Del Olaleye: It's draft season, which means a lot of idiotic takes
We’re in the middle of the least accountable time on the sports calendar. Analysts in a particular field make a pretty healthy living this time of year writing and saying things they never have to answer for. I’m talking about draft season, where only the internet has time to call you out on your awful misses. The business of the draft is a year-round thing. Writers and TV personalities for ESPN, CBS Sports and the NFL rank players by position throughout the year. The writers for these three outlets aren’t even a piece of lint when compared to the monster that is the totality of draft coverage. Every blogger has a position by position write up. Every sports network has a draft insider with a mock draft. I saw a different mock draft on the front page of CBSsports.com with Baker Mayfield’s name in the headline probably three times last week. The vast amount of outlets that produce draft content provide a sort of cover for awful evaluations of players and incorrect predictions on a team’s draft plans. You just can’t remember all the times someone was wrong. There are those special occasions though.
Do you remember a draft evaluation that was so bad that you hold it against the evaluator to this day? I still think about the time Mel Kiper ranked Logan Thomas the fourth best prospect in college football. Thomas played QB for Virginia Tech and Kiper was so enamored by the former Hokie’s physical tools that after a sophomore year that included 19 TDs and 10 INTs Kiper elevated Thomas to a top 5 pick. Some context to go along with that nonsense. Thomas’ sophomore year came a season after Cam Newton was selected #1 overall. Thomas and Newton are of similar builds but Newton was far more dynamic in the QB run-game. Newton totaled more yards rushing in his fourteen career starts at Auburn than Thomas did in his entire 4-year career.
Thomas peaked as a sophomore. His junior and senior years did not live up to the hype that Kiper bestowed on him but Kiper held steadfast and considered Thomas a potential first-round pick after a subpar junior year. The Arizona Cardinals eventually selected Thomas in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and that proved to be a mistake. Thomas has completed one pass in his entire career and was moved to tight end two years after getting drafted.
An evaluation so bad that’ll I’ll never forget it.
That evaluation of Thomas is not Kiper's most egregious flub and the thanks to the internet I don’t have to point them all out to you. Kiper, who may very well be the first draft insider, only faces scrutiny because of the size of his platform. Lesser known names continue to be wrong without any repercussions.
Kiper isn’t alone. I’m sure everyone can think of a guy who was so wrong that you would believe they never watched the prospect play. I won’t paint former Colts GM Bill Polian with that brush but some recents comments he made got me to do a little research. Polian had this to say on ESPN after evaluating Louisville QB Lamar Jackson: "Short and a little bit slight". Jackson is listed at 6’3” by the way. Polian goes on to voice other concerns that you might consider more valid. He talks about Jackson’s lack of accuracy and suggests that he won’t get away with running the football in the NFL. Polian sees Jackson’s physical abilities and thinks a transition to WR would be best. Those can be considered reasonable concerns but stature and build didn’t seem to be an issue in his evaluation of Johnny Manziel a couple of years ago. I wasn’t the only one to take notice. The internet will always keep the receipts. The employers of these “draft experts”? Not so much
The Dan Patrick Show provides a nightmare dreamscape for any draftnik. They bring NFL players on the show and read their draft profiles to them. For good TV they only read the weaknesses portion of those profile. ESPN 97.5’s Lance Zierlein provides the player write-ups for NFL.com and his evaluations are the profiles that show uses. The producers for the show now warn Lance when he could potentially catch some shrapnel from the players or fans who may not be thrilled with his evaluations. I work in the same office with Lance. I see the work he puts in for the draft. A miss by him can be considered an honest one. He does the work. I’m gonna doubt the same can be said for plenty of others.
When you’re working on mock draft 18.0 who has time for accountability?