Every year leading up to the NFL draft, we're treated with so many mock drafts from national experts such as the NFL Network's Mike Mayock and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay that they have to number them so readers won't get confused.
Mock drafts can show where the consensus for certain picks is going. And Mayock's annual position-by-position breakdown of the draft for the Inquirer and Daily News, which includes his thoughts on the best player at each position as well as the top riser and sleeper, is a must-read.
But this year's first round was truly chaotic, with surprise picks and trades keeping all the analysts on their toes (did anyone think the Cleveland Browns would select Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward with the No. 4 pick?). So, here's a look at the gurus' final mock drafts, and how close they lined up with all the twists and turns from Thursday night.
It's worth pointing out that, after crunching the numbers, two of my colleagues — Zach Berman and Jeff McLane — successfully predicted five picks in their mock drafts, beating out all three of the top national experts. Berman also nailed the Eagles' selection of Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett with the No. 14 pick in last year's draft, and predicted the Eagles would trade out of the first round this year.
Todd McShay, ESPN – Four picks correct
McShay, who made so many mock drafts this offseason that he "lost count," predicted four picks correctly in his final mock draft, which was posted on ESPN on Thursday morning.
McShay nailed the New York Giants' drafting Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 pick, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson going to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 6, and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith being drafted by the Chicago Bears at No. 8. He also nailed the fact that the Arizona Cardinals would trade up to No. 10 and select UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.
McShay also correctly predicted that the Buffalo Bills would trade for the rights to draft Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, though he didn't get the pick number or trade partner correct.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN – Four picks correct
ESPN's resident draft expert has been an analyst for the network's draft coverage since 1984. This year, he tied McShay by successfully predicting four picks on his final mock draft, which was also posted Thursday morning.
Kiper successfully predicted Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield going to the Cleveland Browns and Barkley ending up with the Giants. He also was right about the New York Jets acquiring the No. 3 pick from the Indianapolis Colts to take USC quarterback Sam Darnold. But from picks four through 32, Kiper's only correct prediction was Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore going to the Carolina Panthers with the 24th pick.
Mike Mayock, NFL Network – Two picks correct
Mayock, a Philadelphia native, has been the NFL Network's main draft analyst since 2005. But this year, he fell a bit behind his colleagues at ESPN, accurately predicting only two picks in the only mock draft he compiled this year, which was posted on NFL.com late Wednesday.
Like both McShay and Kiper, Mayock was right about the Giants' drafting Barkley, a Penn State standout who became a father just days before the draft. Mayock was also right about the Bears taking Smith with the No. 8 pick, and predicted the Bills would trade up to draft Allen. But like McShay, he got the pick number and trade partner incorrect.