I had been wanting to conduct this experiment for well over a year. What experiment, you ask? I wanted to have the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator generate a Steelers mock draft, pass it off as my own, and then write an article about it.
Why would I want to do something like that, you might be asking again? Immaturity. But, also, I wanted to glean your reactions to this Steelers “mock” draft for shoots, giggles and other things.
Unfortunately, as much as I may have wanted to conduct this little mock draft experiment prior to the 2021 NFL Draft, the simulator just wouldn’t spit out believable enough results for me to utilize. I believe the reasons were twofold. For one thing, Pittsburgh went into the 2021 draft in serious need of help at various positions, which made inconsistent mocks a constant reality during this experiment. Secondly, I don’t think the computer could grasp the fact that the Steelers were likely going to draft a running back with the 24th overall selection, which resulted in EDGE and other positions of greater value being the computer’s logical selections in the first round.
Anyway, after several attempts to generate a realistic mock draft—based on public perception and what the experts were saying—I had to scrap the idea and come clean in article form. Did you forget about that? You obviously did because I was able to follow through with my plan this past Easter Sunday and got the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator to spit out a realistic-enough result for me to use.
It took several attempts, but I finally found one that didn’t involve trades (that simulator sure does love trades), and then I went to work filling in the blanks by explaining why I “picked” each player in each round.
In case you need a refresher and don’t feel like clicking on the link, I will list the picks below:
Round 1: Trevor Penning, offensive tackle, Northern Iowa
Round 2: Desmond Ridder, quarterback, Cincinnati
Round 3: Calvin Austin III, receiver, Memphis
Round 4: Kyren Williams, running back, Notre Dame
Round 6: Micah McFadden, linebacker, Indiana
Round 7: Chandler Wooten, linebacker, Auburn
I couldn’t wait for this article to be published. That’s right, I fantasized about all of the meltdowns and “Your mock draft is wack, bruh” reactions my exercise would induce. However, I was surprised to discover that my fake mock draft garnered mostly positive responses from the readers. Even when someone disagreed with it—“I hate this draft and would be despondent if it were to actually happen”—they still thanked me for my effort.
I thought I would be exposed at one point when several readers noticed that I missed the Steelers' second seventh-round pick—I guess I forgot to scroll down far enough—but that was quickly glossed over by the overall praise of my “draft.”
I couldn’t believe it. After a while, I felt like Sandra Bullock’s character when she almost married the bushy-eyebrowed actor near the end of While You Were Sleeping. I thought about not coming clean and just becoming the guy who had a decent mock draft in 2022.
But I just couldn’t do it.
So, what’s my point, you ask? It’s multi-layered.
Number one, you don’t know where I’m coming from, do you? That’s right, I’m playing Slip ‘N Slide on your brain!
Number two, when you take the human element out of the process, you’re more likely to wind up with a logical mock draft.
Number three, you will never take the human element out of mock drafts.
Number four, you will never take the human element out of real drafts.
Number five, just about anyone—or anything—can create a mock draft that gets people to react.
Number six, I’m immature.
Let’s focus on my middle four points for the sake of the rest of this article, which mostly have to do with the human element.
Going strictly by the numbers, no computer was going to come to the conclusion that the Steelers would take a running back with the 24th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. That just wasn’t considered to be great draft value. Also, no computer was going to suggest that the Steelers would select a quarterback with the 20th selection of the 2022 NFL Draft. Why? Simply based on big boards and team needs, there was no way that either Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis would still be available when Pittsburgh’s time on the clock commenced.
But human beings have a way of acting, well, human. And that’s why the Steelers, despite what the data was telling them about first-round draft value and running backs, selected Najee Harris in 2021.
Also, humans are way less predictable than computers, which was why all of the teams that had a need at the most important position in sports passed on the top two quarterbacks in the just-concluded 2022 NFL Draft and allowed the Steelers to have the pick of the litter at 20.
As for the human factor when it comes to mock drafts, there’s no way a lot of these mocks aren’t done for, as you often like to say, clicks. In other words, reactions—both positive and negative.
But, also, since these people—people who are often up against deadlines—are required to produce thousands of these mock drafts every spring, I can certainly envision some just saying, “Screw it,” and allowing a simulator to make their picks for them while they’re busy tweeting their latest hot take. There’s no agenda. There’s no desire for clicks. They just want to meet a deadline. And what do we do? We go nuts and ask them if they’re smoking something funny.
Lastly, not only was my simulated mock draft well-received by the readers, but it drew a massive number in terms of traffic—one of the most popular articles I’ve published in months.
And that’s why I’m going to leave you with a quote from a dejected Dan Fielding (Night Court) as he reads the inscription on a cake his co-workers bought him when they thought there was no way he could lose an election to his deceased opponent: “Dan, Dan, he’s our man. If he can’t do it, no BODY can.”