The offseason seems like the perfect time to look back at the 2018 NFL Draft and the craziness that ensued just ahead of it as expert analysts attempted to determine which of the 32 teams in the NFL would draft what prospect. I am a self-proclaimed detractor from mock drafts. Predicting who a team needs, positionally, in the Draft is one thing, but figuring out whether there will be a crazy pick or flurry of trades and movement is fun but difficult to prognosticate. At best, most years a few experts may get it right on a player here and there, but in 2018 there weren't many who were successful at getting even 50 percent of the picks that took place to match their mock draft sheets. Here is the analysis of just how close top 'experts' and the SCU team were, mainly in the first round, in 2018.
The crazy first round
The Cleveland Browns, a team that has provoked the ire of many an NFL fan, once again had the first overall pick in 2018 and took little time busting most of the mock drafts out there when they veered away from Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen (who was reportedly highly favored) and USC quarterback Sam Darnold to select Baker Mayfield. Just three experts out of an overwhelming 97 - as collected by SB Nation - switched their pick to Mayfield just ahead of the first round: Mel Kiper (ESPN), Les Bowen (Philly.com) and Darryl Slater (NJ Advance Media).
Darnold was the consensus first overall pick chosen by a majority of draft experts with Allen receiving the second-highest number of votes on those same mock charts. Once the Browns went with Darnold, the entire first round fell apart. In fact, 2018 proved to be one of the most inaccurately predicted first rounds in the last decade.
Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson, Leighton Vander Esch, Roquan Smith and the quarterbacks (Darnold, Allen, Mayfield, Lamar Jackson) were high on nearly every mock's first round chart. Two players that seemed like they materialized out of the ether, throwing experts into a tailspin, were running back Rashaad Penny (Seattle Seahawks) and defensive back Terrell Edmunds (Pittsburgh Steelers).
With Sony Michel and Derrius Guice available at running back, Seattle fans were groaning over Penny being selected. Just one pick later, with Justin Reid and Jessie Bates still on the board at safety, Steelers fans were crying "reach" over the selection of Edmunds.
Not one of us at Steel City Underground who participated in putting out mock drafts or discussing them in a pre-Draft podcast were anywhere near Edmunds in the first round. In the SCU Roundtable mock draft, this is how those who participated voted:
|Zac Celedonia||Rashaan Evans||ILB||Alabama|
|Chase Hammes||Justin Reid||S||Stanford|
|Eric Herrmann||Rashaan Evans||ILB||Alabama|
|Joe Kuzma||Leighton Vander Esch||ILB||Boise St|
|Ryan Lippert||Rashaan Evans||ILB||Alabama|
|Zach Metkler||Justin Reid||S||Stanford|
|Brian Roach||Rashaan Evans||ILB||Alabama|
I didn't participate in the roundtable, but even I thought the Steelers were targeting Reid at pick no. 30 overall. The Steelers did go after a safety, but Edmunds wasn't on the radar... not even close.
A look at the experts fans were talking about the most
I chose five of the top experts NFL fans were talking about as being their most-trusted source for 2018 mock drafts. Just looking at the first round alone, it was shocking just how many in that group of five were off in many cases. I chose to use what the following experts announced as their official mock (even though some made final second changes from their original "official" listing).
|Expert||1st Round Prediction - Pick No. 1|
|Mel Kiper, Jr. (ESPN)||Baker Mayfield|
|Jason La Canfora (CBS Sports)||Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold|
|Walter Cherepinsky (Walter Football)||Josh Allen|
|Mike Mayock (NFL.com)||Sam Darnold|
|Pete Prisco (CBS Sports)||Josh Allen|
The fact that any of these guys changed their mock drafts in the final minutes seems to scream that they aren't any more accurate than anyone else that may have an inside track or source to NFL teams themselves.
On the mark
Who had the most accurate first round results? It was Scott Smith of RotoViz. According to Fantasy Pros and several other sports news outlets, Smith was able to predict correctly the first three selections: Mayfield, Barkley and Darnold. He was correct that Derwin James would go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was very, very close to five-of-six predictions in the top 10 (within one spot of their actual selection). Here are the results of his first round mock:
|2||Giants||Saquon Barkley||Penn State||RB|
|4||Browns||Bradley Chubb||NC State||DE|
|5||Broncos||Quenton Nelson||Notre Dame||OG|
|7||Buccaneers||Derwin James||Florida State||S|
|8||Bears||Denzel Ward||Ohio State||CB|
|10||Raiders||Mike McGlinchey||Notre Dame||OT|
|11||Dolphins||Tremaine Edmunds||Virginia Tech||OLB|
|19||Cowboys||Leighton Vander Esch||Boise State||ILB|
|20||Lions||Harold Landry||Boston College||LB|
|29||Jaguars||Hayden Hurst||South Carolina||TE|
Wrapping it up
Mock drafts are like taking a swing at a football-shaped pinata while blindfolded. Sometimes you swing wide and other times you get a feeling, or tip from someone close to one of the NFL teams, that help you zero in on the right spot to get a good hit.
That won't keep those who cover the NFL, or the fans, from getting invested in the hype that is the NFL Draft. Mock drafts should probably be considered entertainment rather than an accurate indicator of what any given team will do round by round. The fact that there is so much excitement that surrounds the Draft seems to indicate that fans miss football season enough that they can't wait to see who their favorite team will target in the hopes that they'll find the next superstar. And, while I don't buy into the process as much as some do, it's still fun to see what's trending and who the teams finally select - bust or future NFL star.