Most mock drafts got a majority of the picks wrong in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. That was to be expected and will probably always be the case when it comes to forecasting the NFL Draft.
The highest-graded mock draft of the year — as scored by Huddle Report — was via NBC Sports Washington’s Ben Standig, who correctly matched 11 players to the right team. That’s right, the best mock draft got 21 of the picks wrong. It just comes with the territory.
But compared to most years, 2019 was a pretty strong year for draft prognosticators.
Huddle Report awards two points for matching a player to the right team and one point for predicting a player will get picked in the first round. Last year, the average score was 34.5 and Rotoworld’s Evan Silva was the only who had a score over 43. This year, the average jumped to 38.2, and there were seven mock drafts that scored at least 46.
It helped that the top of the draft was much easier to project than last year. But there also weren’t many picks that were that unanticipated. Here’s where mock drafts did well this year, and where the predictions were hardest to make:
Where mock drafts nailed it
Four of the first five picks weren’t hard to predict
Over three-fourths of the 71 surveyed in the SB Nation Mock Draft Database had Kyler Murray to the Cardinals (92%), Nick Bosa to the 49ers (95%), and Devin White to the Buccaneers (76%). Only one other pairing — Jawaan Taylor to the Jaguars (52%) — even topped the 50 percent mark.
Still, most mock drafts thought the Jets would probably go with Quinnen Williams at No. 3 overall. At No. 4, the Raiders were projected to take one of the remaining prospects of the Williams, Josh Allen, and Ed Oliver trio:
While the Raiders’ selection of Clelin Ferrell came a bit out of left field, there were plenty of mock drafts that correctly predicted the other picks in the top five.
Mock drafts got the quarterbacks in the right spots
Daniel Jones to the Giants at No. 6 overall was one of the shockers of the entire weekend. He was a consistently underwhelming quarterback at Duke, and the attempts by Giants general manager Dave Gettleman to rationalize the selection have only made things look worse.
It was also a bit of a surprise that Washington sat tight to pick Dwayne Haskins in the middle of the first round. There was chatter in the days just before the draft that the team was prepping for a trade as high as No. 3 overall to get a quarterback. Instead, Washington waited and got excellent value when Haskins fell to No. 15.
Drew Lock to the Broncos is a match that’s made sense for over a year. But few expected the Missouri quarterback to be available in the middle of the second round. Oddsmakers set the over/under for his draft position at pick 10.5, with the under as a slight favorite. The result went way over when Lock went to Denver at No. 42 overall.
The circumstances for all three picks could be considered surprising. But mock drafts did well to predict which team would draft each one. Haskins was the favored match for Washington, whether it was before or after a trade, Jones was the favorite for the Giants at No. 17, and Lock was the favorite for the Broncos at No. 10.
Combine that with the overwhelming consensus that the Cardinals would take Kyler Murray, and you could say experts were 4-for-4 on projecting where the top quarterbacks would wind up — even if they didn’t always come off the board when they were supposed to.
6 other teams took the player most expected them to take
After the top five picks, there weren’t many more obvious player-team matches. The highest percentage pairing was Taylor to the Jaguars at No. 7 overall.
Instead, the Jaguars took Josh Allen, who was projected to be off the board in the first top six picks. But Jacksonville still snagged Taylor when he slipped into the second round.
There were five other picks that mock drafts got right: T.J. Hockenson to the Lions, Christian Wilkins to the Dolphins, Garrett Bradbury to the Vikings, Marquise Brown to the Ravens, and Josh Jacobs to the Raiders.
The last of those picks, Jacobs, was the favorite for the Raiders at both No. 24 and 27 overall.
Altogether, that’s a lot of accurate predictions.
Where mock drafts were way off
Clelin Ferrell was a huge curveball
Mel Kiper of ESPN had Ferrell going to the Patriots with the very last selection of the first round, and Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News didn’t have Ferrell in the first round at all. Nobody expected Ferrell to go as early as he did, so there were a lot of reactions like this when his name was called:
Earlier in the draft process, there were a few who thought Ferrell would go early. About a week after the Super Bowl, NFL Network’s Maurice Jones-Drew even nailed a Ferrell-to-the-Raiders prediction. But as the draft got closer, Ferrell settled in as a mid-first round prospect in most mocks.
The Falcons’ offensive line spree was unpredictable
Atlanta had a top-10 offense during the 2018 season, but finished No. 25 in points allowed and No. 28 in yards allowed. After signing guards Jamon Brown and James Carpenter in free agency, it seemed obvious that the Falcons would focus on defense with the No. 14 pick in the first round.
Instead, the team picked Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom and then doubled down by trading back into the first round to take Washington tackle Kaleb McGary.
It wasn’t just surprising that Atlanta invested so much in the offensive line. It’s also surprising that those are the two players the Falcons chose to draft.
Lindstrom didn’t appear in the top 15 picks in any of the 71 mock drafts surveyed, and McGary was only a first-round pick in four of them. When Lindstrom was picked, new Bengals tackle Jonah Williams was the only offensive lineman off the board. When McGary was picked, offensive tackles Jawaan Taylor, Greg Little, and Cody Ford were all available.
The odd decision of taking both players as high as they did — along with the fact that a need at defensive tackle was ignored — earned the Falcons a C+ in Dan Kadar’s draft grades.
In 2018, there were two first-rounders who didn’t appear in a single mock draft that we surveyed. The first was Rashaad Penny to the Seahawks and the second was Terrell Edmunds to the Steelers.
That didn’t happen at all in 2019, but there were four players who were unexpected additions to the first round. One was the aforementioned McGary to the Falcons. The others were Packers safety Darnell Savage, Texans tackle Tytus Howard, and Seahawks defensive end L.J. Collier.
Savage made a late surge into mock drafts, but still only appeared in 12 and never any higher than No. 25 overall, four spots below where he went. Howard was only in two mocks, although Manish Mehta correctly predicted it would be the Texans who took the small school offensive tackle. Collier was also only in two mock drafts, but was a fringe first-rounder in Todd McShay’s earlier mock drafts for ESPN.
The 2019 NFL Draft had its fair share of surprises, but if you kept up to date on mock drafts, nothing truly came completely out of the blue.