Making a Mockery of Things

By Max Partlo

Mathematically speaking, every team in the NFL has a 1 in 32 chance of winning the super bowl next season, and with free agency and the draft coming up on the horizon, hope springs eternal in every city.[1] One of the main results of this optimism, is the endless clicks and page views that will accumulate on various mock drafts as fans of destitute teams search for their savior and fans of contenders search for the missing piece. As a result of this, everyone and their mother will put a mock draft out between now and draft day. One thing to consider, though, is which mock drafts are the most accurate? Due to the volatility of trades and needs on draft days, it is hard for a mock draft writer to predict exactly where a player will go, but accurately projecting a player’s draft position is helpful in determining what a player’s stock is.

We can use a pretty simple formula to determine how accurate five of the most prominent draft writers are in assessing the stock of the players they slot into each position. We take an initial value for each of the 32 picks as found on the draft pick trade value chart, which can be found here. Then, we look at the player the expert projected to go in a draft slot, and see how many spots away they actually ended up being selected. Resultantly, if a pick is perfectly accurate, the expert is credited with the full value. If there is a difference, we subtract 10% of the pick’s value for each pick off that the player actually ended up being picked. As such, if a projected player is picked at least 9 spots earlier or later than the projection, the expert receives positive credit, and negative if he is further off than that.

For the 5 experts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay from ESPN, Mike Mayock from the NFL network, Matt Miller from Bleacher Report, and Walter Cherepinsky from Walter Football, their accuracy results are as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.35.05 AM

Keep in mind that the scores and the percentage of available points are not necessarily intended to be used cardinally, as there are few baselines for us to compare these success rates to. However, there is value to looking at the data as ordinal, as it is quite clear that Mayock is significantly the most accurate of the group, while Miller is far and away the worst of the group. By either metric, the percentage of available points or the average picks off (which is in the score row under the OFF columns), we can tell that Mayock is likely the best resource to look at when we want to evaluate a player’s draft stock. Most of the experts nail the first few picks and struggle towards the end of the round, but Mayock does a remarkable job of avoiding negative points, while Miller goes through a disastrous stretch from picks 17 to 22 where he misses by more than 10 points each time, including two initial picks that are off by more than a whole round. That stretch involved Morgan Moses, Kony Ealy, and Cyrus Kouandjio, all three of whom hurt the scores of other experts as well, but not with the same consistency as Miller’s misses. McShay and Kiper’s friendly network rivalry comes in at what is essentially a tie, with Kiper losing his lead at the end with his projection of Moses in slot 32.[2] WalterFootball, a site devoted primarily to draft coverage, holds up reasonably well with the major network guys, and likely has some predictive value as well. It is important to remember that these mocks are almost entirely produced for our entertainment as fans, but we can still look to them for accuracy, and Mayock leads the field in that regard.


[1] Well, maybe not Cleveland.

[2] Moses, surprisingly, dropped all the way down to the second pick of the third round.

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