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Recent analytical mock drafts full of surprises

Most mock drafts start out with a player ranking system that largely goes by the best-to-lowest ranked player, with team needs and sometimes trades taken into account.

That’s why you’ll tend to see quarterbacks ranked so highly. For example, Utah State’s Jordan Love is likely more of a Day 2 type of talent, but he’s in most mock draft’s first round due to the importance of his position (and the shortage of good QBs). Then there are the mock drafts that include suggested trades: Miami moving up to No. 3 overall, for example, to take Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

And all of them – regardless of who produced the mock – receive criticism.

But few mock drafts cause more hand-wringing than the analytical mock drafts.

Two prominent ones were recently released by Cynthia Frelund, the NFL Network’s analytics expert, and by Pro Football Focus.

A snapshot of those two mocks:

Cynthia Frelund First-Round Mock Draft

As expected, the names are mostly familiar but the main difference is the order in which those players are drafted.

Still, seeing TCU DL Ross Blacklock and Colorado WR Laviska Shenault going to Atlanta and Dallas, respectively, with the 16th and 17th picks is a bit of a surprise. Blacklock has enjoyed a rapid rise atop draft boards, but this ranks him as the third-best DL.

And Shenault was once seen as a slam-dunk first-rounder, but an injury-plagued season put that goal in doubt.

“If you want to know why my model likes him so much, go back and watch his 2018 film. This past season, nagging injuries and a new coaching staff sapped his production,” Frelund writes.

Bottoming out the first round is Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, also a fast-riser.

“His value on special teams – 44 kick returns for 1,199 yards and two TDs in three seasons at Auburn – only adds to the resume,” Frelund writes.

Pro Football Focus First-Round Mock Draft

PFF’s analytical mock draft is full of surprises, starting with Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III going to the New York Giants with the fourth-overall pick.

Other names to grace PFF’s first-round include:

  • Washington TE Hunter Bryant (No. 20 to Jacksonville)
  • Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam (No. 23 to New England)
  • California S Ashtyn Davis (No. 25 to Minnesota)
  • Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler (No. 27 to Seattle)
  • Auburn OT Jack Driscoll (No. 29 to Tennessee): “Instead of getting overly excited about some serious projects like Mekhi Becton, let’s take a guy who performed very well against strong competition and in situations that project well to the next level. Driscoll is precisely that, and he’d provide some protection for whoever ends up throwing passes for the Titans.”
  • Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson (No. 31 to San Francisco)
  • Colorado LB Davion Taylor (No. 32 to Kansas City): “Taylor has many of the same comps as Isaiah Simmons and would fit the Chiefs perfectly here.”

Hayden Winks of Rotoworld took it a step further and compiled an analytics-based top 300 prospects list. You can find it here.

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