2015 Mock Draft Collection and Live Grading

by Warren Sharp

One thing to do while you’re not scrolling Twitter like a maniac during the draft is to grade some of the most well known “mock-ers”. Below are final mocks from both NFL Network and ESPN’s most well known draft experts. I’ve also included Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has a top 5, five-year average of accuracy in 1st round mocks, and is the #1 rated when it comes to his “top 100″ board over the last 5 years. The grading scale is at the bottom.

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2015 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE SERIES:

Draft Picks to Watch For Based on Ease of Talent Transition to the NFL

by Warren Sharp

With the NFL Draft starting tonight, I wanted to supplement my article which ran yesterday on the Fox Sports site: Outkick the Coverage which discussed the lack of success that certain colleges seem to supply to the NFL.  I plan to supply specific examples (player by player) of the under or over-production some schools provided to the NFL soon after the draft.

But as far as this weekend is concerned, I wanted to share the specific players who potentially will be named as 1 of the 256 members of the 2015 NFL draft class.  In particular, highlight the 10 teams who seem to have players selected over the last 5 years who don’t live up to their billing.  And then recognize the 10 colleges whose talent is capable of transitioning into the NFL and who start significantly more games than their draft slot would anticipate.

The Underachievers

Note:  All of the grades and positional/overall ranks which I am sharing come via ESPN Scouts Inc.  The methodology for including a player on the list was if they were graded as top 340 overall, or if they were top 20 in their position for this draft class.

The schools who have struggled the most to provide NFL starting caliber talent (adjusting for draft position) include Kansas and Kansas State, Hawaii, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Northern Illinois, Wyoming, Southern Utah, Troy and Arkansas.  I’ll add a quick aside that I anticipate Arkansas to rise out of this category in the immediate future, as Brett Bielema helped to lead Wisconsin to the best ranking of any school with at least 20 players drafted during his tenure from 2006-2012.

An example of how these ratings were tabulated, below are the past 5 years of draft picks selected from Kansas and Kansas State:

(click to enlarge)

Of immediate interest are the players available to draft from the 10 worst schools at supplying starting talent to the NFL:

This is not to say these players should be moved down the board, its simply worth mentioning that the schools they come from have a recent, 5-year history of producing drafted players who fail to perform and don’t start in the NFL.

The Overachievers

Opposite of above, there are a number of schools who have produced successful players to the NFL who actually start in the NFL.  While opportunity is clearly a big element of this analysis, its still very informative for NFL teams to be aware of programs that have produced NFL starters vs. those programs whose players seem to always fail in the NFL.  As an example of two of the best teams at providing this talent, let’s look briefly at Mississippi and Kentucky, two teams from the SEC you likely wouldn’t guess would come ahead of Alabama, Florida, LSU or Georiga.

(click to enlarge)

The key to keep in mind is all of the predicted values are based on regression of draft pick (1-256) to actual starts/year.  So the higher the draft pick, the more games they are expected to start.  Thus a team like Alabama, who has fielded 15 first round draft picks the last 5 years (a ridiculous figure!), is “penalized” in a sense because those players should start more games, and thus their predicted value is higher and harder to live up to rather than if the players were all 6th and 7th round picks.  I’ll note, however, that both Mississippi and Kentucky’s drafted players don’t just start more games, but their average AV (approximate value, an analytic from Pro Football Reference) is stronger than Alabama’s average AV.

With that said, here are the eligible draft picks from the schools whose players have made the most starting impact over average on the NFL the last 5 years:

Other Strong Programs

Due to the overall reputation of the program and talent of their recruits, many schools have seen 20+ players drafted the last 5 years.  As a result, some certainly will be busts and lower their total percentage.  Five of the best have been Wisconsin, USC, Florida, Stanford and Georgia.  Here are their 2015 classes:

First Rounders?

With the above at our disposal, there are plenty of players with first round grades from the schools that translate talent the best into the NFL.  Interestingly, whether you look at the 10 schools whose talent has not translated (listed above as “Underachievers”) or even look at the bigger programs who don’t have as solid a track record, such as North Carolina, Oklahoma or Notre Dame, none of their players received a first round grade or are projected to go in the first round in 2015.  So that consideration should roll over into rounds 2-7, from Friday thru Saturday.

Here are the potential first round picks from schools that have translated well into the NFL the last 5 years:

 

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2015 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE SERIES:

Trading into the Top 10: A Stunning Look at Terrible Decision Making

by Warren Sharp

In virtually every year in the common draft era a team traded up into the top 10 of the NFL draft.  Often, these trades are greeted with glee and delight from the TV broadcast crews which then trickles down to the fans of the team making the move.  They’re getting a better player than they thought attainable and they’re getting (supposedly) a top 10 player in this year’s draft class.

Many of these teams who move up think far too much about the decision.  They bypass their initial instinct which tells them its a dumb move.  They don’t realize that 79% of the time a team moves up the board, they lose value.  Moving into the first round costs (on avg) 1 additional high-fourth-round draft pick.  They don’t understand the blueprint for success revolves around volume drafting, and selecting a larger number of prospects (of which a few will pan out) rather than lumping your eggs in one basket.  And they don’t realize that the most consistent, best teams in the NFL simply emphasize the draft and do it right, and ensure that their starting roster will consist of players they selected in the draft, rather than players they had to obtain from other teams due to their own poor drafting.

Many of these bad teams, without sound drafting principles, begin to fall in love with prospects.  A perfect (and recent) example was just 2 years ago when the Miami Dolphins moved up to the #3 overall pick to draft pass rusher Dion Jordan of Oregon.  In interviews after the trade with Oakland and the selection of Jordan, General Manager Jeff Ireland said:

“We took a player we coveted quite a bit,”… and said Jordan has been on his radar for more than a year.  Owner Stephen Ross agreed, saying Jordan was a favorite of the coaching staff in discussions before the draft. “Everybody thought, `Hey, we’ll never get him,” Ross said. “When the Raiders called back, I think everybody in the room was shocked. It’s a great move.”

Not surprisingly, the NFL Network crew reacted quite similarly to the trade up and the selection, spouting effusive praise and comparing Jordan to greats Jason Taylor, Aldon Smith and Demarcus Ware:

As we know, Dion Jordan was suspended by the NFL for the 2015 season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.  In his two seasons with the Dolphins, he started in only one game.  The pass rusher has just 3 total sacks in 26 games played and has already made $14 million in guaranteed money.  And now won’t even play in his 3rd year.

If you think its rare that a team moves into the top 10, sacrifices value and extra draft picks in the process, only to draft a total bust, you may want to reconsider.

Below is a table listing all moves into the top 10 to draft players since division realignment in 2002 (13 years ago).  I’ve included two advanced metrics for evaluating purposes:  AV (Approximate Value, a Pro Football Reference analytic) and the most recent Pro Football Focus grade.  In addition, I’ve highlighted how many starts the player has made as a pro (vs the max possible) and an interesting stat.

While there have been a couple of hits along the way, such as Julio Jones, the one thing this analysis does not take into account is what was given up (the picks) to acquire that top 10 selection.  Likely in every case, the team who moved up lost value when making the trade (I focus on trades into the 1st round and value lost in this article).

But the intent is to focus only on the “bust potential” of these “highly coveted” players.  As you can clearly see, its astonishing the number of times a team moved into the top 10 and selected players who did not even come close to realizing the potential the teams thought he had during the draft process.

This is not a “selection” of some of the notable or the worst trades into the top 10.  This is the whole pile of them since 2002:

(click to enlarge)

So in the first round of the NFL draft, let’s see which team joins the club in 2015 and jumps into the top 10 to select a player they “covet” and have lusted over for months.  Let’s see what the response is to the trade by the networks.  Do they only rave about the move because it (obviously) fills a big need for the team?  Do they mention that trading into the top 10 almost always loses value for the team moving up?  Do they discuss the long history of moves into the top 10 which seem to have a frequent bust rate?  Do they mention that these desperate teams making the move have lost focus of the right way to build a talented, winning roster, which is not to exchange 2, 3 or 4 draft picks for 1 player?

The fact is, these trades hurt their teams.  Since 2010, the last 5 years of moves into the top 10 has left teams with the following records:

Due to the human elements and psychology involved in coveting a player enough to move into the top 10,  weaknesses, holes or fatal flaws (as former Bucs front office employee Joe Bussell terms them) are often missed or simply glossed over in the passion and excitement of possibly landing the player.  It seems to happen annually, with very few exceptions.  What happens this year and what will the reaction be?  We will find out soon enough.

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2015 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE SERIES: