This is probably my strongest belief in life: mock drafts don’t matter. To prove it, I studied more than 300 mock drafts in 2022 (here’s my data). I wanted to determine, once and for all, that mocks have no meaning. Then, something surprising happened. I discovered meaning in the meaningless. I uncovered the universal patterns found inside the mock drafts, and I’ve used it to create my own draft guide.
What We Know About Mocks
Let’s restate my assumptions: If you study the numbers of any system, patterns emerge. Therefore, there are patterns everywhere in nature. Here are the patterns that emerged from studying 2022 mock drafts.
#1) No Mocks before Free Agency have any agency:
6 of the 8 worst mocks happened in January. 11 of the 15 worst happened before 2/18.
Conversely, 12 of the best 19 mocks were in April. 8 of the top 14 happened after 4/14.
#2) Local Insiders have no insight:
None of the usual local Steelers personalities mocked Pickett to Pittsburgh in 2022.
Only Shane Hallam of SteelCityInsider picked Kenny.
Prisuta, Lolley and Matt Williamson didn’t even mock a QB to Pittsburgh.
Dale Lolley deserves some credit for this statement on 2/5/22: “I’ve been told if Pickett is available at 20, the Steelers will take him.”
What Constitutes a Good Mock
It doesn’t take much to become an elite mocker. In 2022, a mock with only six correct 1st round picks was enough to be in the top 2%. Another good metric is how many selections weren’t part of the 1st round at all. The best mockers had five or fewer “whiffs.” So out of 125 mockers submitting more than 325 1st-round choices, I narrowed it down to the best 4 (with 3 others to consider).
Introducing The Most Mockable
Peter King (NBC): He only cast one mock in 2022, but it was the best, getting 6 correct with only 5 whiffs, and most importantly, mocking Kenny Pickett to Pittsburgh.
2023 choice: No mocks submitted yet, but believes Steelers moving up to 9 for Jalen Carter is “best rumor of the week.”
Lance Zierlein (NFL.com): Tied for the best top 5 of 2022 with his mock on April 12th. That had 6 total correct picks with 8 whiffs. 2 of his 3 mocks selected Pickett.
2023 choice: Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks (4/4/23)
Ari Meirov (PFF): Another one-shot wonder. Ari filed just mock in 2022, getting 6 correct and whiffing on only 4 (although one of those whiffs was Malik Willis going 8th overall). He also mocked Pickett to Pittsburgh.
2023 choice: Out of the mock game? No mocks submitted yet.
Andrew Wilbar (BTSC): Andrew had 2 of the best mocks of 2022, getting six correct choices on both 4/1 & 4/15. The latter included the best top 7 of the year and tied Zierlein for the best top 5. Unfortunately, Wilbar never mocked Pickett to the black and gold.
2023 choice: Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks (3/29/23)
Mel Kiper (ESPN): Kiper may deserve some credit for mocking Pickett to Pittsburgh in his final 2 drafts. His 3 others were also quarterbacks.
2023 choice: Boston College receiver Zay Flowers (4/18/23)
Luke Easterling (formerly USA Today, now Athlon Sports): His credibility is watered down by the fact that he submitted 16 different drafts in 2022, the most prolific mocker of the year. But he did have Pickett to Pittsburgh in 4 of his last 8 mocks.
2023 choice: Georgia tackle Broderick Jones (4/13/23)
Shane Hallam (Steel City Insider): The only local source to pick Pickett.
2023 choice: Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr (4/17/23)
The 50% Mock Threshold Hypothesis
All the data has led me to this conjecture: Mock Draft theory is much like Chaos theory. While each mock draft may appear to be an act of random speculation, if a large enough sample size is collected, then patterns, repetition and self-organization emerges. With the exponential growth of mock draft technology in the last few years, never again will Steelers Nation be caught off guard with an Artie Burns or Terrell Edmunds pick. Because my theory is the Steelers 1st round pick can be predicted by a 50% mock draft threshold.
For instance, in 2022, 50% of mock drafts selected Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder or Kenny Pickett. The other 50% mocked one of 29 other players.
Therefore, The Steelers Selection at 17 will be....
Although the last week of mock season is the busiest, with the potential of nearly 60 national and Pittsburgh-centric new mocks, here’s where we currently stand.
Out of 118 mocks since free agency started, 65 picked one of these four players, giving us a 55% mock draft threshold.
—Joey Porter (CB-PSU): 26
—Broderick Jones (OT-GA): 16
—Deonte Banks (CB-MD): 12
—Darnell Wright (OT-TN): 11
If one of these four are picked in the first round Thursday night, it will be a huge advancement in mock science. If not, it’s back to the mocking board.
Kyle Chrise is the host of the SCN podcast “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout.” New episodes are released every Thursday. Tune in on 4/27 for their final mocking totals.