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Why Steelers fans should take NFL mock drafts with a grain of salt

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Mock drafts keep analysts busy and fans entertained during the off season. Do they serve any other purpose?

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ahead of the 2015 draft, NFL analysts Lance Zierlein and Chad Reuter predicted that OLB Bud Dupree would be the sixth overall pick of the 2015 draft and go to the New York Jets. Dupree obviously ended up going to the Steelers, a huge surprise since many assumed Pittsburgh would pick a cornerback in the first round, and because Dupree was considered a top-ten talent. Zierlein and Reuter had the Steelers picking Marcus Peters, who instead ended up having an astoundingly strong rookie season with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since Zierlein and Reuter had the Steelers picking a cornerback in the first round, they thought the team would pick linebacker Shaq Thompson in the second round. Instead, the Steelers picked cornerback Senquez Golson, who was sidelined with injury before the season even started. Thompson, meanwhile, was picked up in the first round by the Carolina Panthers.

The 2015 mock draft had the Steelers picking wide receiver Jamison Crowder in the third round. He ended up with the Redskins where he had 59 receptions for 604 yards and two touchdowns during his rookie year. Zierlein and Reuter thought the Steelers would pick wide receiver Stefon Diggs in the fourth round, OLB Xzavier Dickinson in the fifth round, cornerback Jacorey Shepherd and Donald Celiscar in the sixth round, and defensive tackle Tory Slater in the seventh round.

How far off were Zierlein and Reuter? The Steelers did not end up picking any of the players from the April 2015 mock draft. On the other hand, Zierlein and Reuter did assume correctly that the Steelers would acquire a linebacker, cornerback, and wide receiver in the first three rounds.

Few mock draft picks end up being accurate, so Zierlein and Reuter are in good company. In 2015, Mike Mayock had seven of 32 picks correct in his 2015 mock draft. He had Bud Dupree going to the Falcons as the eighth overall pick and the Steelers picking cornerback Damarious Randall. He did, however, accurately guess that Jameis Winston would go the Buccaneers, Marcus Mariota to the Titans, Amari Cooper to the Raiders, Ereck Flowers to the Giants, Trae Waynes to the Vikings, Danny Shelton to the Browns, and Melvin Gordon to the Chargers.

What does this mean for fans? Mock drafts can help fans become familiar with team needs and promising prospects, but they can also set the stage for a lot of surprises on draft day.