The explosion of media covering the NFL has led to the creation of a key rule of thumb regarding the draft: Teams that love a player will leak negative information in the hopes the player fall to them, and teams that hate a player will tout him in the hopes that someone higher on the board will take him.
Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert isn’t a fan of the practice.
“I think it’s horrible,” Colbert said during his annual pre-draft press conference, via Scott Brown of ESPN.com. “I think it’s really bad for our profession when people use whatever means they use to get information out to try to influence the draft and they talk about a kid’s test score, a kid’s injury, a kid’s character. I think that’s awful. It’s disrespectful to our profession, it’s disrespectful to the game, it’s disrespectful to the kid.”
But it’s a realistic and understandable practice in the Machiavellian world of getting the best players via a system of picking one after another from the pool of eligible former college players. The only way to stop if from happening would be to get rid of the draft and allow teams to compete for the rookies in the same way they compete for free agents.
Colbert’s sentiments are honorable, but he grossly underestimates the potential impact of the leaked information.
“[W]e really don’t pay attention to it,” Colbert said of the leaked information. “We don’t believe in mock drafts and what people are saying about other teams because so much of it is misinformation. You’d just lose your mind trying to figure out what everyone’s going to do. We’re going to be true to what we do and feel good about it and live with it.”
While he and other scouts may not listen to the noise, owners and non-scouts in positions of influence do. And in some cities owners and other non-scouts in positions of influence have great influence over the process.
If people didn’t think the process of leaking information to manipulate the draft works, they wouldn’t waste their time doing it. And regardless of whether it works, enough people think that it does to result in enough people continuing to do it.