I touched on the mysticism of the NFL Draft in my article last week, but I didn't say much on the draft itself before delving into Saints' needs. Pipe dreams abound, every player is the "one piece," every player is worth a first round pick, etc. I would like to preface this article by saying I have a lot of homework to do on draft prospects. There are too many to follow over the course of the college season, and my process does not involve watching every college game throughout the season. I pick out the Saints' needs and look at the prospects at that position, and even then, it's really an (barely) educated guess.
With that being said, people lose their heads during draft season. Due to the incredibly high value of picks, it's become a time for people to make borderline sexual fantasies about players and what they can do for a team. If the Saints get a corner opposite Keenan Lewis, they'll be the number one pass defense in the league again! If they draft a nose tackle, Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan will have 17 sacks apiece! If they get Melvin Gordon, Drew Brees will throw for 4,000 yards and they'll have a 2,000 yard rusher! See how easy that is?
However, the pipe dreams aren't worst part. They aren't even close. This is a list of the biggest traps that people fall into during draft season and how to avoid them.
1.) Smokescreen. Just the word hurts to think about. Literally every report that comes out from now until May will have people on it calling it a smokescreen, a game to draw out a higher pick. And yes, some of the reports that come out will be total malarkey. But an excellent example arose just last week:
Chip Kelly stated that the Eagles would like to make a move for Marcus Mariota. Now, to me that move would be entirely insane, but that's beside the point because Chip Kelly is a little crazy. What would Kelly have to give up for a #2 pick? The Raiders could well be looking to move down. They have solid pieces and a potential franchise QB, and Amari Cooper will be a Top 10 pick, albeit not #2. This would, however, have to be a 3-way deal, as the Eagles would almost certainly have to give up Foles, and the Raiders presumably have little interest in him. So what about the #1? Tampa Bay needs a quarterback, that's no secret. What if they acquired battle tested Foles, rather than an unproven Mariota or a questionable Jameis Winston? He even has the giraffe like qualities that presumably drew Tampa Bay to Mike Glennon in the first place! Kelly could go back to his playbooks of old, and the Eagles could utilize a quarterback designed for his system.
How to avoid it: Take a Socratic Oath. I know very little about the drafting process. I know that players get picked, and some pan out and some don't. I know that picks get traded, sometimes for better or for worse. It's fun to let trade rumors run wild and think about them and discuss them, but don't assume that everything is gamesmanship. It takes away from the fun of the season. Oh, and Kelly is totally crazy enough to make a deal for #1, if anyone is keeping score.
2.) "Kirk Cousins Syndrome." This one arises from the backup quarterback of the Washington Redskins. He was taken in the 4th round of the very same draft that produced Robert Griffin III. Ever since, there has been constant speculation every offseason about when he'll be traded, who it will be to, and what it will be for. After he won his first few starts (or, more accurately, Washington won in spite of him), it was projected that he could go for as early as a second rounder. Cousins struggled a bit in his time as a starter last season, which has mitigated those talks this offseason.
How to avoid it: Value players for what they are, and account for everything. Inexperience, over-experience, etc. The Saints aren't getting a first round pick for Marques Colston this year (that's a hyperbolic example, literally no one has said that that I've seen). Players are worth what they're worth, and they'll be traded for that. GMs know this.
3.) The Trade-Up Trade-Down connundrum. This one is complicated, because it plays into a chess match that every GM is involved in and it is intimately related to the aforementioned "smokescreens" mentioned earlier. Now that draft picks are more valuable than ever, teams are constantly looking to maximize their numbers. In a draft class that doesn't have a lot of overwhelming talents, expect to see a lot of teams looking to trade down. This will, naturally, make it extremely difficult to do so. Last year, the Saints traded up for Brandin Cooks, one of the rare times that they have done so (the other notable exception being moving into the first round a second time to draft Mark Ingram), and even the cost of that pick was perfectly reasonable. This year, it will take a great deal more to trade down, and with the Saints sitting at 13 and likely looking to address defensive needs, it doesn't seem unreasonable that they will keep that pick as it is.
How to avoid it: There isn't much of a way to avoid this one. Everyone wants either more or better picks, so there will be always speculation surrounding how a team should handle its picks themselves. It's very rare that people predict these ones correctly, but it doesn't make the speculation around them less fun. If the Saints lose everyone that they want off of the board before 13, however, they may be facing some serious issues come their own pick.
The NFL Draft is a mystery. Personally, I don't mind the rampant speculation, it's just when people start throwing out ridiculous phrases that the process can become tedious. Now that it's in May, analysts and fans alike have an entire extra month to try to figure out just what the hell their team is going to do. The problem with this, of course, is that literally no one knows. Teams make weird moves all the time, but at the end of the day it all comes down to what the GM wants. Mickey Loomis, like every GM in the NFL, works in very mysterious ways. This draft should be no different. The only real guarantee is that people will be angry and surprised no matter what he does. Maybe that's what makes the draft so fun in the first place.