You’ve heard it many times before that the NFL Draft is an inexact science and the industry that it has spawned and all its mock drafts are equally inexact.
Each NFL team attempts to learn from previous mistakes, fighting the urge to pass on the best players available while reaching for need.
And while the science is inexact, teams continually attempt to refine the process and make it even more scientific, more measurable so that their investments pay dividends.
Besides the hours of scouting, interviewing and researching thousands of prospects over the course of 8-9 months, teams like the Ravens reexamine their processes and study what went right and what went wrong on draft weekend and the days that follow when recruiting undrafted talent.
The Ravens staff even studies body types over history. Is there a certain build that matures ideally after the college years – one that morphs into a more desirable and prototypical body type that parallels the more successful types of Pro Bowlers?
Best player available or need has long been debated but today new criteria are being implemented and refined. Psychological tests are used to determine a player’s coach-ability and intestinal fortitude that helps them overcome adversity, something that is unavoidable in the NFL.
Despite desirable physical traits can the player adapt to a team’s system or might the player have to adjust? Adjustments take time and until the system clicks for the player, they’ll play slower and consequently less effectively.
All of these questions and more make a complete crap shoot out of mock drafts. Yet they keep coming in droves and even the naysayers consume them if for no other reason than to mock the mocks.
The pioneer of the mock draft industry and for that matter, NFL Draft coverage in general is none other than Baltimore’s own Mel Kiper, Jr. Some may claim to be better but make no mistake about it, Kiper is the benchmark, the standard against which all other mockers are measured.
Whether he is the reigning champ in terms of accuracy is debatable. What isn’t debatable is that every year there are draft surprises. Players with first round grades slip while others show up during Thursday night of the draft and leave some scratching their heads.
The Ravens pick of Joe Flacco in 2008 probably left many outside of Baltimore with puzzled looks on their faces. But the Ravens liked him, didn’t want to risk losing him and consequently moved back into Round 1 after trading out to land their franchise quarterback with ‘08’s 18th overall selection.
On draft day like in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Here’s a look back at Kiper’s Final 2013 1st Round Mock Draft presented on April 24, 2013 and how the picks actually played out. Eight (25%) of the picks (in bold) projected by Kiper as first rounders slipped out of Round 1.