Why Mock Drafts are madness, yet we all do them anyway.
I e-mailed Linda Zimmerman, wife of Dr. Z, the other day to issue a plaintive wail about the art of the mock draft. "You have to tell him to come back and do this mock NFL draft,'' I wrote, "because it is driving me out of my mind.'' I used to love how seriously Zim -- still working hard to overcome the effects of three strokes suffered in November 2008 -- did the mock draft. He'd start shortly after the Super Bowl, go to the league meetings in March trying to hit as many coaches and GMs as possible to try to whittle away at the process, then spend hours on the phone in April with teams. Linda wrote back and said, "When I first met Paul, he wouldn't go to the bathroom for the entire week ... didn't want to miss a call. 'Hey, Paul, you can get a wireless, handheld phone!' As you know, electronics were never his strong suit.''
My mock draft was filed to Sports Illustrated on Friday, and I made a few revisions Saturday. You'll have it in your hands Wednesday, when the mag gets to your mailbox, and you will be able to find it online here at SI.com as well. Would I have liked three or four extra days to make changes and have it out Thursday? I'll answer that two ways. One: Of course I would. Two: Of course I wouldn't.
I've always done a mock draft, but Zim's version, I thought, was The Mock of Record. So taking over the mock for Zim was a tremendous burden. I know how he toiled over it. I'll never forget four or five years ago, calling him on the Sunday before the draft to give him some last-minute tidbit that was at odds with something he'd heard. "No! Don't tell me that!'' he said, or something close to it. "Now I gotta go back and rip everything up!'' For days he'd obsess. I wish I could think of a good example, but I know two or three times there was one lie, or one piece of bad information, that served as the domino to knock everything in his mock draft off-kilter.
I found myself being just as obsessive last year, and again the past few days. What I tried to do was focus on the eight or 10 things I felt good about in the mock, and building around them. Toward the end of the round, I tried to plug in players I felt would be first-rounders with the most logical team.
This year, the challenge was four through seven, and then Jacksonville (10) through the Giants (15). At four, Washington's Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan are championship smokescreeners or simply uninformative. At five, Scott Pioli has effectively shut up the Chiefs organization. At six, I agree with those who say Seattle's got three or four directions it can go and will probably go for Walter Jones' replacement -- but you can't know who that's going to be until you know what the 'Skins and Chiefs do. Down further, I've heard the following about Jacksonville at 10, some of this from people I trust a lot:
"They're definitely trading down, even if they can't get value for the pick.''
"They're taking C.J. Spiller. Write it down. Jack Del Rio loves him. They think he's the next Chris Johnson.''
"Jason Pierre-Paul's their guy.''
"I've heard they love Derrick Morgan. I think that's their guy.''
That, dear readers, is how a mock draft gets absolutely screwed up. What did I do with the Jags' pick? You'll know Wednesday.
The New Draft makes its debut.
The NFL has always been good at inventing television programs, and this week the league is going to try its hand at another. The 75th NFL Draft begins with the first round Thursday, and for the first time the draft will be in prime time. (The Rams go on the clock at 7:32 p.m. EDT Thursday.) But beginning at 6, the NFL Network will air a red-carpet treatment of the draft that will include the league parading out many of the 75 most valuable draft choices of all time as voted on by fans at NFL.com. (Seems like a silly concept to me, the 75 most valuable draft choices -- particularly if the 199th pick in 2000, Tom Brady, isn't very high on the list, or the 82nd pick in 1979, Joe Montana.) But the NFL has lined up several of those valuable picks -- including Dan Marino and Jerry Rice -- to walk the red carpet.
"For the first time, we are embracing the history of the draft," said Charles Coplin, NFL VP of Programming.
Other changes you'll see in the draft this year include the NFL allowing a Make-A-Wish child, a military veteran, sweepstakes winners and several Pro Football Hall of Famers to announce picks, probably in the second and third round, which will take place Friday. And beginning with Round 4 on Saturday, the picks will be announced at individual team tables at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
I like the NFL trying new ideas, but I'll miss the Saturday national holiday that the first day of the draft had become. And I also feel for West Coast viewers on the first two days of the draft. The draft begins at 4:30 local time for West Coasters on Thursday and at 3 p.m. (6 p.m. eastern) on Friday.
"We're always trying to manage innovation vs. tradition," Coplin said. "This league has tried flex scheduling, the Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl and prime-time postseason games. All of those got criticism when they were announced, but all three of those ideas resulted in bigger audiences. The fans have embraced them."
There's no question this draft will generate more buzz and probably a significant uptick in ratings. For the NFL's sake, I hope it isn't at the expense of fans on the West Coast.
NFL Truth & Rumors