For many NFL fans, mock drafts are an obsession. Oftentimes an exercise in futile prediction and pure fantasy requiring a depth of useless knowledge that would match up toe to toe with nearly any flavor of basement dwelling nerddom. Not only am I one of those obsessives (correctly predicting each of the 1st 7 picks in last years draft was a proud moment for me), this year I'm intrigued by examining mocks on a meta- level. How does public opinion change over the months between a teams' season ending and that team going on the clock? Do the experts do any better than a dedicated fan? Will months of berating people for making picks I disagree with have an impact on their choices?
To answer these questions I'm tracking the Indianapolis pick over the next 4 months in a sample of 10 mocks from popular draft sites, the 20 most recent mocks from the WalterFootball database (excluding any that are part of one of the other groups), the mocks posted in the fanposts at Mocking the Draft during the last week as well as my pick that week (if I haven't written a mock or participated in a group mock that week I'll run a Draft-Tek sim with lots of tweaks).
That gives a group of "experts" and two groups of fan mocks. One in which I have no contact with the authors and one in which I yell at people who make stupid picks and offer other commentary sometimes as well.
Week 1's results (taken 1/7):
Positions: 28 OTs, 12 DTs (7 1-techs, 5 3-techs), 1 RB, 1 C/G, 1 WR
Nate Solder, OT Colorado (9 picks)
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College (8)
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St. (7),
Stephen Paea, 1-tech DT, Oregon St. (7)
Odd Ducks (picked once each):
Mikel LeShoure, RB, Illinois
Stephan Wisniewski, C/G, Penn St.
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Experts vs Fans:
Little difference in the balance of OTs vs DTs vs anything else or in the favorites at LT. The Experts did reverse the trend in 3-tech DTs vs 1-techs taking 2 smaller penetrators to 1 big stuffer, while the fans took 3 3-techs vs 6 picks of Stephen Paea.
The MtD mocks mirrored the other groups by position, but agreed with the experts on 3-techs vs 1-techs taking 2 smaller DTs to one Stephen Paea (for which the mockers were criticized).
Discussion: The focus is definitely on the lines in the common consensus with particular attention on the left tackle position. This matches a common line of thought last year, and is again paired with the annual expectation that Indy will take a DT in the 1st round. Interior line was surprisingly rare given the clear need at the position, but the significant interchangeability of tackles and guards as well as the premium placed on the tackle position could account for it. Skill positions and back 7 players were almost totally absent, which could be recognition that the Colts issues in those areas were due to injuries rather than insufficient talent.
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St.
Participating in a 5-round cooperative mock representing all 4 of the AFC South teams I netted Indy Sherrod, as well as Nate Solder (OT, Colorado), Quinton Carter, (S, Oklahoma), Jarvis Jenkins (DT, Clemson) and Shareece Wright (CB, USC). Sherrod has the athleticism to pass protect at LT and stood out in a run heavy offense. On the flip side he isn't a big mauler and didn't have to pass protect nearly as often in college as he would in Indy. He's oftentimes ranked as the top LT in the class and generally considered pro-ready at RT or guard and possibly ready at LT.
Solder was a value pick after spending a 1st rounder on a OT, while an excellent pass protector he's more of a project than Sherrod and his lanky frame (6'8" 315) makes for trouble run blocking and lowers the chances he'll ease into the league at guard or RT. Still 50 picks into the draft he can't be passed up by a team in need of line help. Carter excels in zone coverage and run support, a high character guy who will graduate this year with a degree in sociology and non-profit organization studies, but has already started his own non-profit helping kids in his hometown of Las Vegas. Jarvis Jenkins is a big tackle who plays the run well, but is athletic enough to get into the backfield. Shareece Wright is an experienced corner from a compatible scheme who is consistently graded as a midround pick.
A few expert mocks went beyond the 1st round. After slotting Derek Sherrod to Indy in the first Walter Football rounded out the Colts top 4 picks with 3-tech DT, Jurrell Casey from USC, Troy WR Jerrel Jernigan and Lehigh O-lineman Will Rackley.
Draft-Tek's mock loaded up the OL, following a 1st round pick of Nate Solder with New Mexico CB, Davon House, Villanova G Ben Ijalana and USC Center Kris O'Dowd.