The NFL off-season is in full swing for both teams and fans. For teams, this means internal evaluation, college player evaluation, and the draft. For fans, this time means deep clinical depression most notable on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday (and Saturday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday) abating slightly in mid-March and late-April. It is also the time when notable experts arise from their deep slumber of the season to help fill the need for football with "mock drafts". Some are better than others, but who do we take for the ultimate expert, the best mocker? Who can we trust to deliver the correct draft, especially the Cowboys' pick?
The answer, of course, is that none of the mock drafts will yield the actual draft, most notably due to the trades that happen during the draft that are prohibitive for the mockers to do. So what good are the mocks, besides keeping our obsession going during the off-season? Each mocker evaluates team needs, schemes, and prospects slightly differently (unless completely obvious to all see: Colts paired with Luck). No one mocker will have all the insight into each of the 32 NFL teams, but would it be possible to better predict how teams saw prospects if a multitude of mocks were brought together (an interesting anthology of mocks if you will)? OCC had an interesting post on Swarm Intelligence recently that makes a lot a points I was going to make about the value of a compilation, go read it now if you haven't already. From the article:
"Today we're going to introduce you to the concept of swarm intelligence (the collective behavior of self-organized systems without a centralized control structure that can lead to the emergence of "intelligent" global behavior, unknown to the individual agents). The concept of swarm intelligence suggests that the predictive value of many mock drafts is greater than that of a single mock."
I originally started this exercise of collecting the mock drafts to test this theory. I found so many interesting things that it made more sense to share my work with you now than wait till after the draft to share it all. Take it as another tool in the toolbox to use when thinking about who you think the Cowboys will take with their first round pick on the 25th. I'll start with the rankings of the players, and eventually move into draft strengths (easier once more multi-round mocks are released) and at what positions teams are looking in the draft.
For this, I compiled a list of 16 different mock drafts using Rabblerousr's Scouting the Scouts post as a guide. I narrowed the list down by excluding those that haven't done a mock yet (obviously), to create the 16 I felt represented some of the best in the business: Rob Rang and Dane Brugler from CBS, Mocking the Draft, Drafttek, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay from E$PN, Tony Pauline from USA Today, Optimum Scouting, Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks, and Gil Brandt from NFL.com, Russ Lande from NFP, Don Banks from SI.com, Scott Wright from DraftCountdown.com, The SB nation bloggers draft (although not professional scouts, who should know each team better than the bloggers who cover the team daily?) , and Ourlads scouting. I believe that this represents a diverse group of former scouts, NFL writers, draft "experts", and the popular fan opinion. Please let me know if you feel differently.
Next, I averaged the draft position of each player drafted in any of the mocks to create their Average Draft Position (ADP). If someone wasn't drafted in a particular mock, they received a draft position the first pick of the next round (since I am only looking at the first round now, the number is 33. Once I include more second and third round drafts that number will change). Surprisingly, there were 14 different players to appear in every one of the 16 mocks.
These players shouldn't surprise anyone here on BtB. The near consensus #1 pick is Luke Joeckel with an ADP of 1.688. The next 5 players all average inside the top 7: Eric Fisher, Dion Jordan, Sharrif Floyd, Dee Milliner, and Ziggy Ansah. Of the remaining 8, all on average are gone before the 18th pick: Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack, Barkevious Mingo, Sheldon Richardson, Jonathon Cooper, Tavon Austin, Kenny Vaccaro, and Cordarrelle Patterson (Patterson averages at exactly 18). These 14 names are widely considered to be the best of the best this year (notice I did not say that these were the top 14 players according to this ranking, just those that appeared in all 16 mocks). Tony Pauline recently tweeted that there may only be 15 players with first round grades. Do you think that these represent those 15 players and who would be the 15th?
Obviously, I cannot yet answer my initial question of who is the best mocker nor whether my compilation is better (I highly doubt it, the compilation is basically another way to make a "big board" that many people do, albeit without having to do most of the research work that goes along with scouting the prospects). If the reaction is good and the community wants to see it, I will publish a huddle report-style analysis of the experts after the conclusion of the draft.
In part 2, I'll look at these 14 players more in depth as well as reveal the entire list of players who were mocked in the first round.
DISCLAIMER: This work is only valid with a couple of assumptions, namely that all these writers know the NFL and each individual team fairly well (hopefully through research or collaboration), that they know the draft process well (good chance), that they have researched or scouted most of the prospects in their mocks (also a good chance), and that they are not complete idiots (debatable). Since most of these only have the first round mocked, I can only look at the top of the draft to draw conclusions, however; as we get closer to the draft and more multi-round mocks are released, I can go into more depth about player rankings.
DISCLAIMER PART TWO: This is not a view of the talent that each of these prospects possesses (or Geno Smith would not be as high). This is a measure of where the collective thinking of the NFL draft experts has them being taken. I've stated before that mocks are a good marriage of need and value based off where that particular expert ranks the players. But they don't take into account position valuation (i.e. QB is overvalued while OG is undervalued in the draft). For example, the talent is there for both Warmack and Cooper to be top 10 picks, however, because of the position that they play, it is unlikely. Most of the mocks do not take this into account.
If you haven't read Tom's recent Draft Board Disclaimer, do it now!
Any comments or criticisms are welcome but be gentle, this is my first fanpost.