The History of Draft King
My name is Lou Pickney, and I'm the owner/operator of Draft King. The genesis of this website dates back to early 2003, when I posted a 2003 NFL Mock Draft on my personal website. Today there are countless mock draft websites out there, but at that time the volume of mock drafts online was much smaller than what we have now. Much to my surprise, the mock draft that I posted and barely promoted as a sub-page on my site received a deluge of website traffic. I sensed an opportunity to do something fun and potentially profitable by launching a stand-alone NFL Draft website.
Inspired in part by Plow King from the memorable "Mr. Plow" episode in season four of The Simpsons in late 1992, I chose the name Draft King for my new NFL Draft website. The draftking.com URL was available, so I snatched it up in July 2003 and began work on building the website's infrastructure. I designed this website by hand, a testament to my roots in teaching myself .html as a freshman at the University of Evansville in 1995. I'm notoriously stubborn on certain things, website design included.
Interaction with my readers proved to be a good way to build rapport in the early days and is something that I still enjoy to this day. Of course, it was (and still is) a one-way street, but it's a formula that works: I put something online, readers email me (or, now, write to me on Twitter) with their thoughts on it, and I post some of that correspondence along with my response. I know that I could have a comment section or even a forum on here, but again my stubbornness rules the day and I want no part of that. I'm extraordinarily protective about what goes up here on Draft King.
At the same time, I was able to build rapport with existing and emerging NFL Draft websites by setting up link exchanges. NFL Draft coverage is not a sum zero game, and I thoroughly enjoy reading the opinions of others who have taken the time to do the proper research, even if their assessments differ from mine. The more information that you have to take in and assess, and the more points of view you have available for consideration, the more likely you are to have a realistic overall view of the NFL Draft landscape.
My approach is two-pronged, based on both evaluation and analysis. I played football in high school, but not very well: I had the height to be effective but not the strength and certainly not the speed. But I have a strong love for the game, whether it's in the booth doing color commentary on internet broadcasts for my alma mater (as I did for Father Ryan High School in Nashville in 2011) or watching an NFL broadcast on a big screen HD television.
Evaluations are an important part of the process, but I'm not a scout. There are people who are far better at that than me, though I can certainly break down game film or even watch a live college football broadcast and see the good and bad of a given player's game. But what I am is extremely analytical, and I can take in a slew of player statistics and opinions and evaluations, match them up with team needs and expected areas of focus, and come up with what appears to me to be the most likely events to happen.
While I take the opinions of seasoned TV experts like Mel Kiper, Jr. into account along with those of former NFL general managers, other draft pundits, and the like, ultimately I go with my gut. Usually that works out well. When I projected that Oregon State RB Steven Jackson would fall out of the top twenty in the 2004 NFL Draft, I caught grief from some readers about it. I did end up projecting Jackson to go at #17 in my final mock, and he ultimately stayed on the board later than many expected, finally going to St. Louis at #24 overall.
The projection I'm most proud of was my correct belief that the Oakland Raiders would draft Maryland WR Derrius Heyward-Bey at #6 overall in 2009. I knew that the late Al Davis had a certain affinity for players with freakish speed, which was the case for Heyward-Bey, a raw prospect with good size and blazing speed. The majority of draft outlets had Heyward-Bey pegged as a second-round talent, and I didn't disagree with that.
But draft prognostication isn't about what someone thinks should happen -- it's about what someone believes will happen. I felt strongly enough about DHB-to-Oakland at #6 to stick with it, knowing there was risk of him free-falling out of the first round, but it worked out for me in that case.
I don't know any agents personally, and I don't particularly want to, either. I don't have insider sources within NFL teams. But that also means I don't have to worry about being used by someone wanting to intentionally put false information out there. I'm not beholden to any player or agent or team. There's no quid pro quo that could jeopardize my objectiveness or put me in a spot where I feel obligated to sing the praises of a player or a team's personnel move or anything else that would compromise my goal of being as accurate as possible.
There are plenty of NFL Draft sites out there, and I appreciate my readers greatly, people who take the time to not only check out my mock draft but who also read my columns. Writing is a passion for me, and combining that with my analytical outlok makes for an ideal situation with my Draft King articles.
If you would like to contact me, you can do so at LouPickney@gmail.com or on Twitter @LouPickney. All messages sent are subject to publication unless specifically marked otherwise.