In order to get through the entirety of the pre-draft process without having one’s head explode, it’s important to have the proper perspective and context when hearing that a player is suddenly rising or falling on draft boards, as multiple teams that are sharing no information with each other are somehow magically coming to the same conclusions about the same players.
Here’s all you need to know: Teams will say bad things about players they like, and good things about players they don’t.
The logic is simple (which barely qualifies me to understand it). A team that secretly covets a player hopes to scare off teams drafting higher on the board, so that the player will be there when the team that likes a player just enough to say terrible things about him is on the clock. A team that secretly hates a player will talk him up so that someone drafting before that team will take that player and push farther down the board players that the sweet-talking team truly wants.
Writers facing internal and external competition won’t always (or, as the case may be, ever) scrutinize the sources when being spoon-fed such information. Instead, they’ll blindly apply a label that implies credibility and conveys anonymity, type it up, and hope that the editor will be placated.
It’s a no-risk proposition. If a scout or other personnel executive is truly expressing a given view, that person’s motivation doesn’t matter. It helps create copy, which helps sell papers and/or generate page views.
That’s why we remain highly skeptical of the rash of stories in which draft experts claim that teams don’t like Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Under the loose rules of pre-draft propaganda, the positive assessments should outweigh the negative on Poe, because teams drafting in the teens should be hoping that some sucker takes Dontari and leaves on the board a better player.
As Peter King of SI.com pointed out earlier this week, the “widest disparity” of opinion exists as to Poe. This likely means that, regardless of reasons for the things that anyone is saying about Poe, at least one team truly covets him — and it’s likely that it’s one of the teams saying bad things about him.
If Poe goes in the middle of the first round, it won’t be a dispositive assessment of the say-one-thing-do-another rule of thumb, but it could give those writers who are pushing uniformly negative views on Poe reason to squirm.
Of course, that would assume that there’s actually any accountability that attaches to the reporters who make broad, sweeping proclamations about a player before the draft. There isn’t. After the draft, it’s all forgotten — and then the hype/hate machine goes into limbo and fires up again in January.