Your favorite team had a great draft

I. Ben’s 2017 Draft Grades

Team A

I loved team A’s draft. Despite trading back into the second round, with their first pick they were able to draft the #8 overall player per Josh Norris. Back in May 2016, PFF ranked this player #7 overall in their early mock draft. In my mind, there’s no doubt team A got a steal and a top 10 overall player with the #35 pick in the draft.

With their next pick, at #58, they took the #49 overall player on Jon Dove’s Big Board. As an SEC player who can play multiple positions, he was undoubtedly a steal for a team that needs help along the offensive line. Team A followed that up by snagging both a top 20 player and a top 40 player on Optimum Scouting’s Big Board, both picked in the 3rd round.

Grade: A+

Team B

On the other hand, Team B had a terrible draft. I don’t know what they were thinking. They badly reached on a player with well-documented effort problems who only rated #66 on Mike Mayock’s Big Board. Mayock, of course, is a highly respected analyst who watches as much film as anyone. With their 2nd pick, Team B chose a player not on anyone’s radar who ranked in the top 50 in only 1 of the 23 Big Boards I compiled. Mel Kiper Jr., who has been a draft analyst at ESPN for more than 30 years, had this player #116 on his Big Board.

Team B continued making mistakes by reaching on 2 safeties who won’t see the field except on special teams, massively overdrafting an unathletic run-stuffing DT in the 3rd round, and wasting yet another pick on a big WR, a player type that this team has a poor track record with in the draft.

Grade: F

Astute readers will by now have realized that Team A and Team B are in fact the same team: the Seattle Seahawks. Malik McDowell was the #8 player on Josh Norris’ Big Board and the #66 player on Mike Mayock’s, allowing me to spin his selection in any way I want depending on which analyst’s opinion I present.

II. No One Knows Anything

McDowell is not the only player whose standing in the 2017 draft class depends on who you ask. Below is a list of 10 very respected draft analysts. Each of these analysts are followed by at least 20,000 people on twitter (not  necessarily a measure of value or skill, but these are not random guys off the street), with some working for ESPN or NFL Network, and at least 1 used to be a Vice President of player personnel in the NFL.

Analyst Qualifications
Josh Norris Rotoworld & NBC Sports NFL Draft Writer
Gil Brandt Former VP of player personnel, Cowboys
Mel Kiper Jr Draft analyst for ESPN since 1984
Todd McShay Director of scouting for ESPN’s Scouts Inc.
Mike Mayock Analyst for NFL Network
Optimum Scouting (OS) Has produced Draft Guides for nearly 10 years
Walter Football (WF) Well-known draft analyst
Rob Rang Senior NFL Draft Analyst for http://NFLDraftScout.com
Dan Kadar SB Nation NFL Draft editor
Matt Miller NFL draft lead writer for Bleacher Report

Each of these analysts watch the same college game tape of prospects, have access to (mostly) the same information, and yet reach very different conclusions. Here are how these analysts differed in ranking these 1st round draft picks on their Big Boards (Big Boards can be viewed by clicking the analyst links above):

Draft slot Player Team Highest Rank Lowest Rank
2 Trubisky Bears 8 (Brandt) 30 (Mayock)
3 Thomas 49ers 2 (Norris) 14 (OS)
4 Fournette Jags 2 (Brandt/Miller) 25 (Norris)
5 Corey Davis Titans 5 (Norris) 31 (Brandt)
8 McCaffrey Panthers 6 (Kiper) 36 (OS)
9 Ross Bengals 10 (Brandt) 24 (Miller)
13 Reddick Cardinals 10 (Kiper/Mayock) 55 (OS)
20 Bolles Broncos 6 (Norris) 42 (Kiper)
25 Peppers Browns 16 (Kadar) 50 (Norris)
28 Charlton Cowboys 8 (WF) 49 (Mayock)
31 Foster 49ers 3 (Miller) 29 (WF)
32 Ramczyk Saints 12 (Rang) 46 (Norris)

Did the Cowboys get a top 10 talent in Charlton (WF), or overdraft a player who should have been a mid 2nd rounder (Mayock)? Did the 49ers come out of the 1st round with 2 top 3 players (Norris; Miller), or did they reach on Thomas (OS) and draft Foster about where he should have gone (WF)?

Herein lies the problem with paying close attention to player projections or draft grades from any given analyst. For every notable analyst who is high on a player, there is almost surely another who is every bit as respected and qualified but whose perception is wildly different. Looking at, for example, Mitch Trubisky, how is the average fan supposed to know, between Gil Brandt (#8) and Mike Mayock (#30), which one is right about a given prospect?

When calling certain players “steals” because they rated highly on someone’s draft board (for example, Bolles and McDowell were #6 and #8 on Josh Norris’ board, and were drafted at #20 and #35, respectively) if you look at enough draft boards, you will find a board that will have a given player rated highly!

This isn’t to pick on any of these analysts: they are all very good at what they do, and in the aggregate they forecast the performance of prospects about as well as NFL teams. In 2014, Kadar and Norris even did a better job of ranking players than actual NFL teams did in drafting them. But when evaluating a team’s draft, every team had a good draft (according to some people), every team also had a bad draft (according to other people), and no one knows who is right.

Maybe that is why talking about it is so fun!

  • Adam

    This is why the Bears’ trade for the #2 pick was ridiculous. There is no clear cut evidence suggesting Trubisky is a tier above Watson, Mahomes, or half a dozen other QB’s available in the draft. Even if their top rated QB prospect was off the board, Ryan Pace should’ve realized that the pool of remaining QB’s was just as good – or at least that there was no significant way to differentiate between Trubisky and the leftovers. Pace did the equivalent of paying double for the opportunity to pick a specific lottery ticket, rather than paying market value for whichever ticket was handed to him. Of course every ticket has the same chance of hitting, so the Bears essentially lit their money (draft capital) on fire.