NFL Draft Headlines & Misinformation: How To Sort Through The Stink
You are knee-deep in NFL Draft headlines at this point but I need to inform you of exactly where you’re standing:
It’s a steaming-hot pile of dung, my friends.
The amount of information, disinformation, and utter speculation is through the roof.
Let’s slowly work through the most commonly held one-liners not to land in the desert of pessimism but rather have a measured approach to evaluating NFL Draft takes. Emotions run high in this season and emotions are a good thing but not the only thing to use to decipher the NFL Draft.
“This team needs this position…”
We all love playing pretend GM which is the beauty and glory of fantasy football: it’s just plain fun. We like to evaluate our team’s strengths and weaknesses and forecast what players could help fill voids on the team. If you’ve been attached to your NFL team for years, there are likely a lot of holes you can identify.
But needs are relative when roster construction is at the forefront of many GMs’ minds. There is a dance between their salary cap, their current roster, the landscape of that position in the NFL, and free agency.
Just to give you some examples, here were a couple of teams in the 1st round last year that had glaring needs and some major media members who hammered home this idea into the heads of everyone trying to piece together the Round 1 puzzle… including me!
Houston Texans– 3rd overall
- The Glaring Need: Offensive line help
- The Quote: “The Houston Texans entered the 2022 NFL Draft with a litany of needs, but maybe none more pressing than the offensive line.”
- The Pick: CB Derek Stingley went from a mid-first-round pick, to creeping in the top-10 a week before the draft to going 3rd overall. His odds were set outside the top-20 about a month before the NFL Draft.
New York Giants– 7th overall
- The Glaring Need: WRs galore
- The Quote: “The Giants’ WR corps is very average… No matter if you believe in Daniel Jones as a franchise QB, his receiving corps was a weakness. Garrett Wilson or Drake London both are in consideration.”
- The Pick: OT Evan Neal was the pick and the Giants instead traded back in the 2nd round to take undersized WR Wan’Dale Robinson. They somehow made the playoffs with the most rag-tag group of WRs highlighted by UDFA Isaiah Hodgins at the end. We’re seeing the same thing in 2023 with the Giants -105 to take a WR, the best odds of any NFL team.
The mock drafts are flying and this one, like most, have the Giants taking a WR. https://t.co/uCo7QqYJE8
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) February 15, 2023
Green Bay Packers– 22nd & 28th overall
- The Glaring Need: WRs with Davante Adams gone.
- The Quote: “Maybe this is the year Aaron Rodgers finally gets his first-round wideout with two picks available.“
- The Pick: They took two Georgia boys (Quay Walker & Devonte Wyatt) on the defensive side. The team instead traded up in the 2nd round to 34th overall to grab Christian Watson surrendering two 1sts (53rd & 59th) to get him.
This exercise strolling down memory lane isn’t a chance to dunk on anyone but rather reminds us that team needs that have been cemented into our brains aren’t necessarily how NFL teams decide to pick.
“This team likes this player…”
Imagine that: an NFL team likes a player with an early 1st round grade. Who wouldn’t want Will Anderson?
"Team A likes this player"
taking a step back: what incentive does a billion-dollar organization have to leak out this type of information ahead of the NFL Draft?
(aside from smokescreens)
— Kyle Borgognoni (@kyle_borg) April 13, 2023
Perhaps even more important, 2023 offers us one of the most non-consensus NFL drafts we’ve seen in the modern era. How would you know if that player was even available when you’re on the clock?
The Eagles were a popular spot for LSU WR Justin Jefferson x21st and he slipped in the draft because we all concluded, “he was a slot-only WR”. ESPN had him going to the Eagles in both Todd McShay & Mel Kiper Jr.’s mock drafts. On the the Fantasy Footballers DFS & Betting Podcast, we did too! Alas, they took Jalen Reagor (hold back your laughter) and Justin Jefferson is basically the hottest thing on planet earth.
Take for instance the burning inferno recently for QB Will Levis. The Buccaneers apparently said they are “in love with Levis” and the Colts were linked to having Levis over Richardson for a fairly simple reason.
A common comparison for Will Levis among many NFL scouts and executives has reportedly been Matthew Stafford.
The Colts also reportedly have Levis ranked “over” Anthony Richardson because of his ability to play earlier.
Levis has met privately with the Falcons, Panthers,… pic.twitter.com/k5DCIB4HhP
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) April 15, 2023
What incentive do these teams have in declaring this information weeks ahead of the draft?
There are only a few legitimate conclusions you could make about a team publicly sharing information about liking a player:
- It’s Smoke– Misdirection is a valuable technique if a GM is trying to get someone off or on the trail of a player. Colts Owner Jim Irsay might’ve added fuel to the fire tweeting this out.
- It’s Media Click Bait– Hey, this is draft season. If ever there was a time for someone’s eyeballs to be on your work, it’s now. Beat reporters are paid to share their thoughts and opinions. Some are great at their job. Some are transparent. Some are just downright scoundrels. Others want a moment of fame knowing there is little if any accountability weeks from now as the attention of the crowd moves forward. The NFL is an endless cycle of information and the people are always thirsty for more, not necessarily examining if the steady diet of tweets and alerts was healthy or factually correct. (Hint: most connections are pure speculation.)
- It’s Insanity– Although we’d like to think NFL teams think rationally, it does not always happen (see: the Cleveland Browns and years of futility)
This past weekend the Atlanta Falcons were steamed up as the favorite to draft RB Bijan Robinson likely based on the following chain of events and “super sleuthing” from draft degenerates and pundits:
- They traded for former No. 3 overall pick Jeffrey Okudah, a cornerback they apparently loved in the 2020 pre-draft process.
- They signed EDGE Bud Dupree to contract worth up to $5 million to help with a need at pass rush.
- An ESPN article had Arthur Smith comment saying he was “intrigued” by RB Bijan Robinson
The detective work of reporters has led to people “locking in” Bijan for the Falcons at 8th overall. But our goal when presented with any information is to ask a number of questions to not land at a dogmatic end. Let’s walk through those three pieces of Bijan evidence:
- Okudah’s signing should bolster this part of the depth chart but it doesn’t rule out the CB position especially if a team goes with their draft board grades over perceived “needs” the public identifies. CBs Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon both are seen as top-10 prospects by most. Could Atlanta take them? It’s less likely but so could another team at this spot.
- Can’t the Falcons just draft another pass rusher? This team was dead last in pressure rate and sacks in 2022. Apart from DT Grady Jarrett, it’s been a revolving door of projects on the defensive line for years. Dupree’s signing is actually pretty late in the game and at a basement-level price in the EDGE market. It’s a prove-it deal not a “he fixes all of Atlanta’s pass rush problems” type of deal. Dupree had a couple of big years with the Steelers but was a colossal free-agent bust with the Titans after some noisy sack years which didn’t translate to a new system.
Bud Dupree was always the example @PFF_Steve and I would use for a player's noisy statistics (sacks) not being a robust representation of his actual ability (inferred from his pressure rate). Was always a rough contract for the #Titans.
— Eric Eager 📊🏈 (@ericeager_) April 14, 2023
- Smith’s comment of being “intrigued” is actually quite boring: it’s probably the most likely outcome for any sane person watching Bijan film. We all would be intrigued. Every single NFL team should be intrigued and likely has him as their clear RB1 on their board. It’s the public’s interest mixed with this quote that led tons of hard-working Americans to throw their money at the Sportsbooks hoping Bijan lands with Atlanta. I can find similar articles of the Patriots ‘absolutely intrigued’, Daniel Jeremiah using the exact same terminology when speaking of the Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys reportedly being interested. Of course, teams are interested! Have you seen this guy play football?!?! But the reporting of this is not necessarily an A + B = C situation.
The NFL Draft is instead a fluid situation now and especially on draft night. The 8th overall pick also is not set in stone. What if the Falcons find value in trading down at this spot? There are lots of teams linked to wanting premium position players (QB, OT, DE, CB) in this spot. We discussed Bijan’s landing spots recently on the Fantasy Footballers DFS & Betting Podcast.
“Watch for this team to trade up…”
We all love a good trade-up. It means a team has a player on their board they are simply in love with and they’re willing to mortgage the future for a shot at a franchise-altering player. Often, it’s QBs but there is a massive difference between the Bears galaxy-braining themselves into taking Mitchell Trubisky 2nd overall and the Chiefs trading up in that same exact 2017 draft to 10th overall to get Patrick Mahomes.
But in mock drafts, they are highly unsuccessful. That actually might be too kind of a word. They are downright not happening… at all. I took a look back at last year’s final mock draft from three of the media members I respect the most and whom I personally use in my indexing for making NFL Draft prop bets.
- Peter Schrager– 2 trades projected… neither occurred.
- Daniel Jeremiah– 2 trades projected… neither occurred.
- Dane Brugler– 6 trades projected… none occurred.
Over the last two years, Schrager, Jeremiah, and another personal favorite Dane Brugler have projected 15 trades. Drumroll… none of them occurred.
Here’s what I do pay attention to: teams that consistently are mentioned as trade-back candidates. This might be counter-intuitive but the trading partner that wants to move up can come honestly from anywhere. The draft day trades over the last three years reveal that mock drafts rarely take this into account.
“This team/GM has never done this so it will not happen…”
There’s a first time for everything. The NFL Draft is not a place to use historical trends of “this team hasn’t done this since x” considering management and strategic practices change as regimes shift.
- The Cardinals hadn’t taken a linebacker in the 1st round of the NFL Draft since 1994. We were told the team didn’t value the position like other teams. What did they do? Arizona used THREE 1st round picks on linebackers in a span of five years on Hasaan Reddick, Isaiah Simmons, and Zaven Collins. Did it work out? I guess for Reddick it did… when he left town for Philadelphia.
- The Raiders love big WRs we were told! They had never selected a WR under 6’0″ in the top-15 picks of the NFL draft: Amari Cooper (4th overall), Hall of Famer Tim Brown (6th overall), Darius Heyward-Bey (7th overall… lol), and Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff (11th overall) were the main luminaries all 6’0 or taller. What did Jon Gruden and company do? Break everyone’s draft boards and select small speedster Henry Ruggs III at 12th overall in 2020.
- In 2021, there was an actual prop bet on DK Sportsbook that simply was a Yes/No of whether the Giants would make a Day 1 trade. Former Giants GM Dave Gettleman (it’s me DAVE!) never made a draft day trade… until he finally did. Hello, trading back for Kadarius Toney!