Three months ago I published a mock on December 14th. At the time I said I’d review the state of it in March and reflect on how things had changed.
Here are the top 15 picks I projected on 12/14 (I’ve not included the teams because draft order has changed dramatically since):
1 Andrew Luck
2 Cam Newton
3 Da’Quan Bowers
4 Patrick Peterson
5 AJ Green
6 Robert Quinn
7 Marcell Dareus
8 Jimmy Smith
9 Cameron Jordan
10 Nick Fairley
11 Prince Amukamara
12 Tyron Smith
13 Julio Jones
14 Janoris Jenkins
15 Jake Locker
The most notable ‘error’ was projecting Andrew Luck would declare and therefore be the first overall pick. It’s interesting to note that the other high profile juniors projected in the top-15 all declared except for #14 Janoris Jenkins (CB, Florida).
Projecting Jimmy Smith as a top-10 pick was something I stood by throughout the new year despite a distinct lack of attention elsewhere. Some would call it a mistake in hindsight, considering he still isn’t universally expected to go that high. I wouldn’t rule it out, despite everything that’s been said about his off-the-field character. Only today Michael Lombardi quoted a NFL GM who believed Smith may be better than consensus #1 cornerback Patrick Peterson. I’ve made this point many times, against popular opinion, that there’s very little between the two corner prospects in terms of on-field potential. The sky really is the limit for Smith.
“I’ve talked to a lot of teams. He clearly has elite talent. I think he might be the No. 2 CB in this draft.” – Lombardi on Jimmy Smith
Mike Mayock’s also been arguing his cause against the character concerns: “He’s had a lot of people around him go to jail. I want to stress that this kid’s never been arrested.” Will moving away from home and taking to a professional setup get the best out of Jimmy Smith? Time will tell, but I’m still convinced one team is going to roll that dice.
I had Cam Newton posted at #2 and simply moved him up one spot when Luck decided to stay at Stanford. Many people now expect Newton to go first overall.
There’s an obvious error of judgement – no Von Miller. I always liked Miller as a player, but never felt compelled enough to give him a grade in the top-15. It has to be said, he was not trending in that area until the positive media reaction during the Senior Bowl. A lot of mocks are based on ‘trends’ and certainly it’s something I’ve since had to rectify as a mistake. Maybe come April I’ll wish I stuck to the initial grading of a mid-to-late first rounder? Or maybe Miller’s absence from that list above will seriously damage the legitimacy of such an early projection? Personally I wouldn’t spend a top-10 pick on him, but the national opinion claims it’s a certainty someone will.
This isn’t just an exercise for me to say ‘I told you so’ (I’m aware it reads that way so far). More errors creep in as I run through the rest of the top-32.
16 Allen Bailey
17 Mike Pouncey
18 Stephen Paea
19 Mark Ingram
20 Anthony Castonzo
21 Akeem Ayers
22 Brandon Harris
23 Gabe Carimi
24 JJ Watt
25 Adrian Clayborn
26 Ryan Kerrigan
27 Derek Sherrod
28 Brandon Burton
29 Justin Houston
30 Drake Nevis
31 Von Miller
32 Nate Solder
I mocked Allen Bailey as the 16th overall pick (a popular trend at the time) despite writing in my blurb: “I’m not convinced by Bailey. He looks the part of a NFL pass rusher, but he doesn’t always bring it. Teams will have to weigh up potential vs production.” I probably should’ve shown more faith in that conviction and given Bailey the middle round grade he’s probably received from most NFL teams.
Another mistake? Brandon Burton (CB, Utah) was a player I projected to bolt into the first round talk, which has never really happened. I still like Burton, but he’s certainly never trended as high as that and he didn’t pull up any trees at the combine.
The Von Miller pick at #31 sticks out like a sore thumb.
I wish I’d had more confidence to project Jabal Sheard in that range during the season. He stood out on film and it wasn’t until early February that I placed him at #25 for Seattle. I’ve since touted the possibility that Brooks Reed could be another LEO option in round one. Neither of these suggestions were greeted in the most positive light at the time but over the last fortnight both prospects have gained a lot of first round momentum.
JJ Watt’s potential was probably under estimated in December and there’s no Ryan Mallett – I think he’s done enough during the off-season to since solidify a home in round one.
Projections made in December should never be taken seriously. I wouldn’t even recommend taking present-day mocks that seriously (especially my own). It’s still reassuring to a certain degree to note the top-32 picks weren’t a million miles away from what we expect to see now in March.
I also wanted to draw attention to an interesting projection I read earlier today courtesy of GMjr.com. Mocks that present possibilities and create talking points are often more interesting than those that pertain to predict the exact outcome. A lot of projections are based on trends – as mentioned previously – and (again) how many people had Von Miller in the top ten before the media told us it was a possibility during the senior bowl?
Although there’s always a danger of trying to be too different, the draft never follows a predictable path. GMjr’s mock sees things different to most. Marcell Dareus #1 overall? It certainly fills a need in Carolina, but are they not focused in on a quarterback by now? Anthony Castonzo in the top ten – to Dallas no less? Regulars to this blog will note my preference for placing Jake Locker with Washington at #10, but perhaps more interesting than anything else is the placing of AJ Green and Julio Jones.
Green drops all the way to #14 to St. Louis. As a result, Julio Jones falls all the way to…. #25 – Seattle.
Is it realistic? Maybe. Jones’ stock is rock solid at the moment after a stunning combine, but receivers can fall – especially if Green does suffer an unlikely drop out of the top-ten.
It might be worth tempering any hopes or expectations that Julio could suffer such a fall – GMjr also has Christian Ponder in round one, a big non starter for me. I guess we’ll see. Ponder’s sudden rise still troubles me slightly. This is what Mike Mayock had to say on Path to the Draft this evening:
“I saw him throw at last year’s Manning Passing Camp and I was not impressed whatsoever.”
Yet Mayock acknowledges he’s since improved his stock, potentially as high as a late first round pick. That cannot be based on Ponder’s performance during 2010 which was generally poor. He only passed for 200+ yard three times and had two noticeably poor games against Boston College and Oklahoma. Can a prospect really improve his stock that much at the Senior Bowl and throwing in shorts at the combine? Especially one that’s reportedly had three arm surgeries in the last 16 months?
Like I said, I guess we’ll see.