I look at mock drafts and just laugh. Normally, I’m a fan. This year, I can’t hold it in.
The NFL Draft has always been impossible to predict, but ever since the NFL went into lockout mode, it’s been comical reading how the unknown will confidently unfold according to expert's mock drafts.
Bud Light is even giving away $10 million to anyone who predicts the 32 players who’ll get drafted in the first round on Thursday, April 28, day one of the 2011 NFL Draft. If $10 million seems high for a giveaway, you’re right. But they could have decided on $100 million, because it’s not going to be done.
Putting together a mock draft has always been like predicting the weather. It never unfolds like everyone thinks and there are about 100 different predictions. This year, however, is more like calculating wind speed with a blade of grass in hand. Good luck.
The NFL lockout has put a strangle hold on many of the every year key factors that go into drafting. For starters: free agency. One of the most important aspects affecting how a team drafts every year is the free agent market and signings. The lockout has put a freeze on free agency for now, giving many a blind view of what a team needs to fill in the draft.
Take last year for instance. The Chicago Bears desperately needed a pass rusher, so they went out in free agency to get Julius Peppers. Need filled. Those needs aren’t getting filled this year, though. A team that needs a quarterback, particularly Carolina or Buffalo atop the draft, could have already signed a player like free agent Kevin Kolb if the lockout wasn’t in place.
Now, one of those teams might take a Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert in the first round. But then what happens to Kolb?
There are rumors of teams having secret talks with agents about signing players once the lockout is lifted, but that’s of course just speculation. But who actually knows? Carolina or Buffalo could already have their quarterback need ‘secretly’ filled.
Don’t be surprised if a few teams pass on what seems to be the obvious pick, or if teams take a reach on a player that may show their hand at not re-signing a free agent.
There’s no reason to expect a whole lot of trades or teams moving up or down come draft time either. For one, like signing free agents, teams cannot trade players until the lockout is over. Trades have always been another key part to the draft.
Washington quarterback Donovan McNabb, late Bears defensive end Gaines Adams, Baltimore wideout Anquan Boldin and Seattle quarterback Charlie Whitehurst were all involved in draft pick trades last year. As long as the lockout is in effect, draft pick trades can only be done between trading draft spots or picks in later drafts or rounds.
The biggest question, and one that it seems nobody is talking about, is what happens to all of the undrafted free agents? The guys that make early minicamps possible have always been the numerous amounts of undrafted rookies who sign with a team following the draft.
With the lockout in effect, undrafted rookie free agents are essentially just free agents and players who cannot be signed.
Buc’s running back LaGarrette Blount led all rookie rushers with 1,007 yards and wideouts Blair White of the Colts and Donario Alexander of the Rams all played a role in their team’s offense last season. All three were undrafted rookie free agents.
While we’re always going to see draft day surprises when it comes to players falling or picks that seem like a reach, it’s the internal parts of the 2011 NFL Draft that will make it one of the more chaotic drafts of recent decades.
So keep looking at the countless number of mock drafts. I do when I need a good laugh.