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Commentary: Making a mockery of the draft

You can't really believe anything you hear before, during or immediately after the NFL draft.

Not from team executives. They rarely are honest about who they want and, after making a selection, they certainly aren't going to admit to disappointment at missing the player they really coveted by one pick.

Not from pundits. They have an agenda. They want their highly rated players to be taken exactly where they slotted said players, thereby making them even more credible.

Not from players. I mean, seriously. No one is thrilled to go to Jacksonville and no one truly believes it's a good thing to freefall, no matter which wonderful organization said player lands with.

About the only thing I heard over the interminable three-day Draftapalooza that rang 100 percent true came from analyst Jon Gruden, who turned to Mel Kiper once the first round was done on Thursday night and told him what a waste of time all those mock drafts are.

Kiper essentially created a career for "draft experts" like Todd McShay and an ever-growing legion of others, but these guys make weathermen seem accurate.

I looked at about 20 mock drafts leading up to the draft and, looking back, only one that I saw had the Baltimore Ravens selecting Florida safety Matt Elam. That draft was mocked up by Bucky Brooks of NFL.com on April 8.

I'd gush with praise over Bucky's genius except that he got very little else right, going so far as to predict that West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith would be the second pick of the draft. Anyone who tuned in for even a few minutes Thursday night knows Smith didn't go second. Or 22nd. Or 32nd.

It can't be easy to predict the 32nd pick in the draft. So many variables, like trades and boneheaded moves by GMs during the first 31 picks.

But if one is to be considered an expert, shouldn't the very first pick be simple enough? No variables there.

The Kansas City Chiefs went on the clock in December. Yet almost no one said they'd select Eric Fisher. But, hey, who figures a beefy dude from Central Michigan could ever be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Maybe the only thing more stupid than paying attention to a mock draft is paying attention to the instant analysis that follows the draft. It's kind of like rating a marriage on a couple's wedding day.

In a different era, of course, the so-called experts could rant with impunity, their words forgotten as quickly as a lousy 40 time.

Not anymore. Figuring five years was plenty of time for a draft class to mature, I Googled "2008 draft analysis" and looked at how teams' draft-day performances were graded back then.

The Chiefs were universally hailed as the winners. Of course they were. They had three picks among the first 35 and took players the "experts" loved.

Meanwhile, the Ravens got mixed reviews. Some of the experts thought moving up to draft a quarterback out of the University of Delaware was nuts. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice each graded out as only the fifth- or sixth-best players at their position.

I'm guessing the experts wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that five years later one of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl and the other went on to pick first in the draft after going 2-14. Might be a little surprised which was which, however.

So, will the undersized but speedy and hard-hitting Elam make fans forget Ed Reed? Will Art Brown spend the next 17 years as an inside linebacker for Baltimore? Was massive but unknown Brandon Williams really a reach in the third round? Was fourth-rounder John Simon the steal all the experts are saying? Will Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk make the team, and if so, how often will his name be spelled right?

Anyone who tells you he knows for sure is lying. But it makes little sense to bet against the Ravens when it comes to the draft.

Ozzie Newsome's been doing this a long time and he's been arguably more successful than any other front-office type from the day in 1996 that he picked up cornerstones Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis in the same round.

He has hit on the likes of Ogden, Peter Boulware, Jamal Lewis and Terrell Suggs early in the first round as well as Lewis, Todd Heap, and Reed late.

Early returns don't show that their top picks have been as good recently, but they drafted Michael Oher, Paul Kruger and Lardarius Webb in 2009, whiffed badly on Sergio Kindle (and the jury's still out on Terrence Cody) but got Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta and Arthur Jones in 2010, and even if 2011 top pick Jimmy Smith never becomes a star, they did grab up Torrey Smith, Jah Reid and Pernell McPhee in that draft. And their top three picks from last year all played in the Super Bowl.

Difficult as it may be in this 24/7, ADHD world we live, in the Internet age with so much information coming from multiple mock drafts and instant evaluations, fans will simply have to accept that it will take some three years know how the Ravens did over the past few days.

I'm guessing they did better than Kiper.

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