He Said, She Said: Draft Pundits

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Who's the best draft pundit? An unscientific analysis.

Who's the best draft pundit? Notice how open-ended this question is. Ken did.

Keely:

Todd McShay is the best draft analyst. Why? Because pundittracker.com says so. Simply put, McShay's predictions for when a player would be drafted ended up being closer to when they actually got picked than Mel Kiper's or Mike Mayock's predictions. And he's won the prediction game for four years in a row over the other two.

It's essentially a game of margin of error. McShay's predictions were off by an average of 7.8 picks over the last four years; Kiper's predictions were off by an average of 8.9 picks over the last four years; and Mayock's predictions were off by an average of 9.1 picks over the last four years.

What does that mean in a practical situation? If McShay predicts that a player will be drafted with the #15 pick, then you can bet that the player will go between the #7 and #23 picks. If Kiper predicts that a player will be drafted with the #15 pick, then you can bet the player will go between the #6 and #24 picks, and same for Mayock's #15 prediction (nothing separates an 8.9 from a 9.1 margin of error when you're talking whole numbers).

McShay has also gotten better over the four years. In 2009, McShay's margin of error was 8.7 picks. In 2012, his margin of error was 7.0 picks. Even though Mayock got his margin of error down to 7.9 picks in 2012, he was still nearly a full pick less accurate than McShay. Kiper's just all over the place.

Even if you were to parse the data further, penalizing a pundit more for getting earlier picks wrong and diminishing the weight of huge errors (predicting a player go #1 only to have him drop out of the first round), McShay would still win. So it's not a matter of a few bad picks outweighing an otherwise better track record by other pundits. It's just that McShay is less wrong than the others.

If there are 32 first-round picks and the pundits have a margin of error around 8, then they can't be trusted to do much more than tell us if a player is going in the beginning, middle, or end of the first round. Of course, the top picks are easiest to predict based on blatant need and stated intention. But still. Don't bet money on any of these guys.

Ken:

Wait... let me get this straight: You judge your draft experts on their accuracy?!?!? I am looking for style, emotion, poise, sass and—above all else—moxie. (Which one of us is the girl in this conversation?)

As long as I have been carving out entire weekends to watch the draft unfold, I have admired Mel Kiper for his unwavering belief in the world as he sees it. Todd McShay might be right about the player a team is going to pick, but Mel Kiper is always right about the player he says a team should have picked. His post-draft selection arguments are legendary. To get the same kind of indignation and denial in a package that even comes close to the "Kiper Experience," one would have to attend an off-track betting site... on a Sunday morning... before the buffet... after the apocalypse. There you might—MIGHT—be able to find a desperate enough man squinting behind a pair of tinted prescription lenses, fussing over a single out-of-place hair, holding a rolled up racing form that has more scribbling on it than a 2-year old's coloring book, screaming at the television that the owner of the #15 horse made the biggest mistake in the history of horse racing.

For God's sake, I am coming off an election year. Depending on the channel I was watching at the time, I had any number of pundits telling me all about some version of the world according to them and their ideology. Alternate networks offered alternate realities. This is what I want in my draft experts and their coverage. I want "The World According to Mel Kiper." As much as I love Nate Silver, there's a reason why he doesn't have his own network (and he has determined the reason to within a 0.00001% margin of error). Being right is boring. To be fair, just being wrong is also not good enough. You have to fight to the death defending nearly indefensible positions to pass muster these days.

Watching Mel Kiper recalibrate his universe on a minute-by-minute basis on draft day, as general managers string together a parade of galactically stupid selections, is too good.

Keely:

I'm the girl, so it makes sense that I would go for substance over flash. Hell, I hope Nate Silver gets into the draft game. His NCAA brackets are fascinating. Still, considering the fact that being off the mark by even one pick changes which team a player goes to, I suppose all three draft analysts don't have shit for substantive predictions.

In general, I try not to watch pundits unless I'm desperate to get the information they're providing, mostly because I find that they have very little else to offer. If I had to choose a draft pundit based on something other than the accuracy of his draft predictions, I suppose I'd take Kiper, too, just because he reminds me that no bad hair day can stop me from being successful. Look at Kiper: He's got the Mount Everest of widow's peaks and a helmet of Aqua-Net-doused hair. He's also got a permanent grimace, probably from years of hearing people say draft predictions are meaningless and the draft itself is a total crap shoot. Because both of those criticisms are true and valid.

Still, Kiper's managed to position himself as the foremost expert on the NFL draft. I bet Mel Kiper, Sr. would be proud. Listening to his post-draft arguments, every NFL team must see Kiper as the overbearing aunt who thinks they ought to know better. That also begs an interesting question: Do you think Kiper really knows better? Would he be better in the war room than some of these GMs? And do you think the teams ever take his predictions as a form of advice?

Ken:

Nobody would EVER admit to taking Mel Kiper's advice. That said, I would bet dollars to donuts that if you could go back in time and search Vinny Cerrato's DVR library, it would be 99% filled with Mayock, Kiper and McShay waxing poetic on college players. I can just see Vinny putting on a Kiper wig, a sharp Mayock-style suit and contorting his face in a McShayesque "frowning on humanity" stare in front of a full-length mirror, employing his best Buffalo Bill voice to ask, "Would you draft me? I'd draft me."

You're not wrong about the lunacy associated with most forms of punditry. It's like if you and I decided to run a show on CNN where we predicted the winning numbers for Powerball. I do think Mayock and McShay have done pretty well when it comes to projecting a player's ability to transition to the pros. Kiper seems to excel at the art of persuading—himself—about such things.

I think that of the three, Mayock would have the best chance to be hired by a franchise. McShay might be good in a war room, but his agent would never let him give up the face time on ESPN. He is too handsome. Kiper has taken a dump in just about everyone's cornflakes over the years, so the chances of him being hired by an NFL owner are the same as my chances of being cast as Wilt Chamberlain in the feature length adult film depicting his exploits.

Wow... some great visuals working here.

Who do you think is the best draft pundit? Comments!

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