Let's try something. Let's mash together all the way-too-early 2017 NFL mock drafts and see who the country's best players are judged to be, based on NFL media.
Last year's way-too-early mocks actually turned out to be pretty impressive when compared to the real thing 12 months later, other than at QB, where Cardale Jones and Christian Hackenberg struggled, Connor Cook slipped, and Carson Wentz emerged. I'd say that after reviewing last year's guesses, I now see more value in these things than I expected to.
Included below were mock drafts and/or top-32 big boards by SB Nation, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Campus Insiders, CBS Sports, ESPN, Pro Football Focus, Rotoworld, Sports Illustrated, Walter Football, and Yahoo! Sports. An individual mock draft will function differently than a big board because of perceived NFL team needs, but since most used slightly different team orders, I figure compiling all 11 into one should help account for that.
Players on all 11 top-32 lists
|Clemson QB Deshaun Watson||1.25|
|Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett||4|
|LSU RB Leonard Fournette||5.38|
|Alabama OT Cam Robinson||7|
|Florida State RB Dalvin Cook||13.5|
|Alabama DE Jonathan Allen||13.88|
|Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey||18.38|
|Missouri DE Charles Harris||21.25|
At this point, I figure being listed consistently is at least as important as being listed highly. If all the NFL folks rank you, even in the teens, you must be a pretty big name. So, let's break these up first by the number of lists on which players appear.
Players on eight to 10 top-32 lists
|Player||Average ranking on those lists|
|Miami QB Brad Kaaya||5.5|
|Alabama LB Tim Williams||9.67|
|Florida CB Jalen Tabor||10.3|
|USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster||11|
|Florida State OT Roderick Johnson||11.57|
|Tennessee DE Derek Barnett||14.57|
|Michigan LB/DB/WR/etc. Jabrill Peppers||17.29|
|Clemson WR Mike Williams||17.86|
|Michigan State DE Malik McDowell||18.4|
|USC CB Adoree Jackson||18.88|
|Alabama TE O.J. Howard||22.33|
Players on five to seven top-32 lists
|Player||Average ranking on those lists|
|Auburn DE Carl Lawson||10.4|
|LSU S Jamal Adams||13.8|
|Iowa CB Desmond King||14.33|
|Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan||16.5|
|USC OT Zach Banner||16.5|
|LSU CB Tre'Davious White||17|
|Georgia RB Nick Chubb||21.33|
|Florida LB Jarrad Davis||22.75|
|Alabama S Eddie Jackson||23.5|
|LSU WR Malachi Dupre||24.75|
|Ohio State OL Pat Elflein||27|
To make it 32, add the two highest-average players who appeared on four mocks each: UCLA DT Eddie Vanderdoes (average on lists he made: 10.33) and Western Michigan WR Corey Davis (27).
- Bama's considered to have four likely first-rounders and a potential fifth. Five would match Ohio State's amazing 2016 haul in raw numbers and stop one shy of 2004 Miami's record. Picking a Bama thing is the easiest move in all of football projection, but there's a reason: it's usually right.
- There are no Big 12 players yet. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph appeared on a couple mocks each, FWIW. Athlon's list goes to a top 50 and includes players from Indiana and Virginia, but no Big 12 players.
- Auburn's schedule includes five of the anticipated top six picks and 13 of this top 32. Sounds fun!
- There are only three Pac-12 players. Oregon's Royce Freeman nearly made it four, but this is a very crowded running backs group.
- Three RBs in the top 30 would be the most since 2010. Four would be the most since 2008. No pressure, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott.
- Defensive end looks like the deepest position, with five expected first-rounders and a highly touted potential sixth.
- Only four offensive linemen? I'd expect that to rise. Not easy to know which players to scout a year ahead of time when they don't produce any stats.
- The ACC has the two consensus top QBs at the moment, but who's third? Ole Miss' Chad Kelly, Mayfield, and Rudolph were the only other QBs to show on multiple mocks. I'll just keep yelling about Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, I guess. Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer or Cincinnati's Gunner Kiel, maybe? (As the NFL does, it'll have some completely random name in the first round by next April anyway.)
- Alabama, LSU and Clemson look the most impressive here, and wouldn't ya know it, they rank Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in Bill Connelly's 128-team projections.
- BTW, look at all those blue-chips. Seemingly every other player was a star recruit. (No big surprise.) Three of the top four projected picks were 2014's top three recruits, and Watson was the No. 1 dual-threat QB. Maybe some are being hyped because they were star recruits, but it's yet to seem like NFL media pays attention to recruiting ratings.
How do you prepare for Baylor now, knowing it could either do the usual, 500-yard Baylor thing or break out what it did in the bowl?
Bill C team of the day: Army, which has experience and potential on its side for once.
Bret Bielema's got a pretty good idea about letting undrafted early declarees return to college. That's pretty much the idea.
Have you heard the one about the recruiting writer who's trademarked a Charlie Strong recruiting slogan and is trying to sell merch? Like, *what.*
Maryland's new head coach tells the story of playing one-on-one basketball with Jim Harbaugh. It's as needlessly intense as you'd hope.
- BYU's got the indelicately worded support of Oklahoma legend Barry Switzer.
- Memphis has some very interesting support from an entity with more money, but fewer quotables: FedEx.
- That report ^ also mentions Colorado State, Houston and UCF promoting themselves to the Big 12, and we can confirm Cincinnati's done the same. So why are we hearing nothing from BYU?
- Last BYU thing! Have you heard the one about the Cougars being difficult to work with in a conference? That might go back to the time San Diego State complained to Oklahoma.
Ezekiel Elliott is already paid more than two-thirds of the NFL's starting running backs.
All our jokes about Harbaugh eventually setting up a satellite camp in a foreign country are now obsolete. He went and did it.
The New York Giants are terrible at espionage, based on their draft night.
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