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Tim Graham: Got a mock itch? Scratch it yourself

In one aspect, Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito appreciates the NFL's pre-draft industry, what with all its mocks and prospect scouting reports and rumors.

"It's another source of revenue for us," Incognito said Thursday at One Bills Drive. "It's a big deal.

"The more eyes, the more attention on football is good for all the players, good for the league, good for everybody."

Yet the energy wasted on projecting draft scenarios could power Lackawanna for a month.

I've never devised a mock draft.

Who cares what I think? What do I know? What does anybody know?

ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay get paid handsomely to predict draft selections and defend their prospect rankings. A review of their mock drafts over the past few years shows they're correct on about 15 percent of their guesses, even when given credit for pegging the position if not the exact player.

"There's so much put into the draft and, really, nobody has any idea what any of these teams are thinking," Incognito said. "There's so much assuming and guesswork."

Mock drafts implode the moment a team inevitably makes a first-round trade, shuffling the slots and the corresponding needs.

The Bills' media-relations staff compiles my favorite stat of the year: the number of players projected to be taken when the Bills draft 10th overall next Thursday.

The sum was 33 as of Wednesday. One of those theories presumably will be correct.

I've never produced a make-believe draft, although I did pinch hit for vacationing teammate Jay Skurski in Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Farmer's annual beat-writer speculation.

Seven of the first nine choices were defensive players. With no quarterbacks taken, I went with North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky for grins.


"Your guess is as good as mine as for who we're going to draft," Incognito said. "I have no idea.

"That's what makes the draft fun."

And that much easier to ignore until the draft actually begins.

Pickup line

In response to a question about the Bills' history of being enamored with flashy first-round picks during their playoff drought, new coach Sean McDermott wanted to explain that's not his style.

"I think if you go out in the parking lot and look at my car, the type of car I drive, you'll see that I'm not into flash," McDermott said. "I drive a pickup truck, but I like to put Armor All on the tires every once in a while."

Hang on, there, Sean.

We've seen pickup trucks in the One Bills Drive parking lot before.

I asked McDermott what kind of pickup truck. Ford F-150, he said. It's black.

Rex Ryan's garish, Bills-themed pickup was a Ford F-250.

The Bills have made sexy picks, trading up for receiver Sammy Watkins, quarterback J.P. Losman and running back Willis McGahee or adding C.J. Spiller to an already-full backfield.

"We're going to do the right thing for the organization," McDermott said. "If that turns out to be a flashy guy, it's a flashy guy for the right reasons. If it's not, so be it."

On the move

A trusted spy Tuesday morning spotted Ryan renting a U-Haul from the Mobil on Southwestern Boulevard across from the stadium. Ryan recently found a buyer for his Orchard Park home.

Overachievers welcome

One of the most overlooked aspects of draft weekend are the prospects who, well, get overlooked. So many won't get selected but will develop into reliable NFLers, perhaps even stars.

Fred Jackson, Kurt Warner, Wes Welker, London Fletcher, Jason Peters, Antonio Gates, Arian Foster and Priest Holmes weren't drafted.

McDermott calls them "priority free agents."

"I'm a big believer in the undrafted pool of players," McDermott said. "When you look back at my history and the teams I've been with and positions I've coached, you'll find players that made the team as priority free agents."

McDermott, for instance, coached safety Quintin Mikell with the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers. Mikell went undrafted from Boise State. He played 11 seasons and went to a Pro Bowl.

Buffalo, given its unfilled roster and salary-cap situation, must conjure significant help from undrafted rookies this year.

NFL teams are allowed to carry 90 players, but Buffalo has only 71 players, counting running back Mike Gillislee, plus six draft picks.

"You look in every nook and cranny," McDermott said, "to find those players that can help a football team and help an organization. There's a lot of guys that are missed in the evaluation, whatever school they're at.

"I'm a big believer in it, and we’re going to look at that part of the draft very hard."

Fan tolerance

An HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll released Thursday showed 87 percent of fans oppose their team drafting a player with a history of physical violence against women. Only 3 percent said they would be OK with it, while 9 percent didn't care.

Fans were 75 percent against drafting prospects who've used performance-enhancing drugs. But 56 percent said they don't care whether he smokes marijuana; only 28 percent were against.

McDermott discussed character concerns as part of the evaluation process.

"To win on the field, you have to win off the field," McDermott said. "And not to sound repetitive, but I believe in that.

"Character is a big deal for us as we evaluate players."

But he didn't draw any lines to indicate what would scrub a player off the Bills' draft board.

"Two words that you try to keep out of the vocabulary are 'always' and 'never,' " McDermott said, "but you do have an evaluation process whereby you go through the vetting process of each individual and then you take it from there.

"How does he fit us on the field, scheme-wise? And then the off-the-field evaluation. Our scouts do a great job with that, and this is a big time of year for those guys."

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