Why We Hate That We Love NFL Mock Drafts

(Last Updated On: April 7, 2017)

Reading NFL mock drafts is like ordering DiGiorno pizza – you’re excited because ‘it’s not delivery’ but then disappointed that it’s just another unspectacular frozen pizza once it actually hits your lips. But that doesn’t stop us habit-driven football fans from digging through pages of seven-round Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. NFL mock drafts (with a little Mike Mayock expertise sprinkled in) that often end up to be woefully inaccurate.

Last month we did our own yearly shot in the dark with the 2017 NFL Joke Mock Draft. Now, McShay has released his 2.0 mock draft, and by god it’s pretty much the same as every other online mock draft out there. Nothing against Todd or Mel here, but the mocking business is a thankless job. They’re both on television and probably rich as shit, they both probably spray tan, and they’re equally employed, which is nice in today’s day and age – yet his draft-choice record has got to be terrible (from my own anecdotal data analysis). Seriously, let’s take a quick gander at a few of the worst NFL draft expert predictions.

 

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Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest (4th overall, Seahawks, 2009)

Prior to the 2009 NFL draft, Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper Jr. called Aaron Curry the safest pick in the draft. He was shortly after picked 4th overall and signed to the largest rookie contract ever for a non-quarterback ($34 million guaranteed). After four years, Curry was out of the league. For what it’s worth, the top five picks in that draft were as follows: Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Curry and Mark Sanchez. Ryan Succop (still in the league as a modest kicker) was the last pick (Mr. Irrelevant).

 

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Akili Smith, QB, Oregon (3rd overall, Bengals, 1999)

Spread through the reliable NFL scout grapevine, Mel Kiper reportedly noted in 1999 that Akili Smith would be a great NFL player who would give the Cincinnati Bengals the passer they’ve lacked since Boomer Esiason. It didn’t turn out that way. The top three in the 1999 NFL Draft was Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Smith, respectively.

 

Akili Smith 1/5

 

Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Penn State (1st overall, Bengals, 1995)

Called the next Bo Jackson, Ki-Jana just never became an effective NFL running back. Injuries can be blamed here as well.

 

Photograph of injured running back Ki-Jana Carter. (Credit: Mark Lyons/The Big Lead)
Injuries kept running back Ki-Jana Carter from ever achieving greatness with the Bengals, despite being atop most 1995 NFL mock drafts and eventually going No. 1. (Credit: Mark Lyons + The Big Lead)

 

Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky (198th overall, Giants, 2008)

A tantalizing yet very unspectacular 6-foot-4 signal caller at the University of Kentucky, Andre Woodson was big-time hyped by none other than Todd McShay. Woodson was thrown into our faces so much we almost expected him to be plucked in Round No. 2; until he actually slipped into the sixth round and, after being waived, resigned, and released again by the New York Giants, never ended up making a roster in the NFL. Here’s what one seemingly anonymous “veteran” NFL scout had to say about McShay after that..

 

McShay does not have any good connections,” the source opined. “Higher-ups in the league think he is an arrogant asshole. A know-it-all. And he really knows nothing. Whatever he says about a quarterback, take it to the bank, it will be the opposite. Remember, last August he stated that Jevan Snead was better than Colt McCoy and would get drafted in the top five. He has yet to publicly retract that statement.

“One of the reasons the kid came out was because of what McShay said. The family thought McShay knew and everyone else was wrong. . . . He has problems with game management, accuracy and leadership among other things, but pretty boy Todd thought he was great because of one good game (the Cotton Bowl) a year ago. McShay is a pretty face who comes across like he knows what he is talking about. He does have good presence, but knows nothing.

 

Cam Newton, QB, Auburn (1st overall, Panthers, 2011)

Pro Football Weekly arsehole Nolan Nawrocki thought he had Cam Newton down pat. He was wrong..

 

Tweet about the inaccuracy of Cam Newton's projection in 2011 NFL mock drafts.
NFL mock drafts only seem to hurt feelings (or light fires?).

 

Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State (2nd overall, Packers, 1989)

Blame this one’s buildup more on Sports Illustrated’s magazine cover. A dominant force in college on the offensive line, Mandarich just never transitioned to the pro game. He was taken after Troy Aikman and ahead of Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders, all of whom are now NFL Hall of Famers.

 

Tony Mandarich

 

Dan McGwire, QB, San Diego State (16th overall, Seahawks, 1991)

Dan McGwire (MLB Mark McGwire’s brother) and Brett Favre were rated even entering the 1991 NFL Draft. I might’ve enamored with the 6-foot-8 chuck artist from San Diego State too, given his gargantuan stature at the quarterback position (hasn’t really worked out for 6-foot-7 Brock Osweiler either, unless dollars equals success). McGwire was picked 16th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1991 Draft, with Favre being taken No. 33 overall. While McGwire played five seasons during which he quietly threw two touchdowns and six interceptions, Favre went on to.. well, Canton.

 

Dan McGwire

 

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame (48th overall, Panthers, 2010)

Mel Kiper, who said smoking Jimmy Clausen was the fourth-best player in the 2010 draft, was wrong again.

 

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Seattle Seahawks’ 2012 Draft Class

Seattle makes up for several rough historical draft choices (Curry, McGwire, Rick Mirer, Brian Bosworth to name a few) to come back strong and take home the bigger prize. Russell Wilson was called the worst pick in the draft by multiple sources.

 

Russell Wilson tweet regarding 2012 NFL mock drafts.
NFL mock drafts aren’t for the faint of heart.

 

Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville (56th overall, Packers, 2008)

Merril Hodge and Todd Mcshay can explain this comparison for us.

 

 

JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU (1st overall, Raiders, 2007)

Not sure how the huge LSU signal caller reminded Kiper of “John Elway” but here it is.

 

 

Honorable mentions:

Ryan Leaf, QB, Washington State (2nd overall, Chargers, 1998)
Andre Ware, QB, Houston (7th overall, Lions, 1990)
Todd Marinovich, QB, USC (24th overall, Raiders, 1991)
Art Schlichter, QB, Ohio State (4th overall, Colts, 1982)
Blair Thomas, RB, Penn State (2nd overall, Jets, 1990)
Tom Cousineau, MLB, Ohio State (1st overall, Bills, 1979)
Rick Mirer, QB, Notre Dame (2nd overall, Seahawks, 1993)
Lawrence Phillips, RB, Nebraska (6th overall, Rams, 1996)
Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State (6th overall, Jets, 2008)
Anthony Bell, LB, Michigan State (5th overall, Cardinals, 1986)
Desmond Howard, WR, Michigan (4th overall, Redskins, 1992)
Tommy Maddox, QB, UCLA (25th overall, Broncos, 1992)
Dan Wilkinson, DT, Ohio State (1st overall, Bengals, 1994)

 

 

In recent drafts we’ve seen more examples of non-improving predictions, such as McShay and Mayock guessing Geno Smith to go No. 6 to Cleveland in the 2013 NFL Draft but seeing him instead go 39th to my similarly awful Jets and McShay projecting Ryan Nassib to go No. 8 to Buffalo in 2013 but then seeing him go 110th overall by the Giants. Clearly, they’re just throwing hot dogs down hallways at this point.

Then what is it that keeps us clinging to this mysterious collection of consistently wrong projections? Perhaps it’s our own version of a lottery ticket, in that we can daydream about all the things we’d do with the money if we ever actually won. Fans can almost feel what it’s like to have this player and that player, in a variety of differently played out situations. So, draft experts, scouts, and most of all winning-deprived fans can controllably sit back and feel the emotion behind every draft choice as if it has actually gone down that way. As we know from years of disappointing draft experience, however, everything can change from one day to the next. As a result, NFL mock drafts are merely regurgitated scouting reports randomly thrown into an order that makes relative sense based on team needs.

The path to the draft is still miles long, as the NFL Scouting Combine, free agency, and pro days can alter a guy’s draft stock and team’s feelings in a heartbeat. One drop of the ball, one odd comment, a couple strange looks, a general misunderstanding of a player’s social media comment, small hands – it all affects the process. Just look at Laremy Tunsil, who garnered controversial attention last year for metaphorically hanging with Mary Jane before the 2016 NFL Draft, and then telling the truth! He went from the likely No. 1 pick to No. 13 just like that, losing millions in potential signing dollars in the process.

Yet for pigskin diehards and data-driven hopefuls, NFL mock drafts are the key to happiness – albeit false happiness mixed with impending disappointment. Especially for fans of perennial losers (Browns, Jets, Rams), mock drafts offer a glimmer of hope. They offer us a chance at redemption; a hope that our team can pluck that needle in the haystack and turn that stone in the rough into the diamond it was always meant to be.

 

Cartoon about NFL mock drafts.
NFL mock drafts are essentially shots in the dark.

 

I can remember being a young, innocent, and not-yet-jaded New York Jets fan and drooling over mock drafts one, two, even five years out! Why in hell would you read a mock draft for 2015 when it’s only 2006? Jerry Maguire once said, “there’s genius everywhere, but until they turn pro, it’s like popcorn in the pan. Some pop, some don’t.” So why waste time diving into mock drafts featuring players who have only completed sub-50 percent of their high school years? That glimmer of hope, people. That’s what keeps us going..

We can have our heartbroken every year (I still think about Doug Brien’s twin misses in the 2004 AFC Divisional Playoffs – the first time in NFL postseason history a player missed two field-goal attempts in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter), we can fail in free agency, we can spell our team name wrong, and we can look to the future as long as we have our favorite-albeit-hated collection of bogus mock drafts to endlessly gaze at. Despite their lack of substance and credibility, NFL mock drafts actually keep us alive and hopeful as fans.