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NFL Draft: Coming Back to Reality

Some things to keep in mind as we get ever closer to the 2015 NFL Draft.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

As we get closer and closer to the NFL Draft at the end of this month, there's an impending sense of excitement, anxiety and fear coming from Falcons fans. There's a feeling that the Falcons could land a great pass rusher or could find themselves a little too far back from the top to get a top guy. I also see lots of people balking over the idea of taking "X" player at 8 or talking about how the Falcons should trade back and stockpile picks. All of that is well and good, and part of the fun of draft season. But before any of us lose our minds over the possibilities (both good and bad), here are some reminders about the realities of the draft.

Mock drafts are never a good indicator of what will happen

Outside of the first few picks, mock drafts begin to fall apart. Don't get me wrong - I love reading mocks and doing them myself. It's fun to dream about the possibilities. But if you were to compare actual draft results every year against the mocks that preceded them, you'd find a woeful accuracy rate.

Mocks can't adequately predict how "in love" a team is with a particular prospect. Nor can they predict the trades that make the draft so unpredictable and fun. They are also based off player rankings and team needs as seen by the analysts that write them, which leads into the next point.

Teams have different rankings of players from analysts

I know this is hard to believe, but it's true. Look - the top players in each draft are probably pretty closely ranked between analysts and NFL scouts. I'd even go so far as to say that the first 20 to 30 prospects are probably ranked in the same ballpark. But outside of the top 30 or so? You're probably looking at lists that begin to vary wildly - and not just between NFL scouts and draft analysts, but between different scouts, sometimes within the same organization.

So, when you see that a player is listed as a "top 50" player, the reality is he could be ranked as top-20 by one scout for one team, but also ranked as in the 50s to 70s with others. The thing to keep in mind here is that the professional scouts spend their entire year watching these players - many times live. Many draft analysts are doing nothing more than watching tape or even publicly available videos on the internet.

So when your favorite player - who "could have been taken in the third round" is taken a round sooner, there's a good shot that NFL scouts had a different opinion than the analysts you find on twitter.

There's no such thing as a "sure-fire" or "safe" prospect

Every year, draft analysts feel the need to label a few prospects as being "sure-fire" or "safe" draft picks. Here's the problem: there's no such thing.

More than maybe any other sport, the jump from the college level to the pro-level is extremely difficult in the NFL. It's why some people have wanted a "minor league" of some sort for quite a while now. Even for the most polished athletes coming out of school, there is a learning curve and an adjustment for getting used to the speed of the NFL game. No matter how good a guy looks in college, it's impossible to say that one or the other is a "safe" pick.

Before you get wrapped up in the idea that any pick is a safe one, just remember: ultimately, all of these guys have to prove it on the field.

It's rare that rookies come in and dominate from day one

This one might sting for a team that has a lot of good pieces in place and is hoping to compete again this year. While you are likely getting a day 1 starter out of the first round, you're also getting a player whose full potential lies ahead of them. There are always exceptions, but on average, the guy you're getting as a rookie won't reach his potential for 2 to 3 years. That doesn't mean that a player can't come in and contribute, but expectations for rookies should always be kept in check. If the Falcons do draft a pass rusher and he doesn't pull down 16 sacks in year one, there's no need to panic.

These are just a few of the realities we have to face about the draft, but I know there are more. What do you think are some realities that get lost during this time of year?