I don't like Mike Florio and his Pro Football Talk website at all, so this is really painful to say, but Florio nailed his recent Todd McShay expose. Just nailed it. You really should read the entire thing, but here are the cliffs notes: McShay, ESPN's fledging draft expert, doesn't really have a clue what he's talking about. For the record, Mel Kiper doesn't really either, although he has some redeeming qualities. The television expert who actually sems to know what he's talking about is the NFL Network's Mike Mayock.
This shouldn't exactly come as a surprise to anyone. I've expressed similar sentiments, which were hardly unique or original thoughts. No, I'm not referring to any opinions expressed about Rutgers players, and actually sort-of defended/contextualized what McShay said about Kenny Britt last year as being merely conduit for spreading bad info. He by no means was responsible for starting any whisper campaign or anything.
It's not necessarily a total indictment of McShay either. Most people who watch football aren't trained to be NFL scouts. Why should mocking a draft be different than any other activity with a learning curve, and privileged information? For the record, most of McShay's competitors are probably full of it too, although the anti-McShay backlash is understandable (and basically correct) given his relentless promotion by ESPN. McShay lacks Kiper's charisma and Mayock's actual expertise. Why shouldn't he be treated like Poochie?
My thoughts on this general topic have always been that amateur analysts don't really know anything. The best strategy for making predictions about the draft is to find a journalist like Bob McGinn, Rick Gosselin, Pete Dougherty, etc… who make no bones about passing along quotes directly from NFL scouts. While those scouts may not always be right (and no one would claim to have a spotless track record), getting a summation of their opinions gives the best overall picture of prevailing NFL sentiment on a player.
My player evaluations consist of (A) actually watching players in games, and (B) evaluating them by following those authors who seem to do a good job closely and trying to learn their cited criteria. That's the best way to predict how the draft will turn out. I always single out those three because they have a ton of great draft content every April, although there are certainly lots of team beatwriters who are very well connected and do a great job.
Dan Levy from On the DL is getting indignant about the PFT story. Sure, Florio could have done a few things better. PFT does have a spotty track record, even if it occasionally does something really great like its legal analysis about Michael Vick's dogfighting ring. But in truth, Florio's basically dead on here. Todd McShay is a bad analyst. It's no indictment of him personally, but he's just bad, and Levy's probably letting his concern for fairness get in the way of an end that seems clear as day.
Oh, since Dan did mention it, people actually have looked at this, and empirical evidence shows that McShay's mocks have a poor track record. I don't actually think draft analysts should be evaluated solely by mock accuracy, but the information is out there. Something like this could prove more promising in that respect.