Monday, March 15, 2010

Do NFL teams laugh at us?

Floating around cnnsi this morning, I read this blurb in their draft prospects blog:

Linebacker Daryl Washington, a prospect shooting up draft boards

It led me to wonder whether or not NFL front offices, particularly some of the better ones, read things like this and laugh.

One of the interesting things many of us - myself included - like to do prior to the NFL draft, is to come up with a mock which lists everyone we think each team will pick. Usually we form this as a mock draft, and often there will be several versions of it as we change our minds on who each team will take. Besides this being a great "Told ya!" excuse if we get one pick correct while being able to disavow all knowledge of it if we were completely wrong, it helps us later say "Man, this guy who looked like a 2nd round prospect, but was really climbing up draft boards heavily with awesome combine and pro day workouts, wound up taking a huge hit for some reason and falling into the 2nd round. What happened???" The more versions of it the better. Last year, Don Banks had seven versions! So far this year he's up to three.

The problem with doing this is, none of us outside the team's front offices have any idea what's actually happening in those meetings. We hear a lot of conjecture about where teams are ranking guys and when they're moving up and down. But for all that talk in the media - "Man, [Prospect X] just shot way up on everyone's board since he ran a 4.34 forty rather than his expected time in the high 4.4s or low 4.5s!!" - do they actually take off-season factors into much account?

I read a quote somewhere. I can't remember where unfortunately. But it was on a major media site from someone interviewing an unnamed personele director for an NFL team. It was talking about what he'd look for at the combine, and what struck me was a statement about how their draft boards are mostly set already. He said that game film is the most important thing, and that the combine could influence things, but for the most part it's seen as a minor piece. He also hinted that almost the only place you could go at the combine is down.

This actually makes sense to me, cause logically when you think about it, why would you want to change your draft board all that much just cause some guy ran 40 yards a tenth of a second faster than you thought he would? It says good things about their dedication to ensuring they're ready for their talent evaluation. But when is an NFL corner going to allow some dude to come off the line and run 40 yards downfield at a full sprint? And even if they do, what's it matter when the DB that does that is likely standing off him 7-10 yards?

So who's draft board exactly are they shooting up? Sometimes that exists of course (*cough* Darius Heyward-Bey *cough cough*). But for the most part, I imagine it's actually more of a media phenomenon than anyone would have us believe. They impress so much at the combine and workouts that the media says "teams are really gonna fall in love with how fast/strong/good this guy looks," and eventually just morphs that into "teams are really falling in love with..."

Which makes me think, what happens when Ozzie Newsome picks up the paper in the morning or checks out something online and reads that the Ravens have such-and-such flying up their draft board because the guy had an awesome pro day? My bet would be he's chuckling a little at the notion.


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