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BTB Dallas Cowboys Writer's Mock Draft: A Word On What Worked

Could a strategy for a mock draft work in the real world?
Could a strategy for a mock draft work in the real world?

Something funny happened in the Writer's Mock Draft that KD put up. He ran a poll on who had done the best for the teams they represented (leaving Dallas out, of course, to get some objectivity). According to the poll, I had the best draft with my selections for the Cleveland Browns. Even weirder, based on the numbers at the time I wrote this, I had the second best draft for the Green Bay Packers.

Related: BTB’s 2012 Writer’s Mock Draft : Round Two Conclusions And The Cowboys Have Another Selection

Why is this weird? Because of two reasons:

A. I really don't know much about scouting and evaluating players for the draft. Really.

B. I put minimal effort into this.

I used a very simple, straightforward plan. Basically, I tried to work this the way I imagine things work with the Dallas Cowboys, with me playing the role of Jason Garrett, and a couple of pieces of paper providing the input he would get from his coaching and scouting staffs. (Yes, I know I was picking for other teams, but I am talking about the system I used, which was very much a What Would Garrett Do scenario.)

And in the eyes of the readers here (or at least the ones who voted), I did very well. And I think I may have stumbled onto something. If I had just gotten the top slot, I wouldn't think much about this. But coming up with gold and silver? Maybe this was more than just dumb luck.

See if you agree with my point after the jump.

I went into this exercise expecting to have fun and maybe learn a bit, but with zero expectations of doing very well. I was going up against four people who all have demonstrated draft analysis powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men - well, at least this mortal man. KD, OCC, rabble, and especially Archie have all shown me time and again that they grasp the details of combine scores, tape breakdown and parsing the world of mocks far, far better than I do. Only Coty was someone I felt was on my level, his excellence comes in football strategy and other areas, not the draft. So since I knew I could not beat the others at the player evaluation game, I decided to pretend I had a crack scouting staff that could give me a solid board. And I also pretended that I had a list of priorities that had been scrubbed down thoroughly. Then I imagined that it was really draft day, and I had only a few minutes to make my decision off the info I had.

To do this, I had to have some lists to simulate the inputs from the staff. KD thoughtfully provided a list of draft needs for the entire league with the team assignments. I think he got this from Drafttek. I used this as if it was the results of months of self scouting and analysis.

For the draft board, I used the CBSSports board. It is a common resource for other writers here as well as me, and seems to do as good a job as anyone out there.

Then I came up with a simple plan.

1. BPA is the most important factor in the early rounds. Teams have a board with maybe 150 names they are interested in. Stick with your board until you run out of names, and then you can start going for the projects and small school players you think everyone else missed. You should be into the fifth round or so by then, so you can afford to play around a little.

2. Use need more as a tiebreaker ONCE THE BLUE CHIPS ARE GONE. This year, there were only about six or seven real blue chip players, and I used my one pick there to go with Justin Blackmon for the Browns because he was the highest ranked guy on the board. After that, you could look at the three or four best players remaining and then find which one most matches your needs. HOWEVER, if there was a player sliding (someone several positions higher than anyone else left on the board who had not been picked), go with that player unless he is just a terrible match for what the team needs.

3. Don't overthink things. This meant I really was not interested in trades, and I took at most five minutes to look over the charts to pick my name. It took me much longer to write the blurb that went with the pick than to make the pick itself. Above all, I did not think I knew more than my staffs. Yes, in this exercise, the staffs were pieces of paper, but the principle was the same. Trust the work that has been done.

I really didn't think all that much about it while the mock was progressing, but once it was all done and KD did his recap, I was shocked to see how people thought I had done. And it occurred to me that this might have been a useful simulation.

I am big on simulations. Maybe it comes from all those years in the military when I dealt with bullets, bombs, and fissionable material, but a simulation can be a great way to train and see what is likely to happen without, say, destroying stray cities or such. And there is a pretty good history of simulations predicting real world outcomes. For instance, the US Navy in 1941 did not believe an aerial attack on the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor was possible - but the Japanese Navy ran simulations and found a way it could be done. You know what happened as a result.

So I put together a plan, one that did not depend on specific players, but on a consistent, simple to follow strategy. Above all, I was not going to trade down without a specific player or group of players I planned to get (like the Cowboys did in 2009), and I was not going to think I was smarter than the people who had developed my board and my list of priorities (like, say, drafting a Quincy Carter, or falling in love with a highlight reel ala Wade Phillips).

And it worked surprisingly well. It was almost idiot proof. I say that, because my brief experience with fantasy football convinced me that I am not good at that kind of stuff, and yet this worked like a charm.

Was it a valid simulation? I think so. It proved that having a plan and sticking to it will greatly increase the chances of success (this is without any real knowledge of what the other guys did to make their picks, but I doubt any of them were using a more simple approach, although some may have been close). And it makes me very optimistic about the real Draft.

Why? Because, like I said, I went at this asking WWGD? Now, I don't have any direct knowledge of how Jason Garrett really runs things during the draft (although I do not doubt that he runs the show), but I suspect he goes at it pretty much the way I simulated. He will have a very "firm" board. It will be finalized just before the actual start of the first round, and then it will be hands-off. The inputs will have been combined, discussed, hashed out, and turned into a rank order that takes the needs of the team into account. And those needs will likewise have been worked and gone over so that the priority ranking will be clear in everyone's minds. Any possible trade scenarios will have been worked out with the conditions that would make the trade beneficial for the team set out. In other words, there will be very little to discuss when Dallas goes on the clock, and no problem getting the name to the podium in time.

I actually think the worst thing a team can do on draft day is try to outsmart everyone else at the last minute. And yet I think it happens all the time. Otherwise, we would not see draft picks that seem to come out of nowhere - and wind up damaging the teams that made them.

This does make me very cautious about trading down. Basically, I would not do it, unless the team has a list of players it would like to take at the lower slot that is longer than the number of positions it trades down. Unless you are guaranteed one player who is rated good enough when your turn gets there, I would stay away. And I would make sure that I knew exactly who I would take at my pick if they are still on the board. If at least one player I feel is worthy of the pick is there, the pick is used, and any prospective trade partners need to look elsewhere.

I don't know how these things will be decided by JG and company. I can't say how their board lines up. But I will be willing to bet they will have all these things lined up and ready to go. I expect a very good Draft for the Cowboys.


This article struck me as perhaps being a bit egotistical in praising my own methods, but I thought the point needed to be made. However, for those of you who might feel I went to far, and that enjoy certain things, allow me to add this to my post as a way of making this more worth your while.

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