Amateur Analysis Has Clouded, Confused the Draft (and Everything Else)

| April 24th, 2023

It is called Letterboxd, and I was unaware of it until very recently. Letterboxd is a website/app that enables individuals to catalogue all the films they have seen and review each. And as movie critic bylines are disappearing in newspapers around the country, and reliable sources for movie opinions with them, Letterboxd is actually starting to assert some influence in the industry. Without these critics, and reliable box office reports, studios are looking to Letterboxd to crowdsource film response.

But Letterboxd is truly a product of the social media era, a period that has intellectually enriched the intellectually impoverished. All you need is a viable email address and suddenly you have the right to dispute Adam Jahns’ reporting on Twitter, criticize Steve Martin’s banjo playing on Facebook and take umbrage with Paige Spiranac’s commercial viability on Instagram. You’ve never had a source in the NFL. You’ve never owned a banjo. You’re broke. But these platforms provide you equitable status, even though that status is entirely unearned. If HacksawRidgeFan232 wants to criticize Rear Window on Letterboxd, who’s to stop him?

A very similar thing is happening with regards to the NFL Draft.

Yes, there are some very talented evaluators working out there in the Draft Industrial Complex. Dane Brugler’s “The Beast” is a marvel of craftmanship and a testament to Brugler’s passion and diligence. Robert K. Schmitz isn’t working for a major outlet, but it’s only a matter of time. He’s sort of the anti-Beast, establishing with short Twitter videos a pointedly economic methodology for presenting prospects. And Lance Zierlein is a personal favorite. He’s created what essentially serves as a Draftopedia Brittanica, a resource at NFL.com that I wear out in the month of April.

When it comes to evaluations, these individuals do yeoman’s work. But when it comes to the establishment of draft value, their opinions don’t really hold water.

Draft value is established by one collection of people: the 32 war rooms spread out across the National Football League. If the Houston Texans take Paris Johnson Jr. with the second overall pick, then Paris Johnson’s value was that of the second overall pick. If the Chicago Bears take Darnell Wright at nine, same story. Value, in all things, is established by what consumers are willing to pay for a thing, not by what outside forces think a consumer should pay for a thing. You might not think Carolina Rocha’s Argentine Cinema and National Identity (1966-1976) is worth $22.30 but I paid it so, guess what? It is!

Remember this as the draft plays out this weekend. Just because you’ve been told by non-league evaluators that Player X should be available at Pick Y, does not mean that he will be. Just because Player X has been assigned a pick value by someone who has access to his college tape and knows how to use the phrase “rare suddenness” in a sentence, doesn’t mean that GMs around the sport agree with that evaluation. A player cannot be under or over-drafted because the actual selection of the player is what creates his draft value. (And that value will stick with him for the duration of his professional career.)

This is not to say the gentlemen running NFL franchises have any idea what they are doing.  But by and large they have put in the years of work required to find themselves in these positions. They’ve earned the right to be wrong.

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