On January 13th, I published our first mock draft roundup of this year. Since then, I've written 27 more posts in which I've summarized, scrutinized or analyzed other people's mock drafts. In a series of posts about draft strategies, I even proposed 15 different Cowboys-specific mocks. I'm a regular mock draft peddler.
But today it's time to come clean. I know that this may come as a big shock to most of you, but it's time to face some hard facts: as a predictor of which players are going to which teams, mock drafts aren't particularly accurate, in fact, they are largely useless.
Mock drafts can still be fun though, and the ones that come from analysts who know their stuff can still give us a general sense for where a player fits on the draft boards. But as an indicator of exactly which player goes to which team, fogettaboutit.
So where does that leave us with all these mocks predicting Tyron Smith to the Cowboys? To understand that, we look at some of the biggest names in the mock draft business and look at how accurate they were in picking the top ten picks in last year's draft. Right after the break.
The Huddle Report hands out mock draft scores every year based on the total 32 picks in a first round mock. Go there if you're looking for that. What we're going to do today is a little different. We're only going to look at the top 10 picks and gauge how effective the mock drafts are at predicting these picks.
Why only the top 10? Firstly, because it is relevant to where the Cowboys pick this year. Secondly, because there were no trades in the top ten in the 2010 draft to sully the the draft pundits' prognostication prowess (the earliest draft day trade was San Diego trading up from No. 28 to No. 12 with Miami). Thirdly, and most importantly, because 20 of the 25 mocks I regularly monitor have the Cowboys taking Tyron Smith with the ninth pick, and I want to know whether this means anything at all.
So without further ado, here are the final pre-draft mocks of 21 [Mike Mayock added by request] sources that I gathered diligently last year and had the mental foresight to save for future reference. Green are the picks that were correctly predicted. Red denotes wrong picks and black marks picks that weren't even taken in the first round.
A quick caveat before we draw some conclusions about this table: the fact that most mock drafts are often way off shouldn't come as a surprise. For the most part, this is less an indictment of a particular writer's football knowledge but owes much more to the inherent unpredictability of the draft.
As a rule of thumb, if a mock hits on anywhere between 5-10 players and gets a large majority of first round picks right, it is considered successful. According to the guys at Mocking The Draft, Mel Kiper's definition of a successful mock draft is at least 5 direct hits and 27 out of 32 first round players. The Huddle Report's grading system is similar in that it rewards correctly predicting the player in the round (1 point) and matching the player with the correct team (3 points).
But for this exercise, I'm only concerned about whether the "Tyron Smith to Dallas" consensus has any meaning and have accordingly awarded one point for the correct pick and nothing more. Here are some general observations about the 2010 mock drafts:
- Everybody got the top three picks right. That's pretty impressive, and is unlikely to happen again this year as there is a lot of fluidity in picks two and three.
- From picks No. 5 through No. 10, these 21 mockers got only 17 out of 126 picks right (13.5%). If you think the fact that many mockers think the Cowboys will take Smith means it will actually happen, think again.
- Everybody gets a pass on Tyson Alualu, because that was a name that truly came out of nowhere and nobody had on their list. But just three correct picks on Joe Haden and Rolando McClain? Combined?
- More than half (11) of these mockers had guys in their top ten who weren't even drafted in the first round: Jimmy Clausen and Bruce Campbell were two surefire top ten picks on many mocks but ended up being picked in the 2nd and 4th rounds. Every single one of the 21 mockers on this list had Clausen going in the first, five mockers additionally had Campbell as a first rounder.
- Rick Gosselin, mock draft hero to BTB'ers, doesn't look too good in the top ten table above, but rest assured, he know his stuff. Gosselin not only predicted 29 of the 32 players chosen in the first round, he called them in sequence: the first 29 players on Gosselin's final mock were all selected in the first round.
Apart from the general unpredictability of the draft, there are two other main reasons why most mock drafts are intrinsically inaccurate: a big source of information for many of the mock drafts are NFL general managers, who are lying, and agents, who are lying even more. An even bigger source of information are other people's mock drafts. That's probably how so many people ended up with Clausen in the first last year, and may also be why everyone has Smith going to the Cowboys at No. 9 this year.
Keep this in mind as you see, hear and read the latest draft rumors, mock drafts and carefully phrased statements from teams. Just because a lot of people say so, doesn't mean it's going to happen.