Mock drafts are always a fun exercise in matching an overall understanding of the roster builds in the NFL and how they align with the skill sets of the talent pool in the NFL Draft. In one of my fist mocks, I correctly mocked linebacker Brandon Spikes, quarterback Zac Robinson, and punter Zoltan Mesko to New England, which was easily the high point of my career.
Typical seven round mock drafts will have zero correct picks because there's just so much variability. Runs on positions in the draft force prospects up the ladder, while last minute news will cause stocks to plummet.
Mocking the whole first round of the draft allows for a more scientific approach. You get to decide the runs on players. You get to decide the team needs. You get to waterfall the prospects based upon your projections. You get to work with your mistakes.
So let's talk about the mistakes of Mel Kiper.
If Mel Kiper's initial mock drafts over the last 5 years were 100% accurate, here's who your team would have drafted: pic.twitter.com/riGs2f4yVH— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) February 18, 2015
Mistakes are fine. No one gets their mocks exactly right because of the imbalance in information. Teams know their talent gaps better than anyone else. Teams also are more than capable of making terrible, awful, no good, very bad picks and also being the Cleveland Browns.
Kiper projects the following players to the Patriots in the first rounds:
2010: Clemson edge defender Ricky Sapp. Patriots select Rutgers defensive back Devin McCourty. Sapp fell into the 5th round due to concerns about his past knee injuries. This is a case of teams having more information than the public. Sapp is on his fourth team and has never really contributed on game day. McCourty is a top defensive back in the league and is due for a major contract extension. Edge: Patriots
2011a: Wisconsin defensive tackle J.J. Watt. Patriots select Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder. Kiper knocks this pick out of the park, but Watt was selected 11th overall, well before the New England pick at 17th. Solder has developed into an above average tackle that the coaches love for his versatility. Watt is the greatest defensive player of the past twenty years. He also wasn't an option at 17. Edge: Push due to reality, but really Kiper
2011b: Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure. Patriots trade down with New Orleans to acquire a 2012 1st round pick and a 2011 2nd round pick, used on California running back Shane Vereen. Leshoure was actually selected one pick after Vereen, so the Patriots had the Super Bowl hero ranked higher than Kiper out of the gate. Leshoure missed his rookie season with a torn Achilles tendon, was suspended for two games his sophomore season (but ultimately finished with a very respectable 1,012 yards from scrimmage), before turning into a healthy scratch for the majority of the 2013 season. He was released before his rookie contract ended in 2014. Vereen helped win a Super Bowl. So. Edge: Patriots
2012a: Louisiana State defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Patriots trade up to select Syracuse edge defender Chandler Jones. Like Watt, Brockers wasn't an actualy option and was gone at the 14th overall pick. Still, the Patriots traded up from the Saints pick to grab Jones at 21st. Brockers has become a quality rotational tackle on one of the best lines in the league. Chandler is one of the most important players on the Patriots defense, and is probably a better edge defender than Brockers is a defensive tackle. Edge: Push due to reality, but really Patriots
2012b: Clemson edge defender Andre Branch. Patriots trade up to select Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Branch fell to 38th overall, while New England traded up to 25th overall to snag a tweener of a linebacker. Branch is a back-end of the rotation defensive lineman for the Jaguars. Hightower is one of the best young linebackers in the NFL. Edge: Patriots
2013: Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Patriots trade down to select Southern Mississippi linebacker Jamie Collins (...and Logan Ryan, and Josh Boyce, and trade for LeGarrette Blount). The Texans snagged Hopkins two draft slots ahead of the Patriots pick and he's developed into one of the best wide receivers in the game. The Patriots opted to trade down and picked up an athletic freak in Collins, who has developed into one of the league's premier linebackers- and also a bunch of other quality depth players. Edge: Push due to reality and a push in comparison
2014: Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro. Patriots select Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley. Amaro went to the Jets at 49th overall, while New England took a defensive lineman with top 5 talent, but without any knees. The jury is still out on this decision.
The Patriots have made the right choice every time Kiper's player was still on the board, while Kiper did pick a few studs that were selected prior to New England's selection. The ESPN analyst loves to project defensive linemen and offensive weapons to the Patriots and he's not deviating this season, offering up receiver Devin Funchess as his current pick.
Bill Belichick the GM certainly deserves praise for his quality decision making at the top of the draft.