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Longtime commenter Jason Winter has chimed in with today’s guest post. Jason is a part-time video game journalist and full-time sports fan. You can read more of him at his blog: https://jasonwinter.wordpress.com/, and follow him on twitter at @winterinformal.

As always, we thank Jason for contributing.


The 2016 NFL Draft is over, and that means just one thing: It’s time to start talking about the 2017 NFL Draft! Or at least, it’s time to start publishing 2017 mock drafts, for all those sweet, sweet clicks.

A lot can happen in a year, of course. Draft status can go up or down based on a number of factors, from a player’s performance during his final college season to injuries to combine performance to… well, whatever happened to Laremy Tunsil. The draft order – whether set by a team’s record or trades – also plays a significant part. Is it really possible to accurately predict how the draft will go a year in advance? Or is it just a cheap ploy to get people to look at your website?

In the two weeks following last year’s draft, I copied first-round mock drafts from 10 different sources around the web, to see how they would stack up with the real results a year later. Sample size warnings are obvious; this is just one year, just 10 people’s mock drafts, and maybe the draft class was especially predictable or unpredictable. Still, it was a fun project, and I plan to do the same thing with mock drafts this year and see how they stack up in 2017.

All the mock drafts from a year ago were published before Deflategate penalties were handed out, so they have 32 picks, including one from New England. As such, for this article, when I refer to “first round,” I’ll be including the first 32 picks of the 2016 draft, including Emmanuel Ogbah, selected by Cleveland with the first pick of the second round.

I applied two different scoring systems to each mock draft. The first, which I call the “Strict” method, better rewards exact or very close hits: 10 points for getting a pick’s position exactly right; 8 points for being 1 pick off; 6 for being 2 off; 4 for being 3-4 off; 3 for being 5-8 off; 2 for being 9-16 off; and 1 for being 17-32 off.

The second method, the “Flexible” method, just cares about being in the ballpark with a pick: 4 for being 0-4 picks off; 3 for being 5-8 off; 2 for being 9-16 off; and 1 for being 17-32 off.

I went with two scoring methods because on one level, it’s cool to see who gets really close, or makes exact picks, but does it really matter if a guy predicted to go at #11 really goes #13 instead? Probably not. The Strict method hands out more points for those “cool” picks, while the Flexible method gives more margin for error. In both cases, I did extend scores into the actual second round, so the a mocker who picked Myles Jack at #29 gets credit for his being selected at #36, seven picks off.

The chart below also counts the number of players each mock drafter correctly predicted as going in the first round and how many of his picks went in the first and second round combined. And before you ask: No, I don’t pay for ESPN, so there’s no Mel Kiper or Todd McShay.

DrafterOutlet1st round1-2 roundScore (strict)Score (flex)
Dane BruglerCBS Sports14195046
Chris BurkeSports Illustrated14184843
Dan KadarSB Nation11194742
Matt MillerBleacher Report13205639
Walter CherepinskyWalter Football11195139
Josh NorrisRotoworld14224339
Rob RangCBS Sports13194236
Charlie CampbellWalter Football12183836
Jason McIntyreThe Big Lead11184535
Eric GalkoThe Sporting News10132825

I’m not entirely certain who to crown as the Champion of the Early Mock Draft. On the one hand, Rotoworld’s Josh Norris has the sheer volume win, with 14 1st round predictions and 22 combined 1st-2nd rounders. But he wasn’t all that close with his picks, as the two scoring methods indicate.

Meanwhile, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller rules the Strict method, on the strength of successfully mocking Joey Bosa at #3 and Ezekiel Elliott at #4, while being just one pick off with DeForest Buckner and Vernon Hargreaves. Those four picks netted him 34 of his 56 points…

…which is maybe too much to award for four good picks, and that’s why Dane Brugler of CBS Sports wins the Flexible scoring method crown. Like Norris and SI’s Chris Burke, he correctly predicted 14 of the 32 picks in the first round, though he might have scored a few fluke points for picking Emmanuel Ogbah at #31 and Germain Ifedi at #32 – the reverse of their actual draft order.

If you average out the two scoring methods, Brugler comes out on top, with Miller in second place and Burke in third. And no matter how you slice it, Eric Galko of The Sporting News ranks dead last. Maybe next year, Eric.

What about the players themselves? The next chart shows how the players themselves would count if scored by the two methods across all the mock drafts, as well as the number of times they show up in the 10 mocks. In other words, the higher a player’s score(s), the better he was predicted.

It’s fair to say that impressions of Joey Bosa didn’t change much in a year. He scored the maximum possible 40 via the Flex method, and only one mock drafter had him lower than #3 (at #6); six listed him at #1 overall. Jalen Ramsey was the only player besides Bosa to appear on all 10 mock drafts, but his position ranged from #4 to #24. Ronnie Stanley was also remarkably consistent, and even Tunsil wound up pretty close to where he was predicted.

On the other end of things, the top two picks, both quarterbacks, were lightly regarded a year ago, with Carson Wentz not surprisingly being completely unknown. All 10 mock drafts had Christian Hackenberg and Connor Cook appearing in the first half of the first round, and Cardale Jones was also listed on every draft. I wonder if this says anything about the volatility of the quarterback position and how much QB draft stock can change in a year. Overall, 14 of the 32 actual first-rounders appeared on zero mock drafts.

I’m not sure exactly what to make of all this data. To some extent, these “early” mock drafts do enough right to not be totally discounted, but they obviously shouldn’t be taken as gospel, not when nearly half of the actual first-rounders don’t show up on anyone’s list. What are your thoughts? And let me know of any prominent mock drafts you’d like to see accounted for if I do this again next year.