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Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Everybody Except the Guy Who Won My Conference Last Year
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Mike Davis

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 YOU.

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 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 down.

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 davis

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:


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