It's time once again to face the music.
Here at Buccaneers.com we conducted six versions of a mock draft leading up to the real 2020 NFL Draft, with Staff Writer Carmen Vitali and I alternating picks each time. Then, on the day the draft finally arrived, Carmen and I each produced our own full first-round mock, picks 1-32. You can find it here if you want to review our efforts, shower us with praise or, you know, mock our mock.
Each year, we consider our final mock draft not just an exercise in prognostication but a test. And there will be grades. Fortunately, mock drafts must be graded on a curve, or even the most prescient analysts would get Ds and Fs year after year. Getting 10 out of 32 picks exactly right is a remarkably good mock draft. This year, noted ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper got six picks exactly right. So did his partner in prognostication, Todd McShay. That's the same score NFL Networks' Daniel Jeremiah logged. I will point out that Peter King got eight picks exactly right, including an impressive five-team run from picks 7-11.
So if I told you that there were 12 picks exactly correct in our final mock draft posting, you'd be impressed, right? Unfortunately, I have to admit that was the combined number of correct picks for Carmen and I. We each got exactly a half-dozen right. If anything, the most impressive thing we did was each nail one pick in the last five spots of the round.
Carmen and I got to our scores of six by different paths, at least after the first two. Here are the details:
Carmen was right about Cincinnati doing the smart thing and picking LSU quarterback Joe Burrow first-overall and Washington doing maybe the smarter thing and following with Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young with the second pick. However, her predicted trade at the next spot backfired, as the Chargers did not trade up to the third spot to leap-frog the Dolphins and grab their quarterback. There were, in fact, no trades until the Buccaneers moved up one spot from 14 to 13 to make sure they got Tristan Wirfs.
View pictures of Chapelle Russell, the 241st overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
It's always a bold move to predict a trade in a mock draft. It's hard enough to put the right player with the right team; adding in a trade definitely increases the level of difficulty. Carmen's next correct pick was the Dolphins staying put and getting Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa at number five. She did have the Giants taking an offensive tackle at number four, but not the right one, as she chose Jedrick Wills and Dave Gettleman settled on Andrew Thomas.
Carmen got back on track with the 11th pick, accurately predicting the Jets would take Louisville's Mekhi Becton, who in her draft was the last of the 'Big Four' offensive tackles off the board. That's because she had predicted a Buccaneers trade from 14 up to 10 to take Thomas, the Georgia tackle. Fortunately, that big of a move didn't become necessary on Thursday. After the Becton bonus, Carmen got the next pick right, too, as Las Vegas did indeed make Henry Ruggs III the first receiver off the board, in violation of most other mock drafts.
Like most mock drafts, things got quiet outside the top dozen picks or so. For instance, Kiper got one pick right after the 11th pick (Patrick Queen to Baltimore at 28); McShay got none. Carmen scored one more big point late in the evening when the Ravens did indeed tab Queen, the LSU linebacker.
I'll get into some near-misses and partially-correct predictions for both of us later, such as Carmen's accurate team-player predictions after he trade, but we only score off the ones we get exactly right. I guess you'd give us both a solid B, grading on that curve. Carmen, is there anything you'd like to add about your mock draft efforts? Favorite predictions? Regrets? Quarrels with GMs who should have followed your advice?
Carmen Vitali: The biggest regret I have is easily my trade up by the Chargers to nab Herbert. If I also wouldn't have gotten too cute, I would have had two extra picks exactly correct and therefore bragging rights for another year over Scott.
MAJOR missed opportunity.
I didn't stop with the cuteness there either, unfortunately. Yes, the Bucs did trade up to take an offensive tackle (which are anomalies separately, forget together), but they didn't make as big of a move as I thought they'd have to. They only traded up one spot. But I guess kudos to me for realizing and accepting the fact that 2020 is the upside down and prior tendencies or logic mean nothing anymore.
The pick I was most heartbroken over was Kansas City's pick of LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire instead of D'Andre Swift like Scott and I both predicted. We did well in knowing what each team needed. Swift I think was more wishful thinking on my part than anything. I wanted CEH for the Bucs. But I'm not mad at all about nabbing Ke'Shawn Vaughn in the third round. I'm thinking that's going to prove to be quite the steal.
I'm taking this as a competition, though. This is a competition, right? I love competitions. And a tie means there is no winner. It also means there is no loser, so I guess I got that going for me. The fact that Scott and I predicted the same number of picks as both the heavyweight draft analysts at ESPN has to say something. To me, it's say "Psst… where's our ESPN money?"
Scott: My mock draft started out with three correct predictions because I did not believe either the Dolphins or Chargers would trade up to get a quarterback, even though I thought Carmen's trade logic made sense. As I wrote at the time, in-these-uncertain-timesTM I expected those types of trades to be less likely. Who knows if that's why the Dolphins and Chargers stayed put but it meant the Lions picked up no extra draft capital before taking Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah. I got that one right but it's not really any more impressive than nailing the Burrow and Young picks.
Like Carmen, I predicted the Giants would take an offensive tackle but guessed the wrong one. I'm not too upset with that miss, though, because if I had gotten it right Tristan Wirfs wouldn't be a Buccaneer right now. After that, I had the Dolphins and Chargers tabbing quarterbacks Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert at five and six, and then my predictions went dark for a couple hours.
After getting five of the first six right, my next and last exactly correct prediction was jumbo offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson to the Tennessee Titans at the 29th pick. Thank you, former Buccaneer personnel man and current Titans GM Jon Robinson! That was a fortuitous 11th-hour decision for me, as neither Carmen nor I had even put Wilson in our first round in any of our previous mock drafts.
Regrets, I have a few. In giving Jerry Jeudy to the Raiders at the 12th pick, I specifically wrote that I thought this pick would be Ruggs if legendary owner Al Davis was still around with his love of pure speed. Well, the Raiders are still the Raiders and Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock went for the fastest guy on the board. Also, I had the Panthers taking Isaiah Simmons with the seventh pick instead of Derrick Brown, which essentially messed up the next two picks, too. If Simmons was gone, would the Cardinals have gone with an offensive tackle here instead? And if Brown was still available would Jacksonville taken him at nine instead of a cornerback? Maybe. That tripped up Carmen's mock, too.
Also, the Patrick Queen (or Kenneth Murray)-to-Baltimore idea was a very popular one, but by the time I got to the 28th pick in my mock they were both gone. I went with a wide receiver for the Ravens instead with both linebackers off the board. And why was Queen off the board? Because I gave him to Philadelphia even though everyone and their sequestered families were predicting the Eagles would take a wide receiver. I got too cute, predicting the Vikings would trade ahead of Philly to take a receiver, causing the Eagles to pivot to defense and target receiver later.
As for our partial credit, I mentioned that Carmen did have the Chargers and Lions taking Herbert and Okudah, respectively, after their predicted trade. She also gave USC tackle Austin Jackson to Miami at pick number 26 when in reality they made that move earlier at pick number 18. Carmen also had the Browns taking a tackle after trading back twice, when they actually stayed put at 10 and took Wills there.
She was also right about the Eagles targeting a receiver and the Chiefs getting a running back to end the night, though not about the specific players chosen. Carmen also had South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw going at the 14th spot, but after a trade up by Las Vegas, not a trade down by San Francisco. In addition, Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk was in the right spot at 25 but he went to the Niners after their other trade, not the Vikings.
I did not have any other right team-wrong spot matches but I had a slightly higher instance of right position-wrong player hits. I gave the Browns Andrew Thomas (Wills was already off my board) at 10, the Raiders a receiver at 12, the Buccaneers a tackle at 14 and the Broncos a receiver at 15. Later, I had the Vikings trade up for Tee Higgins when they actually stayed put at 22 and took a different receiver, Justin Jefferson. I also had the Vikings taking cornerback Kristian Fulton at the 25th spot, but instead they traded down to 31 before taking cornerback Kristian Fulton. And, like Carmen, I thought the Chiefs would end the night with Swift but they took Edwards-Helaire instead.
The player who Carmen and I both missed by the widest margin was Wisconsin LB/EDGE Zack Baun. I had him going 27th to Seattle and Carmen gave him to New England at 23 but he actually lasted until the third round, 74th overall. Carmen had nine players in her mock draft who did not go in the first round, and I had eight. The second-biggest miss for both of us was Houston tackle Josh Jones, who I gave to Miami at the 18th spot and Carmen put with Cleveland (after a trade) at number 19. Jones actually went 72nd overall. He was the highest-placed player in my mock who did not go in the first round. For Carmen, that was safety Xavier McKinney, who she put with Dallas at pick number 17 but who actually went 36th to the Giants.
The players that Carmen and I undervalued the most, at least in relation to what NFL teams actually did, were cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Damon Arnette. Those two players never made it into any of our mock draft versions but they ended up going 16th and 19th overall to the Falcons and Raiders, respectively. To be fair in terms of our predictions, those were probably the two picks most commonly panned by critics after the draft, though of course that doesn't mean the critics will prove to be right.
So there you have it – our final mock draft, mercilessly reviewed. Wait 'til next year!