The Chargers took Joey Bosa, Laremy Tunsil plummeted to #13 and mock drafts everywhere were dashed against the rocks.
That included the Fourth Annual Buccaneers.com Mock Draft Roundtable, which was a collaborative effort by me, Joe Kania, Andrew Norton and Casey Phillips. We could hardly do worse than we did in 2015, but we didn't exactly channel Nostradamus, either. We console ourselves with the knowledge that none of the other "experts" (the sarcastic quote marks are for us, not them) fared a whole lot better.
Shortly after being selected by the Buccaneers with the No. 11 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Vernon Hargreaves reported to team headquarters in Tampa.
Basically, we got another reminder that mock-draftin' is really hard. One or two unexpected moves early and the domino effect wipes everything out for the rest of the night. Not one of the eight mock drafts on NFL.com, all of which were updated within a week of the real thing, correctly predicted the first non-QB pick, which was Bosa to San Diego. None had Tunsil slipping past #7, which was impossible to predict given the unexpected events of Thursday evening. Some had UCLA linebacker Myles Jack falling due to concerns over his knee, but nobody had him slipping completely out of the first round.
That said, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah did correctly match up seven teams with the correct player, though one of those seven came at a different spot in the order after a trade. His colleague, Mike Mayock, had nine of his picks on the money. By those standards, we needed to do a little better; honestly, our score would have improved by two if we had rewritten the top of the draft at the last minute. Our QB picks of Carson Wentz at #1 and Jared Goff at #2 were made the previous week, and by Monday it was fairly well known that they were expected to come off in the opposite order. We stuck with our original predictions and missed out on the two easiest scores of the draft. Oh, well.
Without those two gimmes, the four of us combined to make three completely correct predictions – that is, the right player to the right team at the right draft slot. Casey, Andrew and I were responsible for one of those each. However, Joe also correctly predicted that the Buccaneers would take Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, just without the trade down from #9 to #11. Since we didn't allow for trades in our mock draft, that qualifies as full credit to me. So should we call it a four-way tie among the Roundtable contributors? Well, let's take a closer look. First, the table below compares the actual draft on the left with our predictions on the right. The last column uses our initials to indicate which of us made each pick. Picks in italics on the left side indicate where the order changed due to trades.
Correct Picks: As you can see, Casey called the Saints' choice of DT Sheldon Rankins at #12, I nailed the Colts' selections of C Ryan Kelly at #18 and the Vikings made Andrew look good by nabbing WR Laquon Treadwell at #23. As mentioned, Joe had the right idea with Hargreaves, who would have still been the Bucs pick if they had stayed put at #9.
Partial Credit: Like I said, Joe and I knew, like everyone else, that Wentz and Goff were going 1-2, we just got the order wrong. If you can indulge me a little excuse-making, I really didn't have a choice in the matter after Joe took Wentz.
Joe did a nice job of predicting an offensive tackle for the Dolphins, which wasn't a widely-held belief among the assorted mocks. Of course, he could have never guessed Tunsil would be there at #13, so he matched Miami up with Jack Conklin instead. Andrew followed suit at #15 by giving the Titans offensive tackle Taylor Decker; Tennessee made the bolder move and traded up to #8 to get Ronnie Stanley.
The Bills wanted a pass-rusher as Andrew thought, but he gave them Kevin Dodd (with Shaq Lawson still available) while Buffalo chose to go with Lawson. I mentioned in mock draft write-up that I was certain the Texans would go with a receiver (not exactly a bold prediction) and that I really didn't know which one. I went with Corey Coleman, who proved to be the first receiver off the board, but six picks early to the Browns. My insider intel (read: completely fabricated evidence to make me look good) tells me the Texans would have gone with Coleman over Will Fuller if they had had the chance.
Joe thought the Steelers would want a cornerback and I though the Seahawks would want an offensive linemen. We were both right, but Joe got the wrong player (Eli Apple instead of Artie Burns) and I missed on both the player and the draft slot (Cody Whitehair instead of a trade down leading to Germain Ifedi).
Most Undervalued Players**: Eli Apple, Shaq Lawson and Karl Joseph all fell between picks 25-29 in our mock draft, but all of them were actually off the board by #19, with Apple leaping all the way up to #10. At least those guys were in our first-round mock. The players we clearly didn't see coming were Keanu Neal, Josh Doctson, Artie Burns, Kenny Clark, Joshua Garnett, Robert Nkemdiche and Vernon Butler. Most of those came at the very end of the round, but Neal was our biggest surprise at #17 to the Falcons.
Worst Picks: The Wentz-Goff flip-flop was just stubbornness, and I don't blame Andrew for sending Tunsil to the Chargers at #3. It looks like San Diego was set on Bosa all along, but without the social media shenanigans on Thursday, Tunsil probably wouldn't have fallen nearly as far. I also don't blame Andrew for picking Jack at #7; some of us actually thought he would go earlier.
The first real swing-and-miss was mine, when I gave linebacker Reggie Ragland to the Raiders at #14 and even called it a steal akin to the Ravens getting linebacker C.J. Mosley at #17 two years ago. Ragland didn't have his name called until Friday night, by the Bills at #41.
However, Casey saved me from worst-pick ignominy by projecting defensive tackle Andrew Billings to the Lions two pick later. In a draft that was insanely deep in defensive tackles, Billings lasted all the way to the middle of the fourth round, where he was taken by Cincinnati at #122 overall.
Kevin Dodd, Jarran Reed and Cody Whitehair also fell out of the first round, but not far, and that's not too bad overall.
Best Pick: We each got one right, and generally it's fair to consider the later predictions the better ones, as mock draft variables increase exponentially as you go along. Mike Mayock might have gotten eight picks right, but five of those were in the top seven and none came after #18.
By that logic, our winner would be Andrew, who shepherded wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to the Vikings at #23. But, come on. I mean, come on, everyone was making that prediction. Six of the aforementioned eight experts on NFL.com had Treadwell going to Minnesota, and the other two simply gave them different receivers. There was nothing wrong with Andrew falling the accepted logic for the Vikings, but there was nothing particularly impressive about it either.
Similarly, Sheldon Rankins to the Saints at #12 was a commonly-held – and ultimately correct – prediction, one shared by five of those eight NFL.com fellows. Give Casey credit for not being seduced by the idea of an edge-rusher like Lawson or an eventual Drew Brees replacement like Paxton Lynch, but Rankins wasn't much of a reach.
Therefore, though it pains me greatly to say this, I would consider my own prediction of Ryan Kelly to the Colts at #18 was our finest moment in this year's mock draft. Truly a masterpiece of a pick that gives us all hope for next year's mock draft. I know this is an individual award, but I couldn't have done it without you guys. Andrew, Joe, Casey…this is really a team award. But I'll keep the trophy.
That the Colts would target an offensive lineman was not exactly an original thought, but most experts had them landing a tackle, like Taylor Decker. When an early run on tackles had four of them off the board by #16 in our mock, I decided that Indy would take a higher-rated interior blocker rather than reach down to the next level of tackles like Ifedi or Jason Spriggs. Nailed it. Among those eight NFL.com experts, only Mayock made the same prediction.
Did we have an overall winner? Last year, I gave Andrew that title for generally having the right idea on a number of picks. This year, we improved a little bit, collectively, but still didn't do as well as I had hoped, and I don't think there was a single standout among us. We'll use this as fuel and try to do better next year!