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Losing on Ebay

Why it's not a good idea to get caught up with the fast risers and sinking stones.

This time of year there is inevitably a list of guys "shooting up the draft board" and another list of guys "sinking like stones". Guys like Tavon Austin are rumored to be rising quickly; other guys are rumored to be falling, maybe even out of the first round.

Much of this is always misdirection, smokescreens, uniformed guessing and just plain lies told by teams hoping to outfox other teams. Some of the rumors, however, are inevitably true, year after year. The best strategy, however, is to treat all of the rumors as false and simply ignore them.

Why? Because if they are false then doing anything other than ignoring them places you in a position of acting on the basis of false information, never a good position to put yourself in.

The more interesting question is what if they're true? What if player X really is rocketing up NFL draft boards; what then? If you like player X, shouldn't you adjust your own board to reflect the decreasing chances of getting him? While this might sound seductively logical, the better approach is to simply ignore the noise.

Try this thought experiment. Imagine you have the 14th pick in the draft. Your scouts have gathered all the information they were going to gather, reviewed all the tape, had all the guys in for visits, poured over the Combine results, done all their evaluations, and it is now a week before the draft. They've put together their draft board, decided on who they want to target where, and assigned Player X as, for example, the 15th best player available. Then they go to sleep for a week and wake up an hour prior to going on the clock -- enough time to assess what has happened so far and who is still available. Having been asleep all that time, they were blissfully unaware of all the rumors that Player X was skyrocketing up draft boards and was now rumored to be a lock for the top 10. Pick #9 is about to go on the clock. What do you do?

You have 2 choices. Choice A is to completely disregard the thousands of hours of work you've put into the draft, completely ignore that you will have at least 2 players, and likely more, still on the board that you like BETTER than Player X when your pick comes around, and try to trade up to pick 9, so as to avoid having somebody beat you out of the hottest fast riser on the board. This is what you might have done, IF you hadn't been asleep the past week and completely ignorant of all the hype building around Player X.

It is like the well known phenomenon of people bidding on items on ebay. You start out with a price in mind, say $100 and no more for the item. But then you get caught up in the bidding process. And you want to win. And pretty soon you NEED to win. And that item, worth no more to you than $100 under sober, thoughtful evaluation, has become infinitely more desirable, simply because OTHER PEOPLE WANT IT MORE. And now you have to have it. And you bid. And bid. And curse the other 2 guys who you KNOW are out of their minds for bidding this much for the item. Hell, now they're probably just messing with you.. well you can play that game too! And you bid, and bid, and grimly beat out every other bidder, until you emerge, triumphant, fist pumping, the WINNER! The winner... at a bid of $347, of an item you valued at a price no higher than $100.

So you throw in your 2nd round pick with your #14 and move up to take the player your entire war room valued as the 15th best player at #9. You've successfully outfoxed all those other GMs, and all it cost you was your 2nd round pick. High fives all around.

That's one way to go. Lucky for you, there is choice B. Lucky for you, your entire war room has been asleep the last week. They remain unaware that there even is a bidding war going on. To them, Player X is still just plain old Player X, #15 on your draft board. So you watch as some other team moves up to take him, losing their 2nd round pick in the process, and are perfectly content to choose the guy you rated #13 on your draft board at your #14 slot. Not much buzz there, not much wheeling and dealing, yet somehow you managed to get a player you rated 2 slots higher than Player X, and you managed to hang on to your second round pick in the process.

All of the above seems painfully obvious. You've done your own evaluations. There is almost never any new information available in the last week. Yet somehow certain guys start rising, and rising, and you start to wonder, am I missing something? What does everyone else know that I don't? And you start to question your own judgments. Before you know it you've gone back to take yet another look at the tape of Player X, and what do you know -- you're liking him more and more. Yeah, how could you have missed it? The guy's a stud; no wonder he's rising up the boards! Now you're falling in love, and you're willing to start dealing to make sure you keep Player X out of the clutches of your arch rival, the diabolical Coach Y, who you just know will kill you with this guy for the next 10 years if he gets his hands on him. So that decides it -- you HAVE to get Player X.

Almost nobody is immune to this kind of mistake. It is why stocks go through wild price swings, with almost no new information available. Certain stocks take on "momentum" and rise, mainly because they've been rising. And everyone wants to get aboard the train before it leaves the station. If highly trained money managers with billions of $ at stake are susceptible to this, and they are, you can bet that NFL draft rooms are too. It is human nature, it is insidious, and it is dead wrong.

So the next time you watch that fast riser get snatched up by another team, just be glad it wasn't your team. Stay off the bandwagon and let the other team buy that lovely $100 item on ebay, for the bargain price of $347.