DraftFix: Beware of the "Coldplay Effect"

Hindsight is a dirty word in draft prospect evaluation circles, but it can actually be a useful tool. If we can look back on a failed prospect and pinpoint the moment at which we should have known they weren't all they were hyped up to be, then this can potentially be instructive for the evaluation of future prospects.

With the Jets about to choose between a number of viable quarterback prospects - or already having chosen, if you believe what the media is spinning - the big fear is that they'll pick a lemon while one or more of the other guys turns out to be really good.

This takes us back to 2017, when Mitchell Trubisky was the first quarterback selected and the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson went later on.

Thinking back, the moment where we perhaps should have suspected Trubisky might be overrated is quite easy to pinpoint.

Remember the 2016 Sun Bowl as UNC's Trubisky was being hyped as a high-rising draft prospect and possible top three pick?

For much of the game, he was completely outshone by Solomon Thomas (ironically also a bit of a bust, albeit perhaps more due to injuries). Under constant pressure, Trubisky didn't handle the adversity too well.

With 90 seconds to go, he had less than 200 yards, only one touchdown and a couple of interceptions (including a pick six). He had been really unimpressive and Stanford led by eight.

However, Stanford dropped into a prevent and Mitch dinked and dunked his way down the field, leading a 97-yard TD drive. He had one highlight throw on the drive but most of it was simply taking what the defense gave him.

The two-pointer failed so they still lost but that drive meant he ended up with a respectable statline and a highlight to enable those who rated him highly to use confirmation bias to sustain that viewpoint. Realistically though, he hadn't been that great. Despite the fact that PFF weights things heavily towards positive plays made in clutch situations, his grade was good but not great, and actually his third worst of the season.

So what the hell is the Coldplay effect?

To explain this, we have to go back over 20 years to the V2000 music festival in the UK. At the time, Coldplay hadn't yet achieved worldwide stardom and found themselves in a middle of the afternoon slot immediately before someone good (which is the only reason we're able to relay this story).

Chris Martin and his three anonymous non-entity bandmates meandered through an uninspiring and forgettable set, throughout most of which the two blokes in front of us were half-listening, yawning or talking to one another about soccer. They were dying on their ass.

Anyway, it got to the end of their set and they predictably opted to play their big hit, "Yellow", a song which, given that the first line goes "Look at the stars, look how they shine for you..." could easily have been a song about draft analysis written at the 2000 Senior Bowl. This song had recently peaked at number four in the UK charts and the two blokes in front of us liked this one.

As the song ended, they clapped enthusiastically. One told the other "they were brilliant!" The other whole-heartedly agreed. But were they brilliant? Or did they just mask an otherwise tepid set by leaving their fans with a good taste in the mouth by closing on the one song they actually liked?

It's a phenomenon seen throughout our lives. A great dessert can rescue a mediocre meal. What happens at the end of a date can make or break how you might perceive it to have gone. Wrestling shows are usually built around the philosophy that you need to send the audience home happy by giving them something to cheer in, or after, the main event. Movies are the same - why do you think they went into reshoots to add that Darth Vader scene to "Rogue One"?

So, what is the Coldplay Effect when applied to draft prospect analysis? Clearly it's when we give more weight to what we saw most recently than everything that came before. It's an extreme example of recency bias.

In Trubisky's case, that last drive masked a mediocre performance that should have been a cause for concern among draft evaluators. And it was...it just wasn't enough of a cause for concern for the Bears to prevent them from trading up for him; a move we now know to have been a mistake.

It might not be a drive that makes a game seem better than it was. Rather it could be a game that makes your career seem better than it was.

Consider Vince Young, for example. His performance in the 2006 Rose Bowl sent his stock skyrocketing to the point where he ended up being the third overall pick despite a funky delivery and more of a run-first approach to the quarterback position.

Young is widely considered a bust, even though he went to two pro bowls as an alternate. If the Jets are going to avoid making the same mistake, they need to be wary of the same effect.

Justin Fields' performance in last season's playoffs and the film at the end of his career are arguably more instructive than going back a year or two because this is the version of him that had learned everything he need to heading into those games, not to mention the highest level of competition that he faced.

This could be viewed a couple of ways though. Taken as a whole, his playoff performance could be seen as so impressive that it disguises his overall level of play leading up to that game. Skeptics certainly felt that way after he led OSU to an impressive win over Clemson and then felt they were vindicated when he lost to a stacked Alabama.

Alternatively, you could see the effect working in the other direction and the fact that his career ended on a loss means that too much emphasis is placed on that failure and he becomes underrated as a result.

To be fair, Zach Wilson had a very solid bowl game too. Delivering when all eyes are on you is probably a good sign and a big part of why optimism is high that he's worth of being selected in the top three.

Looking back, Sam Darnold put up some big numbers in his final bowl game versus OSU but ultimately had an interception and no touchdown passes in a 24-7 loss. By then, though, it seems the consensus was that Darnold was an elite prospect and if analysts were ever going to downgrade him it probably would have happened earlier in his final season when he went on a month-long slump and kept fumbling.

Similarly, the last time we saw Trevor Lawrence, he looked out of his depth, but again, the decision to anoint him as a can't-miss prospect seems to have been agreed upon at some point in the past. Jacksonville will have to hope he doesn't follow in Darnold's footsteps and flatter to deceive at the pro level.