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Pre-draft opinions from anonymous scouts and coaches can never be trusted

Trent Baalke's transparency regarding the Jaguar's No. 1 draft pick turns off Mike Florio, so he and Myles Simmons are offering up ways for the team to be more mysterious with the top overall selection.

As the draft approaches, more and more media members are trafficking in opinions from anonymous scouts and coaches regarding the players who will be drafted later this week. Our advice this year is the same as it is every year.

Ignore those opinions.

Anonymously-reported facts often fuel journalism, if those facts can properly be verified. Anonymously-reported opinions mean nothing. They can’t be verified or debunked. They’re opinions. Without knowing the biases or prejudices or objectives or agendas of those sharing those opinions without attaching their names to them, what’s the point?

For media outlets, the point is obvious. The stories based on the opinions of anonymous scouts and coaches regarding the pros and cons of incoming players generate clicks and interest and buzz and whatever. That doesn’t make the basis for these stories any less unreliable.

Think of how many coaches and scouts are employed in the NFL. Without knowing the name of the person who is expressing the opinion, there’s immediately no way of knowing whether to put any stock in it.

Beyond the skills and abilities of the anonymous scout or coach who praises or trashes a prospect, there’s another important reality. THEY LIE. And they have a good reason to lie. It’s a competitive process with teams exercising dibs on players before others can do so. Teams that want a certain player have two ways to try to get him: trade up or hope he falls.

That’s the first thing I always think when I see anonymous scouts or coaches knocking a prospect. They want him to fall so that they can draft him. Why else would they be saying anything about him at all?

If they don’t like him, their incentive is remain silent about the player’s flaws or, even better, to praise him. They want teams higher in the pecking order to take players they don’t want. That pushes their best prospects farther down the board.

This basic reality makes the entire process of sharing anonymous opinions from scouts and coaches regarding draft prospects inherently suspect. It’s unfair to the audience, and it’s definitely unfair to the players who have to endure reporters showcasing negative comments to which scouts and coaches refuse to attach their names.

Some will say it doesn’t matter. It absolutely does. While most owners aren’t involved in the picks made in later rounds, they typically pay very close attention to the first-round picks that their teams are making. If some stray observation sticks in the boss’s craw, that can be enough to get the person who runs the show to make it clear that he doesn’t want that player on the team. And then the player falls.

And if he falls just enough, the team whose scouts or coaches are anonymously spreading negative opinions about the player will get exactly what they want -- the ability to draft him.