The NFL’s dead season is here. While it’s disappointing to know there won’t be football for over six months, this is also a cleansing period for fans. Every year a team goes from worst to first, and all it takes is one offseason. This is the period where you’re allowed to blindly convince yourself your team will become a contender. Right now, everyone has a chance to be an ‘armchair’ GM. Some fanatics are starting mock drafts or analyzing pending free agents and salary caps right now. Realistically, the best time to start mock drafting is after free agency. Teams fill needs via free agency, allowing for a more efficient mock draft, but some fans are too eager to wait. This article is for those fans.
Now, the first thing you should know is that this is your mock draft. Always go with your gut. That being said, I have put together a few charts that you can use as tools to help guide you through the process. You will find charts below that look at NFL Draft tendencies over the last decade by position followed by this year’s first and second-round draft prospects. Let’s start at the top.
As I was making the top-ten chart, a natural tier system fell into place. The top ten selections have been dominated by quarterbacks and edge rushers. They account for nearly half of the top ten picks over the last decade, which puts them in the top tier. Quarterbacks have accounted for seven of the ten number one overall picks, and there were three instances where quarterbacks were selected in the first two picks of the draft. In 2012, it was Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, in 2015 it was Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, and in 2016 it was Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Quarterbacks could be put in their own tiers, but I chose to group them because they’re similar to edge rushers in a couple of ways. Teams rarely pass on a consensus top-five quarterback or edge rusher, and they’re also more willing to take quarterbacks and edge rushers much higher than their projections.
The second tier includes tackles, defensive backs, and wide receivers. This one is pretty straight forward. Tackles are the headliner of the tier, averaging 1.4 picks in the top ten every year. They protect your most valuable asset. Tackles are also the only other position group that has been selected first and second overall consecutively (Erick Fisher and Luke Joeckel in 2013). Next is defensive backs. They average 1.2 top-ten picks yearly. Top-tier defensive backs get a lot of respect, but they’re still pushed aside by edge rushers and quarterbacks. Wide receivers are the wild card for tier two. They do average 1.1 picks in the top ten every year, but there is a higher bust probability. Corey Davis, John Ross, and Mike Williams were all top-ten picks in 2017.
Tier three is for defensive tackles and running backs. They both average less than one player per year, but they usually earn their spot in the top ten. Three of the six DT’s drafted in the top have had All-Pro seasons, and two of them were only drafted last year. Both have Pro-Bowl/All-Pro potential. Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, Trent Richardson, and C.J. Spiller are running backs that have been selected in the top ten the last decade. If you take 2010-2014 out of the equation, you’re left with a stable of stallions.
The last tier is made up of guards, centers, and tight ends. All three positions combined have a half a player drafted in the top ten each year. Is there really any need for further explanation?
Picks 11-32 see significant increases in G/C, DT, and DB’s. Although you see the most picks within the DE/LB/Edge positions (5.2 per year), there was a 1.4% decrease in their share of the picks.
- DE/LB/Edge decreased from 25% to 23.6%
- QB’s decreased from 20% to 4.5%
- G/C increased from 3% to 8.6%
- DT increased from 6% to 12.7%
- DB increased from 12% to 28.1%
Now just take a look at the 2010 draft. The only quarterback selected was Tim Tebow, while players like Earl Thomas, Mike Iupati, Maurkice Pouncey, Patrick Robinson, and Devin McCourty were selected in the first round. Don’t get me wrong, there are quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson that were all selected between 11-32, but there are a lot more Paxton Lynch‘s in the bunch.
In the first portion of the second round, you’ll notice a significant increase in tight ends. This is why I put them in that last tier. Only nine tight ends have been selected in the first round since 2010, and 15 have been selected in picks 33-50. The reality is that most tight ends take time to develop, and NFL franchises don’t want to spend a first-round pick on someone who isn’t NFL-ready unless they’re a quarterback.
- TE increased from 2.6% in the first round to 8.3% in picks 33-50
- WR increased from 10.8% in the first round to 11.7% in picks 33-50
- Guards continued with a slight increase in .2% from picks 11-32 to picks 33-50
- LB/DE/Edge is consistent throughout, seeing very little variation in percentages. This is also due to the grouping. Some are true edge rushers, some are 3-4 DE’s, some are 4-3 DE’s and OLB’s, etc.
Four out of the last ten draft classes didn’t have a first-round tight end selected. Zach Ertz and Hunter Henry were both selected in the top of the second round, but so were Coby Fleener and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. As stated previously, tight ends are difficult to project. They take time to develop.
Now that we’re fifty picks in, I have put together a chart to recap what we’ve seen. The top 50 can have a ton of variation, but there are a couple of things to notice. Some draft classes are extremely deep at specific positions, so using only averages won’t help you mock efficiently. The 2020 wide receiver class is one of them.
- QB range 2-6
- RB range 0-6
- WR range 3-8
- T range 3-8
- G range 1-4
- C range 0-4
- TE range 1-5
- DT range 1-8
- DE range 3-8
- LB range 4-9
- DB range 7-15
The range of the players should help you keep perspective while mock drafting. If you have 13 receivers going in the top 50, it’s possible you’re overdoing it.
Picks 51-64 are dominated by defensive backs. They took the lion’s share with 23.5% of selections. Wide receivers also saw their biggest percentage of picks with 15.7%. Again, the DE/LB/EDGE group stayed consistent, but this is where they saw their biggest decrease with -4%. This is a big reason why they were put in tier one. They don’t have anywhere near as big of a dropoff as quarterbacks do.
Now that we have crunched the numbers, let’s explore this year’s draft class. The chart below lists the top 50 prospects from Daniel Jeremiah and an additional 12 prospects found in the top 50 in PFF or CBS. I took the average of the prospect ratings from all three sources and averaged them. Next, I added in Bucky Brook’s top five at each position and their position tier. Any player not found in the top 50 of Daniel Jeremiah’s prospects was listed at 75. Any players not in the top 100 for CBS or PFF was given a 100. Any player not in Bucky’s top five position groups was given a seven. Certain positions were given a .5 extra in the ‘tier’ section because it just made sense. CB’s are valued a little higher than safeties, and true ILB’s aren’t valued as high as EDGE players.
Now you have all of the information you need to start mock drafting efficiently. There are only 62 prospects on the board. I left two spots open for you to insert two of your favorite prospects. You’ll also notice that there isn’t one tight end prospect any of these big boards agreed on, but remember, the 1-5 TE’s range in the top 50. With all that information at your disposal, it’s time to figure out what your team needs and start mocking. If you’re mocking for every team, tweet me your two-round mock draft @LucasPerfetti46. The mock draft that has the most correct selections will receive a 2020 on-stage draft hat of your choosing.