Mean Gene's Mock Draft #1
I am of course a big fan of the NFL Draft (to read a massive recap of my vain efforts to watch last year's draft, please read these two
mondo-posts) but this year will be a bit different. My fellow draftnik Mark will be in D.C. for a wedding, and that means I will be flying solo draft-wise. Which also means that I probably won't be watching the draft at all, as I'm sure I'll have work around the house to occupy my time.
Not too big a deal, as the Steelers don't pick till near the end of the first round and won't be on clock till about 5PM or so. And this is probably the most boring draft of the last decade. The top end of the talent pool is so shallow that the teams holding the three highest picks are all desperately trying to trade down. Good news for teams like my Steelers, bad news for teams like the Browns, who have been making selections in the top 5 for the last 8 years or so and have bupkis to show for it. They need to hit a home run with this pick, and it doesn't look like they're going to get a good pitch to look at.
The title of this post is a bit misleading, as I will not be posting my selections for the top 32 picks. Indeed, I come to mock mock drafts, because so many different analysts make them (and make so many of them) that they lose all meaning. It's impossible to predict who 32 teams will select, since teams deliberately mask their intentions (naturally) and because a single trade can transform an elegantly contstructed matrix of picks into a spilled Jenga of reaches and steals.
I think Mel Kiper publishes 60 or 70 mock drafts a year. He releases the first one at halftime of the NFC Championship game and the last 9 or 10 in the hours leading up to the draft. I recall one year where Kiper had one mock draft on ESPN.com, a completely different one in ESPN the Magazine, and yet another one on his website. It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said that the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. Kiper must be wicked smart, to say in the course of a few days that he feels confident enough to predict that a certain team will draft a quarterback, a linebacker, and a safety, without once conceding that he might be a bit inconsistent in his views. You never hear Kiper say, "I have no clue what direction this team might go". His job is to be the Draft Oracle, and doubt and uncertainty would be fatal.
What saves Kiper (and other experts) year in and year out is that fans never go back and compare what really went down with all the predictions. We're all too busy checking the 40 times for that cornerback out of Bethune-Cookman we grabbed in the fourth round. What Kiper (and the whole ESPN crew) do so well is, when each pick is made, they act as though they knew ALL ALONG that would be the pick. And so although Kiper has had the 49ers selecting Aaron Rodgers in his last 37 mock drafts, when Paul Tagliabue goes to the podium and announces, "With the first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select Braylon Edwards, wide reciever, Michigan", the ESPN gang will tell his that this was an OBVIOUS pick, that the Niners already have a young QB in Tim Rattay, that Edwards is the top player available, and that this pick will make Rattay even better. No mention will be made of Rodgers, nor of the fact that Kiper currently has USC WR Mike Williams at the top of his Draft Board. Joseph Stalin would appreciate such on-the-fly revisionist history.
I say this although I hold Mel Kiper in the highest esteem. He may be, to some extent, bonkers, but the fact that he is not yet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a joke. He's a first-ballot, 100% vote-getter. The NFL Draft is a huge, HUGE pseudo-sporting event, and Kiper is in large part responsible for that. As is the late Joel Buschbaum, who also should be in the Hall of Fame and, from everything I read about him, truly was bonkers. But as I drove to New York last year to attend the draft and ended up standing in Times Square for five goddam hours waiting to get into a sports bar to watch the goddam thing, who am I to question another's sanity?
But this year I don't think I'll watch it all the way through. I'll pop in from time to time, make sure the Steelers haven't traded up. I will be posting more about the draft as the time approaches (especially if I can't think of anything else to write about) but at the moment there are 2 players I really hope are available at pick #30. The first is an obvious choice, Virginia TE Heath Miller. We could use a tight end, Miller is a top-ten talent who may slip because of the position he plays and the fact that he hasn't worked out because of a sports hernia (are there other hernia? Vaccuming hernia? Math hernia?). He may not slip past the Jets, so that could precipitate a trade up to snatch him away.
The other player is one who has generated a lot of buzz lately--Arkansas QB Matt Jones. He won't play QB in the pros, but when I watched him play in college it was obvious that he could play SOMEWHERE in the NFL. He's 6'6'', weighs like 240, runs a 4.35 40 and has a 39" vertical leap. These are statisics more commensurate with a kangaroo than a quarterback, but Jones will be moved to WR, and the Steelers have a long and distinguished history of moving college quarterbacks to wideout (see Kordell Stewart, Hines Ward, and Antwaan Randle-El). Peter King and Chris Mortensen have both sung Jones' praises, Mort going so far as to say Jones will end up as the best player coming out of this draft. With Plaxico Burress moving on to New York to no doubt take up permanent residence in Tom Coughlin's doghouse, we could use another tall WR to create matchup problems. Jones would be an ideal candidate.
But there's still 9 days until the draft, enough time for 30 or 40 more mock drafts and thousands of rumors and millions of talk-radio hours to fill with ludicrous trades. Baseball? What baseball?