NFL draft experts give fans many opinions, much to talk about - and
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The NFL Draft's "B.S. detector" has, by his own admission, led a strange life.
Much like accountants knee-deep in 1040 tax forms this time of year, Drew Boylhart, a contributor to TheHuddleReport.com, spends springtime weeding through smoke screens preceding the draft. When it comes to flagging expert analysis manure, none can match Boylhart.
If Boylhart's political history as a special assistant to the governor of New York doesn't do it for you, consider that as a 14-year-old he had a job cleaning up after circus acts.
"When I first started to learn about B.S.," says Boylhart, who was given the tag "B.S. detector" by Sports Illustrated.
Nowadays, with the NFL Draft having exploded into a circus, there's ample fertilizer to go around. And plenty of solid information. If you want to know whose stock truly is rising, it might be the draftniks' - many of whom churn out two or three mock drafts annually.
Run a Google search for "NFL Draft" and watch as you're rewarded with 16 million returns. Refine it to "NFL Draft expert," you get a half-million matches.
Even better, etch the names of Cincinnati receiver Mardy Gilyard and Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis into your brain, because they are going to be drafted by the Dolphins.
No, not during next weekend's draft, silly. In 2010, because at least one Web site already has posted a mock draft of every selection next year.
Is this too much information? Draft overload? Too many muddled minds sweating out a prospect's time in something called the "three-cone drill?''
Online, Draft on par with porn
"It's one of the great phenomenons of sports that we know today," says Pete Prisco, a CBSSports.com columnist whose mock drafts are rated among the most accurate by Boylhart's site, which scores such things. "On the Internet, it's right up there with porn.''
If they awarded a championship belt to the mock draft king, Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin would have it based on accuracy and a willingness to submerge himself in prospects' minutiae for two months each spring. At the 2009 NFL combine, Gosselin talked to 220 of the 335 invited prospects.
"You've got to keep feeding the monster," Gosselin says. "I've put five blog items a day up since March second or third."
Mainstream sites such as ESPN.com and FoxSports.com also offer plenty of draft material, but a monster this ravenous explains the presence of draft sites of every variety: animalistic (NFLDraftDog.com), familial (DraftDaddy.com, with the slogan, "Who's Your Draft Daddy?"), regal (DraftKing.com), trashy (JunkyardJake.com) and spiritual (NFLDraftBible.com, although it's unclear if it's from the Book of Parcells or Belichick 3:16).
Still, says the best in the business at doing it, do not take any mock draft too seriously.
"None of the mocks are credible, including mine," Gosselin says. "It's all guesswork. We're not drafting. You don't see the general manager of the Giants or the general manager of the Bears doing a mock draft. Everybody else that's doing a mock is guessing. So I'm just trying to provide the readers a service: 'Here are a couple of options for your team. Enjoy the draft.''"
Of course, this does not mean that when a team passes on a can't-miss guard from Utah State with tremendous upside and a motor that won't quit, it's not going to hear it from fans who a week earlier had never heard of the kid.
Which is OK.
"I think the mock drafts are the greatest thing in the world, because it does more than anything we could ever do to promote the draft," says former Dallas Cowboys player personnel director Gil Brandt, who will analyze the draft for Sirius NFL Radio.
TheHuddleReport.com charts how the most reputable mock draftniks fared, awarding points for predicting when top picks will come off the board and to which teams. In addition to faring the best in 2003 and '06, Gosselin averaged the top score over the past three years, 50.0. Prisco tied ESPN's Mel Kiper for ninth at 41.67.
Experts put in a lot of time
Want to be an expert like Gosselin? Here's what it entails:
Two days after the Super Bowl, Gosselin gathers All-Star game rosters and bowl-game media guides and begins researching the backgrounds of about 350 players. Following the combine in February in Indianapolis, he calls NFL scouts, coaches and personnel people.
Gosselin does three mock drafts: a preliminary list of how players stack up (he had the Dolphins taking Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis); a second mock, which comes out today, placing greater weight on teams' needs; and a final list factoring in late developments. He works 10 to 12 hours a day for two months.
"I probably enjoy working the draft more than I do at this point the games," Gosselin says, "because it's a new puzzle every year."
He never looks at other mocks because "I don't want anything to taint what my ears are hearing." Nor does he study film.
"People have said, 'Gosselin, these aren't his rankings,'''' he says. "Well, that's right. I'm a writer, I'm not a talent evaluator. I'm not getting hired or fired or paid to make draft picks - but I talk to the people that are getting hired, fired or paid to make draft picks. Those are the people I trust."
Prisco watches college football with an eye on next year's prospects and has sources throughout the league.
"Some people, you can take their assessment and run with it," says Prisco, who has the Dolphins bypassing Florida receiver Percy Harvin to take Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English. "Others, you've got to look at it for what it is and who's doing it. They might just be some kid in his garage doing it, and that's not to say he can't make an assessment, because everybody has an opinion and the NFL scouts - who act like they know everything - they miss as much as anybody.''
NFLDraftSite.com already has the 2010 draft mapped out. The site is run out of Chapel Hill, N.C., by someone identifying himself only as "Jared," who wouldn't divulge other personal information, including his age, for fear he'd get more "nasty e-mails" than already is the case.
Jared says when he launched his site in 2007, friends asked why anyone would care. Now, he says, he gets up to 10,000 hits a day.
"I'd love to predict the draft as accurately as possible, but truthfully, it's really a reference site for fans to come all year long: If the draft were tomorrow, who could be available when my team is picking?" he says.
Jared says some prospects have contacted him, "which scares me sometimes," he says, because "I'd want to leave the job of whether he declares early to agents and NFL evaluation services and not up to me."
Boylhart takes a cut-to-the-chase approach, relying on players' backgrounds and film rather than staged workouts.
Some over-think the process
"I think scouts get too close to these kids," says Boylhart, who has the Dolphins taking Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler. "I almost think they're gathering too much information and it's causing them to over-think the process. It's real simple: Can the kid play and is he a good kid? And you don't have to go back to when he was a child and stole some money out of a candy jar."
Attesting to his disdain for manure, Boylhart adds, "I don't use scout language. The key word this year is 'five technique.' I don't even know what the hell a 'five technique' means. It has something to do with a 3-4 defense. They drive me nuts with this stuff."
Boylhart is puzzled when NFL people inquire about his profiles since they have direct contact with prospects, whereas "I'm looking at the kid on TV."
Which gets back to the issue ... how much stock should anyone put in mock drafts?
"I think Rick Gosselin in Dallas does a pretty good job," Brandt says. "I think probably some teams look and see what he has up there, because they know he has connections."
And others? "I saw one in The Sporting News," Brandt says. "I'd hate to draft off that list."
With so many mocks, times like these require a B.S. detector.
"I'm proud of that," Boylhart says of his moniker. "There's one thing I can do. I can see through what's going on when people are telling you stuff. I'm the guy who goes out on the street and watches the guy who plays Monte Carlo with the cards and shifts them all around, and I'm the one who tells you where it is.
"There's the ace, right there."