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Point-Counterpoint: Mock Draft Review

Posted May 13, 2014

Buccaneers.com contributors Scott Smith and Andrew Norton tried their hand at the venerable art of mock drafting this year and fared…well, not too bad, at least in comparison to the "experts"

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A strong run in the top 10 and a fortunate pick later in the round helped the Bucs' mock drafters fare well against the experts
  • Khalil Mack to Oakland and Darqueze Dennard to Cincinnati were two of the analysts more astute picks
  • Among the most egregious mistakes were a pair of overvalued DTs: Timmy Jernigan and Louis Nix
The Jacksonville Jaguars did a wonderful job of hiding what was apparently a six-month love affair with Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles, which gave us our first real surprise in last weekend's NFL Draft.  Jacksonville picked Bortles third overall, confounding the pundits who had alternately matched the Jags with Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins or maybe even a different quarterback with a Heisman and a great nickname.

That early detour was the kind of thing that can send a mock draft off its rails in a hurry, and for some pundits it surely did.  There's no shame in that.  Who really expects a mock draft to be, you know, right?  Last year, I even got into the act with my former Captain's Blog collaborator, Andrew Norton, as we alternated picks on our own first-round prediction.  It was an effort that truly proved worthy of mocking, as we got the first pick right (Eric Fisher)…and that was it.  Even by the low expectations of draft predictions, that was pretty sad.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Radio City Music Hall this year, as Norton and I masochistically agreed to try the whole mock drafting thing again and things went surprisingly well.  Now, I'm not going to tell you that we predicted the Bortles pick or saw Johnny Football falling to #22.  I'm not even going to tell you that we got a third of the picks right.  But I am going to tell you that, in comparison to some of the most recognized draft "experts," Norton and I fared pretty well.

Isn't that right, Andrew?  My understanding is that you've whipped up a chart or two that shows our results stacking up pretty well with the Kipers and Mayocks of the world.  Why don't you explain your methodology and your findings, and then we'll engage in a little self-congratulatory Point/Counterpoint about what went well and not so well in our second attempt to mock up the draft.  Take it away.

Andrew Norton: Thank you, Scott. I was quite happy to be invited back for my second mock draft, and I’m even happier to report that I went from zero correct predictions in 2013 to four correct last weekend. Now, I’m no math whiz, but by my calculations that is an increase of infinity percent. I’d like to see our “experts” do that.

As someone who likes to dabble with statistics and predictions, I certainly love the NFL Draft. Predicting where people will go and what they will do when they get there. Comparing college stats of incoming rookies to already-successful NFL stars. And, of course, another bonus about the Draft when you’re a stats-loving writer – it is really, really, really long. So of course, between Buccaneers selections, I took a bit of time to track not only our predictions, but to compare our efforts to those of the most revered Draft experts: ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay and NFL.com’s Mike Mayock.

Now, let’s get to the nerdy stuff.

(From left) Khalil Mack, Jake Matthews and Darqueze Dennard all found the NFL homes predicted by Buccaneers.com analysts

The process for determining our accuracy was fairly straightforward. List the 32 predictions in order from our mock draft, and then from Kiper’s, McShay’s and Mayock’s. Then, as the actual draft picks start rolling in, note their actual draft position as compared to their predicted position and find the difference.

This went on until the middle of the third round when the final player who showed up in any of the first-round mocks was chosen. You'll notice we're giving ourselves "Good Job" stickers for picks that went in the right spot, even if it was by a different team after a trade.  That seemed fair to us since we chose not to predict trades, and because we applied the same criteria to all the other mock drafters.  Just to clarify, I'll note how many of those correct picks were also by the predicted team.  In the end, the key stats taken from this were:
  • Correct Picks (by Predicted Team) – How many players actually were selected in the spot they were predicted (and by the predicted team)
  • Unpredicted Players – How many players were taken in the first round that were not predicted to do so. Basically the exact opposite of correct picks, it’s how many you got really wrong.
  • Total Difference – How many spots the prediction was off by. For example, Mel Kiper predicted that Aaron Donald would be selected eighth overall, Donald was chosen at #13, therefore the difference for that particular player was five.
  • Plus/Minus Difference – Nearly the same as Total Difference, but this took into account whether the player was undervalued or overvalued. For instance, I predicted Eric Ebron would go 21st overall, he was taken 10th, making the difference +11. I predicted Kelvin Benjamin would go at #19, he went at #28, making the difference -9.
  • Deviance per Pick – To simplify the numbers and show just how accurate the predictor was, we take the average of how many spots they were off. Total difference / 32 selections.

While the pessimist in me was not excited to see the outcome of how we stacked up with the on-air personalities, the reality of it was pretty remarkable. We might just kind of know what we’re talking about, Scott! You may have a future in this industry after all.

Andrew/Scott Mock Draft
Correct Picks: 8 (6)
Unpredicted Players: 7
Total Difference: 257 (more notes on this later)
+/- Difference: -141
Deviance per Pick: 8.03

Mel Kiper Mock Draft
Correct Picks: 6 (5)
Unpredicted Players: 6
Total Difference: 247
+/- Difference: -131
Deviance per Pick: 7.72

Todd McShay Mock Draft
Correct Picks: 6 (4)
Unpredicted Players: 7
Total Difference: 260
+/- Difference: -154
Deviance per Pick: 8.125

Mike Mayock Mock Draft
Correct Picks: 5 (4)
Unpredicted Players: 6
Total Difference: 214
+/- Difference: -120
Deviance per Pick: 6.69

I’ll say that’s pretty dang good! Our differences and deviances were better than those of Todd McShay and not far behind Kiper or Mayock! And if it weren’t for one incredibly incorrect selection by yours truly, our stats would have come out even better and topped every one of these “experts.” Yeah. I said it.

Before I hand it back for your thoughts, I must point out what I think is a pretty remarkable achievement. We correctly predicted eight of the 32 selections – two more than Kiper and McShay and three more than Mayock! More impressive still is that we chose seven of the first nine picks correct, two more than McShay and three more than Kiper or Mayock. Basically, what I’m saying is we may want to think about setting up a booth at the Florida State Fair next year. Getting 25% correct in an NFL first round – that’s called seeing the future, my friend. We’re missing out on a big opportunity.

Scott Smith: For those out there who don't feel like clicking on the link to our mock draft and then comparing it with the real results, I'll fill you in on the specifics of what Andrew detailed above.  With us alternating picks, Andrew on the odds and me on the evens, we correctly predicted Jadeveon Clowney to the Texans at #1; Greg Robinson to the Rams at #2 (yeah, those two were easy); Sammy Watkins at pick #4 (though not to Buffalo); Khalil Mack to Oakland at #5; Jake Matthews to Atlanta at #6; Mike Evans to the Bucs at #7 and Anthony Barr at pick #9 (though not to the Vikings).  After a bit of a drought, I then hit again on Darqueze Dennard to the Bengals at pick #24.

Like I said above, nobody saw the Bortles pick coming (which made it a really fun moment, actually, so thanks, Jags), but other than that we really had a good feel for how the top 10 was going to fall out.  I'm not going to pat ourselves on the back too hard for getting the Clowney-Robinson start correct, as that was essentially chalk, and all three of the other mock drafters were on top of that as well.  I do give us kudos for the #4 and #5 picks, though.  We were certain that Watkins wouldn't fall out of the top four, no matter what else happened, and your choice of Mack for the Raiders was something that Kiper, Mayock and McShay missed.  It's worth noting that Mack lasted to #5 precisely because the Jaguars took a quarterback, and we actually predicted that, too; you just happened to give them Manziel instead.  In our write-up, I then said that I thought the Browns wanted Manziel but had to "settle" for Watkins.  Lo and behold, the Browns wound up with Manziel at #22.

To start the Point/Counterpoint part of this thing, let's make our moms proud of us (I think you already did!) by saying something nice about each other.  I'll grit my teeth and point out a couple of your finer moments in our mock draft and, if you can stomach, you'll do the same.  Don't worry, we'll get to the name-calling in a minute.

So, young man, nice job on correctly identifying the most pressing needs for some of the team's later in the draft.  In all four of the mock drafts we're looking at combined only one correct pick was made from #20 on.  With the variables increasing exponentially pick by pick, it's a losing battle trying to get any later-in-the-round picks exactly right, other than by sheer luck.  Still, you correctly guessed that the Chargers would want a cornerback at #25 and the Patriots would want a defensive tackle at 29.  And while Mike Evans-to-the-Buccaneers wasn't exactly Nostradamus-level sorcery, but you did resist the urge to go with a quarterback or assume Lovie Smith would insist on defensive help.

Okay, your turn.  Say something nice about me!

Andrew Norton: You’re coming off a little needy, but in the spirit of Mother’s Day (or Week, I guess), I can come up with one or two good things here.

The one that does stand out quite a bit would be you calling Darqueze Dennard 24th overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. In fact, out of all four mock drafts that we’re looking at, that selection was the latest correct pick out of everyone.

Beyond that, its actually pretty impressive that you managed to say a handful of smart things in our article too. After getting your first three picks correct at #2, #4 and #6, you were in the ballpark for your next two picks as well.

You predicted that Bortles would be drafted at #8 by the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, since he was taken at #3, we’ll never know how that would work, but with Bortles off the board, the Vikings elected to move down a spot (taking Barr) and ultimately leveraging some of that trade to get back into the first round at #32 where they took… a quarterback. So, partial credit. I’ll count it.

Then, at #10 you said Gilbert would be the Lions selection. In the real world, he was already taken, and the Lions ended up going with TE Eric Ebron who you actually mentioned in your write-up. “Like you, I'm tempted by Eric Ebron, the one tight end likely to go high.” I mean, you said his name. You said it was too high for a tight end, but you did physically key in his name, so that can count too.

I already know what you’re going to say next, but this mushy stuff is killing me. Let’s get to the roasting.

Scott Smith: Oh, wow, don't go overboard.  I'm blushing over here.

Yeah, somehow that didn't read as completely sincere, but I think sometimes I don't interpret your writing exactly as you intend it.  For instance, in our mock draft I thought you stated that Notre Dame DT Louis Nix would be the 29th overall pick but you probably actually named any of the 82 players that were drafted before Nix.  Yeah, I'm sure that was on my end.

Oh, yeah, the gloves are off.  Nix mercifully did not attend the draft in New York, but you're going to take his figurative spot in the Green Room while I have a little fun at your expense.

If I simply listed the names of the players that were chosen before Nix, that would be 170 words (I got a few extra from the likes of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Austin Seferian-Jenkins).  So let's see if I can properly roast you in 170 words.  Here goes: You gave the Titans a defensive tackle, even though that's a team strength; you gave the Chiefs a second-round receiver instead of hitting any one of a half-dozen bigger needs; you fell hard for the Manziel hype; you ignored the giant screaming writing on the wall in Miami and went receiver instead of, you know, offensive line, where there are approximately six open jobs; you acknowledged that the Saints needed a receiver and then went…linebacker?; you know what, I can't keep this up.  I'm picking at nits at this point and I'm not even close to 170 words.  I'll just close by saying, 'Louis Nix?  Really?'

I'm looking at those stats up there and it seems to me we might have looked even better in comparison to Draftnik MayKipeShay if you hadn't shot that 11-foot air-ball.

Andrew Norton: It’s going to be a bit tough to defend myself on that one, so, that’s fair. Yes, I was off by quite a large margin, but I got the position right? Does that count? No, not even a little? Oh well.

But, I’m going to tweak the stats a little bit and go to one of my favorite/most confusing math words for a moment – Outlier. What if we treat the Louis Nix pick as an (egregious) outlier, replace his 54-pick deviance with the average 8-pick deviance?

Well then, my friend, we would have a total difference of just 211, making our deviance per pick a measly 6.59! Better than Mel Kiper, Todd McShay AND Mike Mayock. Even more impressive when you consider that we got more correct picks than any of them as well. I’d say that’s pretty good.

But the past is the past. It was a pretty big miss on my part. And I feel that the only way for me to make it right for myself is to point out all the miscues on your end.

1) You might have been just a smidge high on Timmy Jernigan. In fact, you were exactly one round too high on him. Now, Kiper, McShay and myself were also off by more than a round on a player (Kiper on two players), but yours happened at the 16th overall pick! Confidence for landing in the ballpark at spot 16 should be pretty high. Heck, I was off by just two on pick 15, and only by one on pick 17.

To add a bit of insult to injury there, I feel that I also need to point out that you had Timmy Jernigan, listed as a nose tackle going to the Dallas Cowboys. In all fairness, the Cowboys did see that as need in the draft… filling it all the way down at pick 251. Missed it by that much.

2) Not the worst of errors, but you did have OT Taylor Lewan getting drafted at #12 by the New York Giants. You were only off by one spot, but it seems that the Giants weren’t as keen on the position as you were. They did end up taking an offensive lineman in the second round, but decided they were all set at the tackle position and drafted absolutely none of them.

3) The Cardinals didn’t see what you saw in Teddy Bridgewater. In fact, this might be my favorite one because not only did they pass on drafting him at their original position at #20, they traded down to #27 and still decided not to take him! I think that counts as being wrong twice. The Cards did go after a QB eventually though. In the mid-fourth.

I guess that is all for me. All kidding aside, I think we did a solid job this year. Looking forward to another season of football and sitting down with you next April to do this again. I’ll do my best not include any third-rounders next time.
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