A few weeks ago I had a look at how good a few of the more prominent draft analysts and media outlets were at predicting draft outcomes. Many Hogs Haven readers were as surprised as I was to discover that the original draft expert and media personality, Mel Kiper Jr. was the best of the professional analysts, and actually did about as well as NFL GMs at predicting which players would do well in the NFL.
WalterFootball did the best at predicting the order that players would be selected, which is not too surprising because they rely heavily on league sources, and their prospect rankings are equal parts player evaluations and draft projections.
That’s all fine and well, but what do Hogs Haven readers care about how well different analysts predict Pittsburgh and Arizona’s picks? What most of you want to know, I assume, is who has the best insights into which players the Commanders will pick.
As a service to the Hogs Haven community, I have taken it upon myself to answer that pressing question in time for everyone to make last-minute adjustments to their draft boards.
Grading the Mock Drafters
To figure out who is best at predicting Washington’s picks, I surveyed mock drafts from 47 prominent draft analysts, media outlets, and internet mock drafters over the five drafts from 2017 to 2021.
Scoring: Mock drafts were scored very simply by assigning two points for correctly predicting any player drafted by Washington in the correct round. One point was awarded for getting the player right in the wrong round. Mock drafters were ranked by the sum of their scores across the five drafts.
Most of the mock drafts sampled were first round only. A few of the mock drafters, such as WalterFootball and Chad Reuter, regularly post multiple-round mock drafts. I treated mock projections beyond the first round as extra credit for purposes of scoring. After the first round, it becomes extremely difficult to predict draft picks. I therefore decided to not penalize mock drafters for taking on this extra risk. Instead, if a mock drafter was brave enough to attempt to project 7th round draft picks, I was happy to reward them for any additional picks they got right.
In the end, only four out of 47 analysts scored any points from picks after the first round. Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball correctly predicted the Football Team’s only second-round pick and projected a 7th round Redskins’ pick in the 6th round. Chad Reuter and Mark Bullock scored one point apiece for mocking Derrius Guice to the Redskins in the first round. Matt Miller (Bleacher Report) also got one mid-round selection right.
Dane Brugler almost got a half point partial credit for mocking TE Donald Parham in the 7th round when he was signed after the draft as a UDFA. The rest of the mock drafters scored their points exclusively by correctly predicting Washington’s first-round picks.
Eight of the 47 mock drafters missed one year during the period sampled and three missed two years (Tony Pauline, Mike Renner/PFF, Rhett Lewis/NFL.com). No adjustment was made for absenteeism. You have to be in it to win it.
How Predictable Are Washington’s Picks?
First-Round Draft Picks
The predictability of Washington’s first-round draft selections, as reflected by mock drafters’ projections, varied enormously from year to year.
The easiest first-round pick to predict in this period, by far, was Chase Young’s selection 2nd overall in 2020. 43 out 46 mock drafts (93%) correctly predicted that pick. The next most predictable selection was Dwayne Haskins’ selection 15th overall in 2019, which was correctly mocked in 26 out 46 mock drafts (52%). A few of the mockers predicted that Washington would trade up for Haskins, but I decided against splitting hairs by requiring exact pick numbers as long as they projected him to the correct round. Both of these picks were telegraphed by media reports ahead of the respective drafts.
Jamin Davis (13%), Jonathan Allen (10%) and Daron Payne (9.8%) were all much harder calls. In Davis’ case, opinion was split amongst several prospects, including Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah (LB), Christian Darrisaw (OT), Micah Parsons (LB), Kadarius Toney (WR), Rashod Bateman (WR), Trevon Moehrig (S) and Mac Jones (QB). The most popular choice was Owusu-Karamoah, appearing in 15/46 mocks (33%).
The odds-on favorite for Washington’s selection heading into the 2018 draft was DT, Vita Vea (University of Washington), who appeared in 17 out 41 mocks (41%). Vea was drafted just before the Redskins selected DT Daron Payne. After Vea was off the board, the most popular remaining prospect amongst mock drafters was S Derwin James, appearing in 7/41 mocks (17%). FS Minkah Fitzpatrick was the next most popular choice (5/41, 12%) and CB Denzel Ward was dead even with Payne with 4/41 mock selections.
The 2017 draft was difficult to predict because the media expected Redskins’ actual first-round pick, Jonathan Allen, to be long gone by Washington’s pick. He dropped to Washington at #17 due to medical concerns among team doctors about a pre-arthritic condition in his shoulders. Popular choices for Washington amongst mock drafters included LB Jarrad Davis, LB Reuben Foster, DL Malik McDowell and DE Charles Harris, with a bit of love for RBs Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook. Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice mocked T.J. Watt to Washington, but that selection would have been regarded as a reach by most pundits.
Later-Round Draft Picks
After the first round it becomes extremely difficult to predict draft picks. 15 out 47 mock drafters attempted multiple-round mock drafts on one or more occasions. WalterFootball, Charlie Campbell, Chad Reuter and Matt Miller do so most years. Out of 165 draft picks mocked after the first round in 34 multiple-round mock drafts, the correct player was mocked in the correct round two times:
2021 Charlie Campbell mocked Sam Cosmi to Washington in the 2nd round
2020 Matt Miller mocked Saadiq Charles to Washington in the 4th round
In 2018, Charlie Campbell also mocked Greg Stroman to Washington in the 6th round, rather than the 7th where he was actually selected.
The hit rate for late-round mock draft predictions was therefore around 1.2% to 1.8% depending on how stringent you want to be.
Which Mock Drafter Is Best at Predicting Washington’s Picks?
Here is how the individual mock drafters and draft websites performed. I did my best to sample as many of the better known NFL experts and analysts, and threw in a few full time mock drafters as well. I required at least three mock drafts in the last five years which ruled out some well known draft experts like Mike Mayock.
The clear winner is Matt Miller of Bleacher report, with four out of five correctly predicted first-round picks and one correctly mocked 4th round pick. Rounding up the lead pack are Washington fan favorite, Jason La Confora, currently with CBS Sports, Josh Norris of Rotoworld and Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball with impressive post-first-round hits Sam Cosmi and Greg Stroman.
World Champion mock drafter Brendan Donahue of Sharp Analytics, Luke Easterling of Draftwire and Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network each correctly picked three of Washington’s first-round picks.
Most of the other mock drafters who scored any points did so by correctly mocking the incredibly easy Chase Young selection, either with Dwayne Haskins for four points, or without Haskins for two. Josh Edwards (CBS) and Joe Marino (The Draft Network) picked Young and Jamin Davis.
Leading draft experts Mel Kiper and Lance Zierlein, I am sad to say, do not appear to have any special insights into Washington’s draft selections.
Who Will Washington Pick in the First Round of the 2022 Draft?
Clearly, some of the draft experts have a better handle on where Washington’s front office is going in the draft than others. To get an idea of what Ron and the Marty’s might have in store for the opening round of the 2022 draft, we should probably focus on the mock drafters with the best track records of predicting Washington’s picks.
To help us get this right, I assembled an expert panel of the top performing mock drafters. I further grouped them into two tiers. The top tier was composed of mock drafters who had correctly predicted at least three of Washington’s picks in the last five drafts. The second tier was made up of less expert mock drafters who had correctly mocked two of Washington’s picks. These were guys who had got the super obvious Chase Young pick right along with one other first-round pick, most often Dwayne Haskins.
To get the most accurate predictions, I further narrowed it to analysts who had posted a mock draft since the Carson Wentz trade, since that had a significant impact on which players are being mocked to the Commandos. Sadly, these stringent criteria denied us the wisdom of uber Washington draft experts Matt Miller and Jason La Canfora.
The final expert predictions were as follows:
My first observation is that this draft is looking a lot like 2021 for the Commanders. There is a plurality of opinion favoring Kyle Hamilton amongst the expert mock drafters, overall. However, nine different players appear in the experts’ mock drafts.
Amongst the first-tier experts, whose opinions we should probably weigh more heavily, there is no real consensus. Chris Olave is the only player in more than one first-tier mock draft. First-tier expert opinion is also close to evenly split with regard to position, with three experts choosing wide receivers and two choosing defensive backs.
Combining the first- and second-tier predictions into one sample, wide receiver has a nine to seven advantage over safety. Cornerback is the next most popular choice with four mocks. Quarterback and guard appear in one mock each.
Last of all, three of the 22 mock drafters had the Commanders trade back to accumulate more picks. This is a particularly good draft for trading back in, because the top of the first round is relatively weak in elite talents, whereas the later part of the first round and day are loaded compared to recent draft classes. The Commanders could probably still draft a receiver like Olave, LB Devin Lloyd, a top safety prospect or one of the top five QBs on a trade back to the twenties while adding one or two day two picks.
It is a shame that we do not yet have guidance from uber Washington draft experts Matt Miller and Jason La Canfora. Hopefully they will post mocks before the actual draft to bring some clarity to the Commanders’ first round choice.
Personally, I would tend to go with the common selection of two of the first-tier experts. I think the Commanders will draft one of the Ohio State receivers, based on the attention that Ron Rivera is giving them. I also doubt that Hamilton will last to the 11th pick and hope that Stingley goes before then as well. He could well become an elite CB in the NFL, but projecting from his 2019 freshman season and his injury history worry me.
Of course, this could always turn out to be a draft like 2018 where most of the mock drafters went a different direction than Washington’s front office did.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Scott Jennings for assistance with rounding up the mock drafters and to James Dorsett for his usual expert editing
Who will Washington pick at #11?
This poll is closed
S Kyle Hamilton
CB Derek Stingley
WR Drake London
WR Garrett Wilson
WR Chris Olave
WR Jameson Williams
QB Desmond Ridder
G Kenyon Green
Someone else - tell us in the comments
No one, they will trade back