Is anyone really an NFL Draft expert?/Michael Bleach
The NFL Draft is finally upon us.
After weeks of speculation, Packers fans get to spend two hours waiting around Thursday night only to find that general manager Ted Thompson will likely trade out of the first round for a second, third and seventh round pick as well as a box of sensible neckties.
Still, I get why many fans mindlessly turn over three straight days of their lives to Roger Goodell’s carefully calculated spectacle. The draft, without subtlety, represents unabashed hope.
Only the Jets make bad picks on draft day. Every other team has just grabbed a future Hall of Famer with upside. They finally have the franchise quarterback, blindside protector or fearsome edge rusher that’s been the missing puzzle piece. Dreams run wild – just as Goodell conceived when he engineered his plan to take over the world with Pinky and the Brain.
But there is one nagging burr I cannot get off my mind – besides Chris Berman’s grating hee-hawing – as Goodell gives each new slab of meat, err, exceptional young man, an awkward hug.
This is all a waste.
Not of my time. Nor yours. We walking checkbooks are here to dutifully serve the shield.
But the NFL’s.
It is something we all should have learned from Brad Pitt and Moneyball.
Discovering and exploiting inefficiencies is the key to long-term success in any professional sport. That is all a GM’s job boils down to, really. How does he consistently beat 29 other teams given (relatively) similar resources and advantages? He finds a weakness in the market and bleeds it mercilessly until Michael Lewis writes a book about it.
The NFL Draft is the biggest inefficiency left.
After 40 years of information, advances in video technology, expansive measuring, intelligence tests – NFL teams still have NO IDEA what they are doing.
For every Calvin Johnson there is Charles Rogers. Every Peyton Manning a JaMarcus Russell. Every Clay Matthews a Vernon Gholston.
Remember, 23 teams passed on Aaron Rodgers before the Packers snapped him up.
There is no evidence that any scouting department performs markedly better than their counterparts over a long period of time.
Ozzie Newsome, GM of the Ravens and widely considered one of the top talent evaluators in the league, agrees.
“We look at the draft as, in some respects, a luck-driven process,” Newsome said to Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB team. “The more picks you have, the more chances you have to get a good player. When we look at teams that draft well, it’s not necessarily that they’re drafting better than anybody else. It seems to be that they have more picks. There’s definitely a correlation between the amount of picks and drafting good players.”
The scouts can succeed up to a certain point – but not any better than their peers.
Or, for that matter, ESPN’s Mel Kiper.
The Big Wig (or Gel) at ESPN for NFL Drafting, Kiper has averaged 77.8 percent accuracy mark when predicting the top 100 players drafted over the past five years according to TheHuddleReport.com. Kiper is actually only middle of the road when it comes to media accuracy, with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn leading the way in that five-year span at 84.4 percent.
Now Kiper misses on picks all the time – he once compared JaMarcus Russell to John Elway.
But this column is not here to mock Kiper.
The point is he picks the SAME GUYS as NFL GM’s.
So something NFL teams currently spend millions of dollars on and, more importantly, thousands of man-hours is being done almost exactly the same by a dozen other mock draft experts?
Think about that. Think about all the other uses that money and that time could be spent on. A staff with four more months could possibly devise a defense to hold Manning and the Broncos under 30 points a game. Dream big.
Now, when I was a wild youth writing for The Badger Herald student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin, I suggested the Packers pay $6.99 a month for an ESPN Insider subscription and call it their scouting department.
As a grizzled mid-twenty-year-old, I now realize such an argument is absurd.
No NFL team would pay $6.99 a month when Bob McGinn was doing a better job for free.
(Comedy club rimshot).
Kidding aside, the NFL Draft is an inefficiency waiting for some enterprising GM to take advantage of.
It’s a crapshoot. It is widely ACKNOWLEDGED as a crapshoot.
Doesn’t it seem absurd that we keep doing things the same way without getting better results?
The NFL draft represents hope.
I hope the Packers are coming to the same conclusion.