So you're new to the NFL Draft. Maybe you've never cared before? Or perhaps you're a fan of a pro team that stunk for the first time in a long time (hello, Pittsburgh). Or maybe you're a college fan whose favorite player is off to the pros and want to follow along.
Regardless of who you are or why you're here, welcome to the wild, wacky world of the NFL Draft. The Draft realm is an intersection for all football fans to meet, but we don't play by the same rules as everyone else. You want to learn the ropes? Good. Here's the rules, follow these and you'll fit right in.
Rule #1 - Find Your Subsection
Do you like watching football? Great. You're officially a film guy. Do you like numbers? You may just be a metrics guy. Are you allowed to be both? HELL NO. The conflict between film guys and metrics guys has raged on for generations and there's no end in sight.
The film guys love the likes of Alabama's Joshua Jacobs and Mississippi's D.K. Metcalf because they appear to be good at football and illustrate all of the desirable traits of a very good starter in the NFL. Metrics guys? They'll scoff and point out that if either were any good, they'd put bigger numbers in the box score.
Numbers guys will tell you that Massachusetts' Andy Isabella is a shoo-in for a quality NFL career because he commanded nearly 50% of his team's targets...and film guys may be less eager to get on board.
(The reality that you can be on either side of the fence and still like any of these players is in the fine print: often overlooked and a fact that's best left alone. These factions don't play well together.)
Rule #2 - Don't Be The College Homer
Yeah, we know...Jake Browning won a whole bunch of football games as the starting QB of the Washington Huskies. But the college and pro games are very different and there's a level of projection that extends beyond respectable statistics and wins.
This isn't a graduate transfer we're talking about here, this is the big leagues. So while you Husky fans are still allowed to love Jake, it's necessary to be realistic about his pro prospects: physical limitations are real and they're a big influence on player stock.
Rule #3 - Mock Drafts =/= Big Boards
So there you are, sitting at home and minding your own business, scrolling through the internet. You stumble onto a mock draft and decide to take a look. You scroll through and find, to your horror, that one of your favorite players has fallen all the way into the late 20s or completely out of the first round all together. While "what moron wrote this?" is a perfectly understandable first reaction (because hey...there's a good chance it was one of us here at The Draft Network), make sure you pump the brakes.
Mock drafts are a reflection of how people estimate (key word: estimate) teams will think. It isn't a reflection of their own feelings towards the players.
Unless of course, it is a "What Would I Do" mock. Then fire away.
Rule #4 - Learn The Lingo
Bubble Butt. Grit. Thumper. Sneaky Athletic. Alligator Arms. No, this isn't some kind of sci-fi novel, this is the NFL Draft. We have our own language and it invokes quite the vivid imagery. Our very own Jon Ledyard compiled a list of terms that you need to know to survive Draft season, you can catch up with them here.
When in Rome...
Rule #5 - The Combine Matters, But Not How You Think
There are certain things you can just feel in the air. Love. A coming storm. The "I told you so's" of Draft guys when players test to their expectation.
The NFL Scouting Combine is often touted as the premiere event for the NFL Draft process. You know, it's where 300+ college prospects all get together and run around in their underwear to impress coaches and general managers.
Well...not quite. You see, the NFL Combine is actually quite important, because it allows NFL teams (and the media) to get to know the players a little more intimately. Yeah, you'll read about Combine winners and losers based on athletic testing. And there is such a thing as a testing loser: if you fail to meet your expectations and grossly come up short of the perceived athletic ability to perform at a high level, your stock as a player will plummet. We do this funny thing where we destroy offensive linemen (paging Orlando Brown Jr.) for testing poorly, but we really ought to knock that off...we just can't help ourselves.
But how much better is John Ross because he ran 4.22 vs. if he'd ran 4.30? There's diminishing returns in elite instances of athleticism there and they need to be glossed over a little more eagerly. Did a player test with elite numbers? Great. Worst case scenario he's a "ball of clay". Can he play football? Even better. Guys that can do both? Giggity.
Rule #6 - Never Say Never
Repeat after me: all it takes is one team.
Together: All it takes is one team.
Excellent. Now don't forget: no matter how crazy a player's projection may sound, all it takes is one team for a dude to go super early. And at this time last year, Michigan's Mo Hurst was widely considered a first-round lock. And then they found a heart murmur during his physical at the NFL Combine.
He fell to the 5th round. Remember before the NFL Combine in 2017 when Alabama LB Reuben Foster was a top-10 lock and a blue chip player? Well then he got in a fight with hospital staff in Indianapolis and was sent home before he got to test.
This little corner of the football world is wild, crazy and unpredictable. It's also quite cozy...we hope you enjoy your stay!