‘Return of the mock': December 14th 2010

March 14th, 2011 | Written by Rob Staton

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.

9 Responses to “‘Return of the mock': December 14th 2010”

  1. So one of the most independent-minded mockers I know…was actually holding back all this time? Wow! :)

  2. Glen Peer says:

    Best draft site out there. The YouTube video on this post just adds to the awesomeness…Thanks again for letting me share my thoughts, and being so honest with us…even if it means going against conventional wisdom. Keep up the good work!

    • Rob says:

      Thanks Glen and please continue to send contributions – you have my email.

      PS I think my long winded posts go better with music… it might be a revolutionary idea.

  3. akki says:

    Heh, I step away from football stuff for 2 months, and come back to see Ponder as a possible 1st rounder again? Who’d a thunk it? Interesting that GMJr likes him. From what I’ve seen of Russ Lande, I don’t like most of his draft projections on the Sporting News guides, but the one place that I trust his opinion might be on QBs.

    Regarding Ponder, I feel like he’s really an unknown to most observers. He played injured all year, displaying lousy arm strength as a result. And we know from watching Hasselbeck that playing with limitations can lead to snowballing difficulties. You have to mentally reassess what you’re physically capable of doing, your receivers are covered more tightly and defenses will stack the box to pressure you because you pose no deep threat with your arm, and throwing windows are smaller/shorter as defensive backs will jump your routes. What might not normally be a bad decision suddenly becomes a bad decision.

    Since then, teams have worked out a presumably healthier version of Ponder, and can each try to make projections on how well his arm will be when 100%, and how much risk there is of further injury. If a team checks him out well on both, then maybe he regains that 1st/2nd round grade that he had before the season. As an outside observer who compares Ponder to guys like Hasselbeck and Pennington who are good when healthy, but who are never healthy, it’s hard to swallow projecting him that high. But then you figure the teams have inside information that you don’t as to how badly he was injured and how fully he can recover.

    With Von Miller, I don’t see him as top 10 material either, but teams will overdraft a speedy pass rusher at times. If Gholston and Gaines Adams can go so early, Miller has a chance too. Not saying it’s a great idea, but everyone wants to discover the next Freeney and sometimes it can lead to a reach.

    • Rob says:

      If I was a GM, throwing in shorts and a cameo at the Senior Bowl wouldn’t be enough. He played eleven games last year when supposedly ‘unhealthy’. I’d want to see a full season of games, with much better production before committing to Ponder. That’s obviously impossible, so my projection would be – late rounder. People love to talk about the risk factor with Newton, Gabbert or Mallett – yet give me unrefined physical talent over ‘may be healthy enough to throw a better WR screen’ any day.

      • akki says:

        Yes, I would agree with your reasoning in your late round projection given what data we have to work with. I think some of these GMs might be making a stretch of a projection based on the throwing in shorts, but then again, they have to do a measure that with pretty much everyone.

        I could also see an argument that there’s an equivalence between
        -Ponder looks like he throws harder in workouts
        -Locker shows more consistent accuracy in workouts
        -Newton demonstrates more advanced decision-making in workouts
        Any of these could regress when you stick them in a game situation.

  4. ChavaC says:

    It’s amazing how Gabbert sorta came out of nowhere in most mocks and now people are calling him a potential first overall. I still don’t understand how a spread Qb has a down season and somehow manages to rise that far.

  5. allen says:

    I don’t think Von Miller is a top ten pick at all. in fact, I think he’s one of the most overrated players in this draft. This is a big mans league and Von is not that. He is going to get swallowed up by the massive OT’s in this league. I have him rated as a 3rd rounder and rated just ahead of Chris Carter from Fresno. Just my thoughts.