Recently, several readers have contacted me and asked how I approach mock drafts. Do I take them seriously? Do I try my best? Do I experiment with new strategies? Do I purposely not reveal my real favorites as I know others that I will be competing against can see the results?
Honestly, I try my best each and every draft, basing each pick on the body of knowledge I have AT THAT TIME. That friends is the key, AT THAT TIME. My level of preparation on December 1 is by no means comparable to where it is on January 17, and my level today pales to what it will be come March.
This feeds into what I like to call THE INFORMATION PYRAMID. While this concept may not sit well with everyone, including my fantasy brethren, I have been around along enough to strongly feel it is real.
I believe there is a small number of sources that are primarily responsible for the entire body of information provided to the fantasy community. For lack of a better word, let's call this virgin information and is atop the information pyramid. This information can be in the form of projections, rankings, values, strategies, etc., and most importantly, the theory and principles used to generate this information. What defines this top-level is the emanation of unique information, based solely on internal principles, without the guidance of outside assistance. Don't get me wrong, not every single nugget of information produced by this top level is completely unique. Not so humbly using myself as an example, my valuation process is a meld of "public" theories and principles. I have put them together in a unique fashion, but to call it "my valuation method" is hyperbolic. On the other hand, some of the strategic work I have done is absolutely unique and in fact emulated by others.
The second level of the Information Pyramid takes this virgin information and distills it. Hopefully what they do is take the principles and theories described by the upper level and apply their own interpretation before disseminating. At minimum, they are influenced by the upper level. What defines this level is that while most often they generate their own work, it is based upon, or at least influenced by the work of others.
The third level is composed of people like the 120-something (and hopefully many more) registrants for this site and are active on the message board and other similar forums. They take the above information, discuss it, analyze it, critique it, denigrate it, etc. Most distill it and formulate their own opinions much like the second level did with the first. What distinguishes this level is that while the top two levels are primarily information providers, this level is primarily an end-user. But they are a very important element in the pyramid as they really help "spread the word."
The fourth level is strictly an end-user. They too may season the above information to taste, but some simply take it as verbatim and draft "their" team. The difference is they keep to themselves and have no public presence at all.
The manner this Information Pyramid affects mock drafts is it takes time for the virgin information to be distilled and distributed to the masses. In December, the extent of information available is limited. Projections are not completed. The 2008 season has not been fully analyzed so 2009 strategies have not been fully developed. All this takes time, beginning at the top of the pyramid. The second level lags a bit and the third level follows.
So what happens is the early mocks and such done in December are based largely on unrefined information, before 2009 number crunching is fully complete. For a spell, this imperfect information is treated like the virgin information. The further you go down the pyramid, the more the information is considered to be pure. Eventually, the top level generates their actual 2009 information, the second level does their thing, etc.
The end-result is a mock in December will have significant differences than a mock in February and March, as December perceptions become February reality, either for the better or worse. I can guarantee you that the ADP of Evan Longoria and Dustin Pedroia will steadily decline from now until March as their perceived value is replaced by the more conservative views of the top tier.
I would like to close by stating I am by no means passing judgment on any of these levels, they are all integral components of the information matrix. Heck, I am actually a member of all four levels myself. I only bring it up to help explain the thought processes of early mocks. In addition, please do not interpret this in terms of different levels of expertise as that is by no means the case. In fact, there are myriads of niche experts at each level.
That said, very soon we will be 'pitching' our pay product and will probably reference that it is better to get your information directly from the source and not second hand. To quote a good friend of mine, "experts do so gloat, they just call it marketing."