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Inaccuracy of mock drafts and why we love them anyway

Mock drafts, especially before the combine, are rife with inaccurate predictions. Yet many NFL flock to them regardless.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Many NFL fans who follow the league closely seem to enjoy following the NFL Draft, and the precursor season of mock drafts. There is a whole industry of devoted fans and self-proclaimed “experts” who spend about a quarter of a year pumping out mock drafts as they attempt to guess which prospects will fall to which teams, and in which rounds.

But try as they might, these mocks are invariably flawed in their accuracy for a variety of reasons. First off, one has to accurately predict how each team has each prospect rated. (Who would have ever pegged the Bengals’ high grade on Nick Vigil?) Secondly, one has to accurately predict where the team sees a need and what positions they want to draft. (Who would have guessed the Bengals drafting William Jackson, giving them a first round CB for the third time in five years?) Also, there is the volatility of proposing a mock draft before the underwear olympics (also called the Combine) and team pro days, when a prospect’s fortunes can vastly change based on how well he can throw passes in a scripted session, or how many seconds it takes him to run 1,440 inches.

To that end, let us take a look at some of the mock drafts which were published last year and see how well they performed in predicting the 2016 NFL Draft.

  • Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke published a mock draft in the middle of February (around this time last year), and pretty much missed every first round pick, which is pretty much par for the course in a mock draft this early in the process. He did manage to get many of the eventual first rounders in the first round, but had very few in their correct relative order of value. Interestingly he did correctly give Andrew Billings to the Bengals, but a whopping three rounds too early. He also correctly landed Williams Jackson with the Bengals, but as a late second round pick, not a first round selection. He also had future Bengals’ fifth round choice, Christian Westerman, being selected in the second round.
  • Draftsite’s last mock, published a mere five minutes before the real thing started, wasn’t too far off - at least in the first round. They did nail the first two picks, with Jared Goff and Carson Wentz to the Rams and Eagles, respectively. Of course, the trades before the draft pretty much made those picks all but assured. They also got Joey Bosa in the top five, Jalen Ramsey to the Jaguars, and DeForest Buckner to the 49ers. They also had Laremy Tunsil dropping out of the top five before his infamous bong mask video was made public. They missed the Bengals’ picks, by giving the Bengals Will Fuller over William Jackson III in round one. They had Andrew Billings going 33rd overall, and Nick Vigil falling to round six.
  • Another popular mock draft site, WalterFootball, published a mock draft on the day of the real thing. Like Draftsite, and just about every NFL draft fan, they nailed the first two picks. They also got Ryan Kelly to the Colts, Reggie Ragland to the Bills, and Will Fuller to the Texans. But otherwise, most of their draft was a hodgepodge of the popular first round names, but mixed up as to where they went. They got the Bengals’ second pick correct with Tyler Boyd, but missed in round one by giving the Bengals Corey Coleman. They had Andrew Billings going 25th overall, Christian Westerman drafted in round two, and Nick Vigil falling into the fourth - none of them for the Bengals.

The ultimate takeaway is that as you read yet another mock draft giving the Bengals a defensive end named Solomon Thomas, Derek Barnett, or Taco Charlton, there is a very good chance the Bengals may not even take a defensive end. And the steady stream of Reuben Foster-to-the-Bengals mock drafts may end up being as trustworthy as BuzzFeed, Rush Limbaugh or Al Jazeera.

With little else to look forward to and talk about when it comes to the NFL in February and March, we love mock drafts because they give us something to research, something to get excited about, something to hope for and something to talk about. And, that’s fun for NFL fans who crave football in the offseason months.

But, real football is still months and months away and the draft is still a few months away. So for you NFL fans, enjoy your mock drafts. Enjoy reading them. Enjoy making them. But just don’t take them too seriously. Odds are, when the real thing comes around in late April, very little of what is being mocked today will come to resemble reality.