Source: Athlon

It’s that time of year when draft experts come out with their mock drafts and begin constantly updating them on a regular basis. When it comes to the NFL Draft, the first name that often comes to mind is Mel Kiper, who has worked his way into becoming as much a part of the draft as the top picks themselves.

After Kiper unveils his first mock draft of the season, the football world begins to buzz with anticipation and floods the conversation with questions about what the Browns will do with two of the top four picks, which team will trade up to get into the top 10, and which quarterback should be the first one chosen.

Kiper has spoken and he is all in on Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, instead of Sam Darnold of USC, Josh Rosen of UCLA or either Heisman Trophy winner in the pool, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. And now that Kiper has decreed Allen to be the top overall prospect on his big board, the critics are coming out in equally vocal force with subtle reminders that Kiper’s mock draft is really nothing more than a guessing game.

CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee offered his own reminder of just how much value Kiper seems to place on a quarterback who didn’t exactly light things up in a non-power conference this past college football season. It also drew a response from a quarterback once touted as a top pick who turned out to be a bust.

Ryan Leaf’s reply to Sallee’s tweet was a perfect reminder about mock draft season, and this extends beyond Kiper. Kiper may be the pioneer of the mock draft industry, which has spawned off countless clones of mock draft experts. Every network seemingly has one, and that’s because mock drafts are fun to talk about over the water cooler, on sports radio and on Twitter. The people working on their draft predictions are paid to do a job, and the effort and research that goes into them is commendable.

But in the end, they’re all just guessing at best, especially those who go beyond the first round. There is no possible way to predict how any round of the draft will play out because teams will come out of nowhere to trade up and some will take the chance of trading down. Once one team shuffles the deck, all bets are off with the mock draft results.

As Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice has mapped out in detailed form for each NFL team going back to 2010, the players Kiper projects to go in the first round very rarely ever end up on the team Kiper predicts. The Washington Redskins, for example, were mocked by Kiper to pick Sam Bradford in the first round one year and Cam Newton the next. The Redskins ended up with Robert Griffin III the following year. In fact, Kiper was without one single accurate first-round draft pick in his mock drafts since 2010 for the entire NFC East.

Allen began the 2017 college football season already being hyped as one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft pool, and not just by Kiper. A number of NFL draft analysts have been scouting Allen and making comparisons to Carson Wentz, who had a similar college upbringing. Mock drafts can be just as much about forecasting with an educated opinion and insight from various sources as it is trying to be the guy who makes the boldest prediction that comes true.

Kiper and other draft experts who build mock drafts are ranking the best players as far as projecting overall pro potential, and it is fair to suggest Allen could have a bright NFL future ahead of him after a little time to adjust. Maybe he is not the best player right now, but if Kiper is projecting Allen to have the most successful career in the league, that is why he can justify Allen being his top pick. Allen just has to hope he falls in the category of Kiper’s greatest hits, rather than his biggest blunders. In the same year Kiper picked Leaf ahead of Manning, he also had Andrew Wadsworth ranked No. 1 over both Leaf and Charles Woodson. Oops. He also said Johnny Manziel would be the No. 1 pick in 2014.

Kiper has a history of reaching on quarterbacks, although it is fair to note others also do on a regular basis. It can be easy to get carried away with quarterback hype, but Kiper also projected Ricky Stanzi to be the best quarterback in the Class of 2011. Other quarterbacks in that draft class included Cam Newton and Andy Dalton. And remember the JaMarcus Russell hype in 2007? Kiper was driving the bandwagon.

We have also reached the expiration date on Kiper’s promise to retire if Jimmy Clausen didn’t pan out. But again, to be fair, he was not alone.

Mock drafts should be considered in the same vein as power rankings or the way-too-early top 25 rankings that seem to come out just a little earlier every year at the end of a college football or basketball season. They are all completely arbitrary rankings developed more to inspire conversation and debate than anything else. This is at least true for the big names in the mock draft business.

There is no legitimate newsworthiness to Kiper releasing his mock draft, just as there is no reason to sound a breaking news signal the moment Phil Steele releases his preseason All-SEC First, Second, and Third Teams. But because the sports industry has developed a need for content and a network like ESPN is the master of hyping up manufactured content like this that can be revisited on every platform and updated every time Kiper updates his big board and mock draft before, during, and after the NFL scouting combine and one more time before the draft, this is what we must handle as consumers.

There is absolutely no reason to take a mock draft seriously because the NFL franchises you root for have their own scouts, coaches, analysts and resources. They use their own eyes and cater to their own needs and desires to improve their roster. Rest assured, if it comes down to making a draft pick, Kiper’s mock draft in the middle of January will have absolutely no influence on their decision-making. If it does, then your NFL team should consider overhauling their front office.

Proceed with caution if you choose to read a mock draft. There is no need to see your blood pressure rise if you do not like or agree with Kiper’s predictions for the first or 18th pick of the draft. It’s probably going to change anyway.

[Photo: Athlon]

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.