The Absurd & Often Overrated Mock Draft: A 23-Year Historical Study of Mock Draft Boards

Mocking the Mock: 23-Year Historical Study of Mock Draft Boards

As a long time draftnik, nothing is quite as fun and useless as looking at a mock draft. It's purely a mental exercise powered by endless possibilities, debates and sometimes the most ridiculous of projections.


The earliest mock draft relic I unearthed was from 1982. What was once sporadic is now commonplace. Anybody and their momma who has a website can not only provide you with a mock, but now give it to you two years in advance. This led me to an interesting question: What players were projected as first rounders in a mock, but went undrafted? And so the historical study ensured.

Clearly I'm looking for a player's worst moment, when the dream was so close to reality, yet crashed and burned. How cruel of me to re-hash demise? I can assure you there's no malice in this. My intent is to simply illustrate the absurd and often overrated nature of Mock Drafts. The 90's decade gave it to us the worst. Let's check this out...

Scott Williams
Position: Center
Mock Draft Consensus: Mid-Late First
Despite being a 3-year starter for the University of North Carolina, one of the nation’s premier basketball programs, Williams was passed over on draft night. He was tagged a first round NBA draft pick by many analysts due to his size, productivity and high level of coaching, but disappointing senior year, compounded by a nagging shoulder issue forced Williams draft stock entirely off the board. Seven centers were drafted that draft night. Fourteen years later, all were in and out the league, with Williams playing 106 games more than his nearest draft classmate at his position (Felton Spencer).

Melvin Cheatum
Position: Small Forward
Mock Draft Consensus: Late First to Early Second
Cheatum, along with NBA's Robert Horry, James Robinson and Latrell Sprewell, helped lead Alabama to three NCAA tournaments with two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances and three SEC tournament titles. It was Cheatum, not Horry, who was often asked to be the key player in tight situations. In college he often relied on his athleticism, finishing ability, rebounding, solid defensive ability and great running of the floor to produce. Yet as a draft prospect, Cheatum lacked the size and height to be an NBA power forward, and lacked perimeter shooting and passing to be a legit small forward. Being a tweener proved too much for him to overcome on draft night.

Brian Shorter
Small Forward
Mock Draft Consensus: Late first to Early Second
Coming out of high school Shorter was often ranked among the top 10 players in the nation. This McDonald’s All American did not disappoint, earning Big East Rookie of the Year and two All-Big East 1st team selections. Expectations were high as Shorter headed into his senior year. Pittsburgh was also armed with future draftee Darren Morningstar. But an unusual viral infection plagued Shorter's production and overall ability. As Pitt's medical staff struggled to diagnose the infection, the virus worked its way through Shorter’s system, attacking his muscles to the point where his stamina, upper body strength and leaping ability were severely diminished. To compound issues, Shorter’s lack of height and inability to handle the ball or shoot with range all but sealed his fate on draft night.

Joe Harvell
Position: Small Forward
Mock Draft Consensus: Late First to Earl Second
Harvell was a scoring machine in the SEC, averaging 25 points a game. He definitely had the look of a potential draftee. He played in a conference that housed 1st round picks like Shaq O’Neal, Robert Horry and Latrell Sprewell. Many felt Harvell was offensively advanced over Horry & Sprewell, but defensively they were better. Harvell stayed, only to clash with a new coach in a new system where he saw his stock take hits that he would never recover from.

James Forrest
Position: Power Forward
Mock Draft Consensus: Top 15
Out of Wake Forest as one of the highest rated prospects in the nation, Forrest came with high expectations and did not disappoint. After an excellent sophomore season where he put on a dominating clinic in the 1993 ACC Tournament, many felt he was an early entry shoe-in, yet Forrest stayed in school and never saw his draft status improve. In the next two years he encountered weight problems and inconsistent play with poor team results. In 1995, at the end of his final collegiate year, Forrest stood by as he watched his teammate, Travis Best, go on to be drafted.

Kendrick Warren
Small Forward
Mock Draft Consensus: Late First
Warren came into little known VCU with a huge high school reputation. The 1990 McDonald’s All American didn't disappoint. His coach, Sonny Smith, had NBA ties as the former head coach of Auburn where he sent Charles Barkley and Chuck Person to the league. At VCU Warren scored 1,858 points with 1,049 rebounds, and still remains VCU's all-time season leader in 5 statistical categories. Yet his shaky perimeter and free throw shooting all sunk his draft status.

Scotty Thurman
Position: Small Forward
Mock Draft Consensus: Late First to Early Second
Thurman was one of Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson’s best players during their 1994 & 1995 championship runs. Many thought that with Thurman’s silky shooting and fundamentally sound play made him a first round candidate. Unfortunately his lack of defensive ability, quickness and ability to create off the dribble severely hurt Thurman’s stock. With his high profile visibility on one of the nation’s best teams, Thurman was media's poster boy as why you shouldn't leave school early.

One has to wonder if a year earlier could have made the difference. (L to R) Thurman & Forrest

These players had varying degrees of success. Some would love to blame the internet, but online hype didn’t really exist at the time. Instead, players were listed in newspapers, all the way up to the nationally syndicated level. Next we’ll examine 1996-2000, when the internet began to have greater influence on mock drafts.

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