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“Wisdom of the crowds” in regards to Cowboys’ draft pick

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I continued my “wisdom of the crowds” approach to predicting the Cowboys’ draft pick at Dallas News.

I’ve recently unveiled my big board and second mock draft. While I spend a good amount of time analyzing prospects, I have my own biases and my rankings are certainly not immune to error. I rank a pretty large percentage of players away from consensus opinion; some of those will turn out to be right, but many will also be wrong. There’s a certain level of uncertainty built into forecasting the future of NFL prospects, and as draft analysts, all we’re trying to do is peel away that uncertainty to make accurate predictions.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m a big believer in “wisdom of the crowds”—the phenomenon by which the collective opinion of individual experts can be more accurate than that of the same expert opinions take in isolation, i.e. as we incorporate more and more expert opinions, we’ll likely gain a clearer depiction of reality. My opinions on one prospect might be vastly different than those of, say, Mel Kiper. If we’re playing the percentages, the prospect’s true talent is most likely to fall somewhere between our separate views on him. As we add in more and more expert opinions, we can get a really great sense of a prospect’s perceived worth.

Up until now, I’ve been creating aggregate big boards my combining the rankings of various draft analysts. The aggregate boards have been based off of their big boards—their personal opinions regarding prospects’ talent—as opposed to mock drafts. There’s a difference between an analyst’s opinion on where a player should get drafted and where he will get drafted, however, and today I’m going to look at the latter.

While I’ve been personally tracking expert rankings in my previous aggregate boards, there’s actually already data available that combines expert opinions on where prospects will get drafted. Play the Draftis a “stock market for the NFL Draft”; experts like Mel Kiper, Lance Zierlein, Matt Miller, Greg Cosell, and so on rank prospects according to where they think they’ll get drafted. As those rankings change, so does the “stock” of each player. You can build your own team, trying to predict future trends to acquire value in much the same way NFL teams do.

Understanding Changing Value

The coolest part about aggregating expert opinions is that you can get a sense of how a player’s stock is changing. In the same way that an actual stock price fluctuates, so does the stock for a draft prospect. Many times, NFL teams can actually acquire value by jumping on a players’ whose stock is down. It’s those prospects—not those whose value has hit its peak—who are most likely to offer value because their perceived value has dropped below their actual worth.

You can see that with a guy like Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. After rumors of a heart condition surfaced, Lotulelei’s stock plummeted.

That’s a case where a player’s perceived worth has probably dropped well below his talent level. Compare that to Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

After a report or two that a few teams view Floyd as a top talent, his stock soared. Now it appears as though every analyst views Floyd as a top-tier player, but that wasn’t the case just a couple months ago. Whether or not Floyd is an elite talent, it’s very unlikely that his actual value is greater than his current perceived worth, which is through the roof.

Head over to DMN to check out the new aggregate big board.

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