2014 NFL Mock Draft Database: Goodbye Safety, Hello Defensive Tackle!

Al Bello

We break down 33 NFL mock drafts and look at the position and players projected to the Cowboys in the 2014 NFL Draft.

In the months leading up to the NFL Draft, everybody with an internet connection can throw together a mock draft. Some of those mocks are the result of a lot of thought, many of them are simply slapped together to get some easy clicks.

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.

Which is why today, we're going to look at 30+ mocks from some of the more prominent draft sites around, since they have, for the most part, a certain level of respectability and are known well enough to be worth considering. The table below lists those 30+ mocks by their publication date, shows which player is mocked to the Cowboys, and also shows where the top three-technique defensive tackles most likely to be a fit in Dallas (Aaron Donald, Timmy Jernigan, Ra'Shede Hageman) are slotted in each mock.

Mock Draft Overview (click column header to sort)

Website (Writer) Cowboys Pick Date Aaron
The Draft Report C.J. Mosley 3/3 14 38 34
LA Times (Sam Farmer) Aaron Donald 3/2 16 - - - -
Draftsite.com Louis Nix 3/2 14 29 20
OurLads.com Aaron Donald 3/1 16 19 - -
Rotoworld (Evan Silva) C.J. Mosley 3/1 14 32 22
NFP (Gabriel & Galko) Timmy Jernigan 2/28 14 16 30
FOXSports.com (Peter Schrager) Louis Nix 2/28 20 25 14
Drafttek.com Kony Ealy 2/28 36 14 46
CBSSports.com (Pat Kirwan) Timmy Jernigan 2/28 12 16 20
WalterFootball.com Timmy Jernigan 2/28 14 16 20
NFL.com (Daniel Jeremiah) Aaron Donald 2/27 16 14 29
NFL.com (Charles Davis) Zack Martin 2/27 23 14 27
USA Today (Nate Davis) Timmy Jernigan 2/27 14 16 29
FOXSports.com (Joel Klatt) C.J. Mosley 2/26 27
14 29
Optimum Scouting (Eric Galko) Aaron Donald 2/26 16 30 32
SI.com (Chris Burke) Aaron Donald 2/26 16 31 - -
CBSSports.com (Rob Rang) Aaron Donald 2/26 16 14 32
CBSSports.com (Dane Brugler) Aaron Donald 2/26 16 14 20
CBSSports.com (Pete Prisco) Timmy Jernigan 2/26 19 16 29
SB Nation (Dan Kadar) Ra'Shede Hageman 2/24 32 - -
NFL.com (Bucky Brooks) Calvin Pryor 2/21 - - 14 30
NFL.com (Matt Smith) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 2/19 - - 14 - -
SI.com (Don Banks) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 2/19 - - 14 30
Rotoworld (Josh Norris) Calvin Pryor 2/17 29 14 23
Yahoo! Sports (Eric Edholm) Aaron Donald 2/13 17 14 15
SB Nation (Matthew Fairburn) Ra'Shede Hageman 2/10 - - - -
DraftAce (Ryan McCrystal) Kony Ealy 2/9 30 29
SI.com (Doug Farrar) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 2/6 14 24 30
ESPN.com (Mel Kiper) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
2/6 - - 14 - -
ESPN.com (Todd McShay) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 2/6 - - 14 30
Football's Future (Robert Davis) Aaron Donald 2/6 17 14 21
RealGM Football (Jeff Risdon) Timmy Jernigan 1/28 29 17 14
DraftCountdown.com (Scott Wright) Stephon Tuitt 1/17 - - - -
- -

Couple of top-line thoughts:

  • Safeties are sooo Pre-Combine. Notice how not a single mock posted after the Combine ended on February 25 has the Cowboys taking a safety? Of the 14 mocks published before the Combine ended, half had the Cowboys picking a safety.
  • Similarly, notice how in seven of those 14 early mocks Aaron Donald does not even break the top 32? Every single mock since the end of the Combine has Donald going in the first round.
  • 20 of the listed mocks have the Cowboys taking a defensive tackle, with our top three-techniques accounting for 17 of those selections. If you thought that was a lot, check out pick #14 in the table above. The 33 mocks have the Chicago Bears picking one of the top three-techniques 23 times: Jernigan 15 times, Donald seven times and Hageman twice.
  • You're worried about the Giants (#12) or Steelers (#15) swooping in and taking Donald, Jernigan or Hageman? Don't be. In the 33 mocks above, the Giants take one of the three prospects just once (Pat Kirwan) as do the Steelers (Eric Edholm).

Here's a further breakdown of the mocks by position and by player selected:

Results To Date -- 3/3/14
By Position Mocks By Player Mocks
Defensive Tackle 20 Aaron Donald 9
Safety 7 Timmy Jernigan 6
Inside Linebacker
3 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 5
Defensive End 2 C.J. Mosley 3
Offensive Tackle
1 Ra'Shede Hageman 2
Kony Ealy 2
Louis Nix 2
Calvin Pryor 2
Stephon Tuitt 1
Zack Martin 1

With all of that being said, 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. The mocks 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, they're just not very accurate.

Still ...

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