Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Everybody
Except the Guy Who Won My Conference Last Year
The existence of William Blake's poem, "Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire,
Rousseau," written sometime between 1780 and 1810, proves beyond
the shadow of a doubt that fantasy football was a popular component
of highbrow European culture as early as the 18th century. This
is puzzling, as sports historians would point out that football
had not even been invented. Nevertheless, intellectual luminaries
such as Voltaire and Rousseau were clearly so committed to winning
their fantasy football leagues that they participated in mock drafts
with William Blake. No league records survive, but I bet Blake trounced
them. After all, they were French.
Despite the apparent popularity of mock drafts with our friends "across
the pond" for several centuries, however, I confess that I did
not discover mock drafts for fantasy football until I read Chris Frick's
"Stuck in the Mock" on FF
Mr. Frick, you are an informative and engaging writer, and I HATE
Mock drafts are the absolute last thing I needed to find out about.
As a person who 1) simply can't wait for the NFL to get underway,
2) always makes a dud pick in the early rounds, and 3) has an extremely
reduced work schedule in the summer--as a person who meets all three
of these criteria, I was bound to become mired in the Bermuda Triangle
of mock drafting as soon as I learned about it from Mr. Frick.
But now that I have discovered the great desolator-of-time that is
mocking, I am going to expand on the observations in "Stuck in
the Mock" in order to make it as easy as possible for the rest
of you clowns to become as addicted as I am. Then maybe I won't feel
It's best to begin with a definition, so here goes:
mock draft, noun 1. a process
whereby fantasy football participants take turns selecting NFL
players in order to construct imaginary teams that will never
ever play against one another, neither in the real world nor even
in fantasy leagues. 2. a complete waste of time.
If you think fantasy football is removed from reality, then you
better be prepared for a whole 'nother step back from the concrete
world when it comes to mock drafting. A mock draft isn't a way of
building a fantasy football roster; it's a way of finding out whether
Daunte Culpepper will be available to you in Round 2 if you take
Curtis Martin in Round 1. Once you've finished with a mock draft,
you don't have to wait for the NFL season to begin to see how you
did. You simply look back over your choices and try to decide whether
you could have waited until the 7th round to pick up Johnnie Morton
as your #3 wide-out.
It seems like an excellent exercise, but there are some pretty serious
limitations to this kind of experimentation.
In the first place, the mock draft craze is already in a frenzy,
even though the football season is a month away. I saw William Green
(Cleveland's rookie RB) taken in the 4th round before he had even
signed his contract. I suppose it's pretty safe to expect rookies
to get their deals done sooner or later, but what about high-profile
contract disputes such as the one involving Jimmy Smith? Remember
when everyone felt sure that Emmitt Smith would get his contract
ironed out before the season began, but he didn't start playing
until the Cowboys' third game? And what about unsigned free agents?
On one very popular site, the draft chart indicates that Ricky Watters
went as early as the 5th round in one draft. By the time the season
starts, he may be worth that kind of pick, but it only takes one
guy who thinks he has some inside information on Watters or Green
(or Clinton Portis or Kevan Barlow) to make your mock draft look
absolutely nothing like your own draft will look in late August
or early September.
I keep mocking even though I know that mock drafts are only useful
to the extent that they reflect how my own draft will play out.
The similarities, to put it mildly, are underwhelming. Just because
you're in a 12-team league, don't imagine that a 12-team mock draft
will give you any indication of where you will be able to pick up
players. I was extremely pleased with one mock draft in which I
ended up with the first pick because I managed to nab Faulk and
then David Boston at the end of the second round, something that
would never happen in the league that I am trying to prepare for.
Our scoring system privileges quarterbacks and wide-outs over running
backs, so I was thrilled to add Eric Moulds, Rod Smith, Jerry Rice,
and Steve McNair to my roster, but there is no way in the world
that the guys I play with would have let Moulds fall to me at the
end of the 4th. The only thing I have to say about Frick's assertion
that running backs tend to be overvalued at mock draft sites is
that it is an understatement. I wouldn't want Corey Dillon over
Kurt Warner in any league I've ever played in, but you never know
how some people's leagues are scored.
That's the real problem: You wouldn't get much out of mock drafting
with the people in your league because you would be too busy trying
not to reveal your strategy. But you don't get much out of mock
drafting with FF participants outside of your league because they
draft players in the first round that your cohorts wouldn't consider
until the second or third.
People who have only ever played in scoring-only leagues routinely
sign up for performance league mock drafts. They don't know the
difference and don't think there's anything strange about taking
Bubba Franks ahead of Marcus Pollard. With just a couple of these
folks in your draft, you'll be able to build a team that you would
never have a chance of constructing in your actual draft, and then--because
you are human--you will begin to think that you are a better drafter
than you are. I'm already convinced that I'm the best drafter in
the history of the world--better even than William Blake, perhaps.
So why do I keep doing it?
There is one thing that I think I am getting out of mock drafting:
I am getting that adrenaline rush that usually hits me in the second
round under control. Every year, I spend hours and hours ranking
my first 12 picks in order so that I will have my first pick ready
no matter what spot I end up in. I make that first choice with icy
Then, when the second choice comes, I always begin to wonder whether
my first choice was a mistake. Should I have gambled on Ricky Williams?
Isn't Manning really in a better situation than Garcia? Would Owens
have been safer than Moss?
That second pick always throws me into a panicky need to compensate
for whatever I imagine myself to have done wrong with the first
pick--the one that I made so soberly and after so much research.
I got that same panicky feeling in the second round of my first
mock draft. But now it's gone. It's not just under control. It's
gone. Whether it will return when I get to my actual draft I cannot
say, but I think I'll be in better shape to deal with it because
I have learned which risks I am capable of living with--or at least
I think I have.
Now that all of that balderdash is out of the way, I'll give you
some very specific directions if you think you want to participate
in a mock draft. In my addicted opinion, the best site for mock
drafts is a place called www.antsports.com.
There are trophy leagues and money leagues available for those who
want to pay for and participate in real fantasy leagues, but the
mock drafts are free.
"But I've seen free mock draft sites all over the web,"
you say, "what makes the Antsports site so special?"
Live drafts (16-round drafts that last between 2 and 3 hours) with
reasonably informed participants are what set this site apart. The
problem with most mock drafts conducted online via email is that
they are so time-consuming. It can take weeks to get through them--with
the possibility that the player you drafted in round 1 will have
sustained a season-ending injury in training camp by the time you
make your choice in round 12. At Antsports, there is almost always
a thread devoted to live drafts active on the message board (the
board devoted to "draft talk," not "sports talk").
As long as you don't choose an awkward time (before 11 a.m. or after
midnight EST), you can probably go to the site, register, and become
involved in a real-time mock draft in less than 90 minutes. Of course,
if you prefer the slower pace of an email draft that takes days
or weeks, you can participate in as many of those as you like.
Most of these live drafts (particularly the ones run by and featuring
the site's "regulars") go quite well, with all participants
making their picks in two minutes or less and no one deciding that
they have to have Tim Couch in the first round. Unfortunately, live
drafts do occasionally go bad. If just one player has a power outage
or a computer malfunction, the whole draft comes to an unwelcome
standstill. Sometimes--but keep this part under your hat, gentle
reader--people who are supposed to be working in their cubicles
sign up for live drafts. When an angry boss peers over the shoulder
of one of these people, the live draft, predictably, dies. Obviously,
the more people you have in the draft, the greater the risk you
run that something will go wrong. But most of the 12-team drafts
I have participated in ran like clockwork. One finished in 2 hours
Although I disagree with the prevailing evaluation of players on
the site, the live drafters seem to me to be generally knowledgeable
football addicts who often share insights with each other concerning
players, coaches, and teams. Of course, some deliberately post misleading
information in order to keep others away from players they want
(as in an actual draft). Others simply tout their own players ceaselessly
in an effort to convince themselves and their fellow mockers that
they have put together the best team.
At the end of these live drafts, many of the participants feel obliged
to rank what they think are the strongest three teams in the mock.
This strikes me as a little odd, since that's what the football
season is supposed to be for. I'm also astonished by how many of
these post-mock rankings seem to discount quarterbacks and wide
receivers entirely. If you want to fit in and be polite, you can
just name the three teams that took running backs in the first two
Frick's assessment of mock drafts is spot-on, but one of his points
is so deadly accurate that it bears repeating here: "Most of
the guys who participate seem normal. However, every mock tends
to include at least 1 person who firmly believes that they are king
of some cyberspace country." There will always be someone who
will try to pick fights with everybody else in the draft in order
to assert his own primacy as the Alpha-drafter. Apparently he imagines
that scads of beautiful women are watching the draft, eager to offer
themselves to the participant who emerges as the most assertive
(if not the most competent). Just ignore this person. Make your
picks. Learn what you can.
If you give mocking a chance, you will learn something. Despite
all my disparaging remarks about mock drafting, I genuinely believe
that your draft performance will be enhanced by at least 10% if
you participate in just one mock draft before the real thing goes
That is, unless your name happens to be Todd "Great Dane"
Helgeson, and your team of "Big Dumb Stupids" happened
to sweep my team last year and happened to win our conference. In
that case, no, I don't think mock drafting will help you at all--because
you are going down, my friend.