I used mock drafts to do two things:
- To determine what other teams might be thinking in the first round, especially around us.
- To get a consensus on who would be drafted in the first round. This gave me an idea of who could be available in the second round. I would then spend a greater portion of our draft meetings in the final week focusing on these names in strategy sessions on the second round.
We would pick five mock drafts which we felt were the most reliable over a period time, track the players selected in the first round of each and get a consensus of the first-round makeup. But mock drafts were not the only tools I used to determine draft strategy. Prior to the week before the draft, I had a member of our scouting department compile the following items:
• Team needs, as determined by our pro scouting department.
• Team needs, as determined by the team's local media.
• A list of player visits. (The NFL does not publish this information. You need to hustle: Researching various media outlets, speaking to agents and calling players themselves.)
• Key comments made to the media by other teams regarding their needs.
All of this information would be summarized by team.
I would then do my own research on what opposing teams were looking to do. I found over the years that there were a few members of the media who I thought did a good job on gathering draft information. I would ask them what they had learned and begin to put together my own mock draft based on what these 2-3 members of the media would tell me about the first round. (Their identities will remain a secret!) It was understood we would never talk about the team I was with. In speaking with members of the media, you have to differentiate between what they think a team will do and what they themselves would do. I was most interested in why a team might target a certain player and who else that team would consider with its first-round pick.
I never believed in holding a staff-wide mock draft, in which the other 31 teams would be divided up among staff members for a live draft. I felt I could do a better job on my own and didn't want to waste my cohorts' time by having them try to project picks based on the information gathered by myself and our pro scouting department.
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You have to be fully prepared on every player on your draft board in case you're faced with the decision of drafting him. Gathering all of this outside information helps you gauge whether you might need to trade up for a particular player of interest. Also, if you're considering trading down, this intel helps you project which prospects could be available at a new draft slot.
In the week before the draft, we would hold three draft-strategy sessions per day for three days. They would last about 45 minutes each and would focus on the first four rounds. Even though we had only fully researched the potential makeup of the first round, the info we gathered helped us project the second round and team needs dictated rounds three and four. We only meet for 45 minutes at a time because I found that after a certain amount of time, you hit a dead period of thinking by everybody in the room. In between those meetings, I spent time on the phone gathering more information. Meanwhile, the scouting staff worked on finalizing our late-round and free-agent grades.
The information gathered from mock drafts and other outside influences proved instrumental in our pre-draft preparation.