mock drafts.
Do other draft experts fare any better?
According to research by coldhardfootballfacts.com, OurLads, a relatively unknown draft authority, has maintained the best record over the last four draft years, amassing a record of 35 correct picks out of 127, or a 27.6 percent success rate.
Jay Glazer of Fox Sports comes in next with a success rate of 26 percent, followed by Kiper Jr. and Scouts Inc. It is very interesting to note that arguably the best and most widely regarded experts are last place finishers in the race to predict the draft.
So what does this prove? The only thing dumber than mock drafts are the people who make them, followed closely by the people who follow them. You could probably do as well picking names from a hat.
Here are some of Mel Kiper Jr.’s more notable draft day follies:
- 1990—Andre Ware: Kiper thought that the University of Houston quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner would be an excellent NFL quarterback and a great match for the Detroit Lions. Ware’s tenure in the NFL was brief and inconspicuous. Ware is considered to be among the biggest busts in draft history.
- 1995—J.J. Stokes: Kiper proclaimed the UCLA wide receiver a “sure-thing,” who was destined to be a future All-Pro. On draft day, Kiper lambasted several teams, including the New York Jets, for passing on Stokes until he was selected 10th overall by the San Francisco 49ers. Stokes spent an undistinguished eight years in San Francisco in the shadows of Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, never making a single Pro Bowl or even surpassing 770 yards receiving.
- 1995—John Walsh: Kiper had rated the BYU quarterback a first round pick. Walsh declared for the draft after his Junior season and had an abysmal NFL combine where he ran a 5.3 forty yard dash and displayed a weak arm in workouts. Nonetheless, Kiper still rated Walsh as a late first-early second round pick on the day of the draft He said that he would be a perfect fit for a west coast offense team like the San Francisco 49ers because of his accuracy on short passes. Walsh slid all the way to the seventh round where he was finally taken by the Cincinnati Bengals. He never appeared in a single game for the quarterback-needy Bengals and was out of football less than a year later.
- 1998—Ryan Leaf: Kiper said that the Washington State Quarterback’s attitude (which had rubbed teammates and coaches the wrong way in college) would be an asset in the NFL and give him a mental advantage over Peyton Manning. Kiper also said that Leaf had the better natural physical tools and would be a great quarterback, though he still rated Manning as the more polished and better overall prospect. Leaf was chosen second overall by the San Diego Chargers immediately after Manning. Leaf’s career soon imploded, largely because of a confrontational attitude and poor practice habits that alienated teammates, coaches, and fans. He is now regarded as not only the worst bust in NFL draft history, but also possibly the biggest bust in all of professional sports.
- 1998—Matt Hasselbeck: The Green Bay Packers selected Matt Hasselbeck in the sixth round (187 overall). Hasselbeck had not been invited to the scouting combine, and Kiper referred to the selection as “a waste of a pick.” Hasselbeck went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks, and set over 30 franchise records. He led them to Superbowl XL.
- 1999—Akili Smith: Kiper said that the Oregon quarterback would be a great NFL player and would finally provide the Cincinnati Bengals with the passer they’d lacked since Boomer Esiason. Smith was selected ahead of Daunte Culpepper, Torry Holt, Edgerrin James, Champ Bailey, and Jevon Kearse, but he spent less than four abysmal seasons in Cincinnati, starting only 17 games. He has since struggled in several brief stops in the NFL, NFL Europe, and the CFL. It’s notable that Kiper rated Smith higher than Donovan McNabb and Culpepper, despite the facts that Smith only had 11 starts at the college level and had performed poorly on the Wonderlic aptitude tests administered at the NFL Combine, both of which are traditionally seen as important indicators of a quarterback’s readiness for the NFL. Smith’s career was marred by inconsistency and failure to grasp the complexities of the Bengals’ playbook.
- 2005—Mike Williams: In one of Kiper’s most well known mistakes, he stated that USC wide receiver Mike Williams would be the best player in his 2005 draft class, despite not having played football in over a year after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. When ESPN analyst Merril Hoge disagreed, Kiper uttered the now infamous line, “I’ll see you at his Hall of Fame induction.” Williams has been a remarkable disappointment, battling weight problems, playing very little, and showing no signs of improvement with any of the three teams for which he’s played. Williams was unsigned after three years in the NFL as of 2008.