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Who are the most reliable mock drafters?

It’s that time of the year when NFL fans turn to the media’s last ditch efforts to correctly predict the first round selections in the upcoming NFL draft. But how accurate are mock drafts, and whose are the most accurate?

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Self-proclaimed media experts like to do them, and fans like to read them – the annual litany of mock drafts which will culminate with the start of the NFL Draft on April 27, 2017. But with so many mock drafts out there, who are the most accurate mock drafters? I tried at trying to answer this question by looking at last year’s predictions and comparing them to last year’s actual draft results.

I found the latest (their last published mock drafts before the real draft) 2016 NFL mock drafts by some of the biggest names in the mock draft community and graded them.

  • Mock drafters were awarded 10 points for every pick that was correct, such as correctly predicting Ezekiel Elliott as the fourth selection in the draft.
  • Mock drafters were awarded 5 points for every pick that had the correct position, but not the correct player. So having quarterback Carson Wentz instead of quarterback Jared Goff as the top selection gets you 5 points for correctly guessing the position that got drafted at that spot.
  • Finally, mock drafters were deducted one point for every player who had in their first round mock that was not selected in the first round. So placing Andrew Billings in their first round mock draft cost them a point.

The mock drafters from 2016 who I looked at were Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN (who did a joint mock draft shortly before the real thing), Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke, and Dane Brugler and Rob Rang who both work for CBS Sports. I also included several popular sports sources which don’t have a notable figure, such as the Sporting News, Walter Football, and Draftsite. I was unable to find the last attempts at mock drafts from the NFL’s Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks, Chad Reuter, and Charley Casserly, so I had to exclude them from the study.

Mock Drafters: 2016 Grades

2016 Mock Drafter Points
2016 Mock Drafter Points
Mike Mayock 126
Walter Football 81 76
Rob Rang 64
Chris Burke 62
Mel Kiper/Todd McShay 60
Sporting News 55
Dan Brugler 52

The clear champion from 2016 was Mike Mayock, who pulled a Usain Bolt on the rest of the mock drafters and totally ran away from the field. He racked up more than 50% more points than his next closest competitor, which, to my surprise, was Walter Football. Mayock was correct on eight of the first 12 picks, which was almost twice as many as Kiper and McShay had in their entire first round mock.

Mayock also correctly hit on 11 of the 31 first round picks, blowing away the next closest competitor, which was with six correct picks. Mayock and Chris Burke led the field with 15 correct predictions that aligned the draft slot with the position. Burke hit the correct position on nine of the first ten picks, but often missed on the actual players selected by only managing two correct picks overall, with Elliott at #4 and Jalen Ramsey at #5.

I was surprised to see long-time draft analyst Mel Kiper and his joint mock with Todd McShay down near the bottom of the list in my rankings, finishing sixth out of eight. Dane Brugler was clearly throwing darts at a board of names, whiffing the most frequently with eight picks who did not get selected in the first round. It was interesting to see websites like Walter Football and Draftsite claim two of the top three spots, ahead of more well established names in the field.

On average, the “experts” correctly forecasted five and a half of the 31 picks (the Patriots didn’t have a pick) in the first round (18%), and were able to correctly determine which position was going to be drafted at which draft slot just over a third of the time (34%). Interestingly, they also incorrectly put a player in the first round who did not get drafted in the first round (17%) almost as frequently as they correctly nailed a pick, with the most notable misses being linebackers Myles Jack and Reggie Ragland, who all eight prognosticators placed in the first round.

Of the eight mocks, only one mock had a single pick correct in the final eight selections (Robert Nkemdiche at #29 guessed by Walter Football) which goes to show how trades and early picks can drastically alter the course of the draft after the first half of round one.

Three names who threw the field for a loop were Artie Burns, Kenny Clark, and Joshua Garnett. Nobody correctly guessed Clark or Garnett as round one selections, and only Mayock had Burns in the first round.

On a side note, none of the eight mock drafters correctly predicted the Bengals’ selection of William Jackson III, or even correctly guessed the position the Bengals would take: cornerback. Six of them gave the Bengals a wide receiver, while the other two gave them a defensive tackle.