These days every ‘expert’ seems to do a mock draft

By Randy Covitz

McClatchy Newspapers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mel Kiper Jr. remembers when nearly everyone around the NFL mocked his mock drafts. They called him a kook, an oddball, an eccentric, and, worst of all, a draftnik.

Thirty years later, there’s a mock draft everywhere you look. On Web sites, in magazines, in newspapers, and in daily installments on ESPN.

Those same writers, broadcasters and NFL brass who were so critical of Kiper ("Who the hell is Mel Kiper?" bellowed former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Tobin when second-guessed by Kiper on ESPN) are now offering up their own mock drafts.


"They’re doing them and finding out how hard it is," said Kiper, who turned his hobby of publishing draft reports and predicting the NFL draft into a cottage industry, starting with his first mock draft in 1979 and continuing as part of ESPN’s draft coverage for 25 years.

"I was criticized for saying the draft was tremendously popular and was going to be something people focused on," Kiper said. "We found out that millions and millions of people do care about this draft."

Indeed, a record 36 million viewers watched some of ESPN’s 18 hours of coverage last year, and combined with NFL Network’s coverage, the audience could exceed 40 million for this weekend’s draft.

"Now, there is more written about the draft than any other event in football outside of the Super Bowl," said former Dallas Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt, now an analyst for

It all starts with the mock drafts, which begin appearing the moment the college bowl season ends in January. In fact, on some Web sites, the top players for the 2009 draft already are ranked.

"I get stopped everywhere I go, with people asking about a 40-yard dash time or what happened at the Combine or who are the Eagles going to take," said Mike Mayock, NFL Network’s draft expert. "The interest is amazing."

The interest goes beyond merely predicting what players will go to what teams in what round.

Fans can now put their money where their mocks are by wagering on the draft. Off-shore wagering sites such as, and post odds on the draft and take bets on the event.


"It’s picked up steam really quickly," said Richard Gardner, a bookmaker for "We started wagering on the NFL draft about four years ago. It was one of those things we were sitting around saying, ‘What else can we create?’ because the NBA playoffs were just starting out, and baseball hasn’t picked up a lot of steam where people feel who the winning sides are. It’s a little bit of a slow time, and football is definitely king in the betting world."

The first year, Gardner estimated the site handled $10,000 worth of wagers. Last year, it increased to about $200,000, and this year, because of the total unpredictability of the first pick, much less the first five or 10 choices, there’s no telling how much action to expect.

"There is a lot of interest on particular positions," Gardner said. "You don’t know who is going to slide. If you look at the Kansas City Chiefs, right now (Boston College quarterback) Matt Ryan is probably the favorite. ... Other offers we put out there, ‘Will the Dallas Cowboys take a running back with their first pick?’ because a lot of people are thinking they’ll take Felix Jones with their first pick or wide receiver."

Another popular bet is who will be the second quarterback selected among Joe Flacco, Brian Brohm or Chad Henne.

"We’ll do the same sort of thing with running backs and wide receivers," Gardner said, "because those tend to be the positions our players care about, because there’s so many fantasy players, the draft becomes bigger for them. They care about those third- and fourth-round receivers while the typical fan might not."

Just like the draftniks and bloggers online and reporters in print are posting and publishing their mock drafts, all 32 NFL teams are conducting their own mock drafts throughout the days leading up to the draft.

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