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 Today.
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 so guilty.
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 calm.
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 flat.
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 rounds.
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.
:: comments to mike
Readers who are relatively new to fantasy football or who need
to recruit FF rookies into their leagues may want to check out Mike's
instructional audio CD, Getting to Know Fantasy Football, available
this August at the following URL: https://www.drive2learn.com/store/