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NFL Draft Boards: Why Do They Change So Easily?

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Immediately following the season, we heard that Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas was a third or fourth round prospect.  His raw route-running and inexperience in a pro-style offense, “experts” said, would drop him on draft day.

Fast forward to the present day, and Thomas has been projected in some mock drafts to go as high as the 10th overall selection (and in the first round of most others)–all despite breaking his foot during pre-draft preparations and ultimately failing to work out for any NFL team.

So what happened?  How did a guy with a “third round grade” who did NOTHING all offseason climb boards faster than Chuck Norris can roundhouse kick?  More on that in a bit.

Why is Georgia DT Geno Atkins so low on boards? Might he be a "surprise" pick come draft day?

On the other end of the spectrum is Georgia DT Geno Atkins–a guy whose name you may have not heard mentioned all offseason. Atkins, however, has had tremendous pre-draft preparations.  He dominated at the Senior Bowl and ran a 4.75 forty-yard dash at 293 pounds, perhaps the best weight/speed ratio of anyone at the Combine (yes, even Maryland OT Bruce Campbell).

Combined with a productive career in the SEC, you’d think the Atkins would be high on boards, right?  Nope.  We’ve seen him as low as the sixth round in a multitude of mock drafts.

Nowadays, it seems as though a player could fall on a draft board due to improper sneezing technique. “Did you see how that kid just sneezed?  He barely even covered his mouth.  That’s the sort of mindlessness that will get a whole team sick.  I’m lowering him on the board.”

Don’t think it could happen?  Well, you’d be right, but for some draft “experts,” it isn’t that far from reality.

How could this be the case?  Why do players rise and fall so quickly?

Our answer:  they don’t. Sure, it happens on media big boards all the time, but this is simply because, well, the media knows very little about the teams’ actual player ratings.   As they gather information and piece things together, the media’s boards change drastically.  The true boards–those of the teams–alter only slightly as the draft approaches.  In effect, the media–your Mel Miper’s and Todd McShay’s–are simply “catching up.”

So how did Demaryius Thomas rise up three rounds despite participating in zero offseason activities and breaking his foot?  Well, he didn’t.  Instead, media draftniks slowly gathered information on the scouts’ general consensus of Thomas, and he rose up their boards.

The media’s final draft boards will be more representative of the general NFL consensus, but not completely. Thus, you can still look forward to being shocked by a “surprise” draft pick who stuns everyone except NFL teams.

And we can all be surprised (31 of the 32 NFL teams included), when Oakland hands in their selection.

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