A GM’s Thoughts on the Purpose of NFL Mock Drafts

I am not a fan of mock drafts in general, but I clearly understand why fans LOVE THEM and why everyone puts them out as content. I also have proof that they serve a purpose in the process of preparing for a draft. Every fan wants to know who his/her team is going to draft and this is an attempt to predict, but here is some inside information- in a lot of cases, even the decision makers don’t know until a week or two before what the plan is and what they hope the plan yields. Any draft that comes out from January through mid-April is nothing more than a guess based team needs, derived from somebody trying to read between the lines of what some GM or Head Coach has said publicly to media. We all want to create discussion and these are talking points, so they serve a purpose for fans.

Also adding to the fact that these drafts are a crapshoot, is the fact that 99% of these drafts are done without the author even knowing the job descriptions of each team and what they are looking for (criteria wise) within a certain position. Said another way, they might get the “need” right, but the actual player that best fits that need can only be determined by true insiders in the building.

Team Needs vs. Best Player Argument

Before I give you my reason for using these mock drafts as a positive for preparing for an NFL draft, let’s jump to the NEED vs BEST PLAYER argument. Most team builders (or talent evaluators), myself included, have a philosophy – always take the best player over need. Last week you may have seen The Giants’ GM, Dave Gettleman’s, pre-draft presser.  Dave has taken a lot of heat for his decisions in building his team, but one thing I totally agree with him on is you have to adhere to the value on your draft board. You have spent a complete year grading, rating and stacking the players (per your job requirements based on scheme and coaching philosophies) in an order that best reflects who is the highest valued players. How can you jump outside this “mindset” and take a player you have valued less because it’s a bigger need for you? Bypass better players? Teams that have drafted poorly are usually sub-par evaluators or show a tendency to start drafting to fill needs. The best drafts I have ever been a part of were when the best player is also at a position of need. The draft just comes to you. You can’t force need- you will make big mistakes. To take a guy from a grade or two below and not take the best player doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. That’s not my opinion, I think it’s a fact. Do the research. And to my amazement, some teams still do it. You can never have too many good players at any one position.

Being Prepared for All Scenarios

The reason I enjoy and use mock drafts is that it helps us prepare and be ready for any and all scenarios. We do many exercises to help plan/strategize in draft rooms with our staff, the week of the draft.  Decision makers need to be ready for everything. I like to assign someone on staff to gather every mock draft they can find. Even the off-the-wall crazy mock drafts. We will take a full day, sometimes more, to go through every one of them and pull names off our final board as if this was the way the draft would unfold. It gives you all the options as to what will be there when your pick arrives.  It readies you for many scenarios and some you could never dream up on your own. They all provoke discussion which helps build consensus.

An exact example of this was 2001 in New Orleans when I was the General Manager. I remember going thru one particular mock draft that had Deuce McAllister, the RB from Ole Miss getting to us at 23. We had just come off the first playoff win in franchise history and had Ricky Williams on our team. We had Deuce rated as the 2nd best RB (behind LaDainian Tomlinson) but in the top 10 on our board. During one of these make-believe exercises in mock draft prep session, it came to our pick at #23 and he was there. I remember our Head Coach Jim Haslett saying to me as this particular mock was unfolding, “Now what do we do?” as he rolled his eyes. It was not a need for us. The Saints had just given up the farm the year before to get Ricky. I remember responding to him, ” We are gonna pick him.” Then I went on to explain the merits of why it made sense. At the end of that session, we had a consensus of what we should do never expecting it to happen. Well, guess what? It happened.

Deuce was there and we picked him. He went on to become the all-time leading rusher in franchise history and we traded RW to Miami the following year for what became 2, #1 picks. If we hadn’t had that mock draft exercise, we would have never had that discussion and no way could we have made that decision while on the clock. I am a big discussion guy and mock drafts provoke discussion.

The staff always loves these days as well. It promotes teamwork, comradery, and inclusion and gives everyone a part in a discussion.  

Photo Credit: Shutterstock | Melinda Nagy

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