By Stephen Thomas (@15Stephen15)
Browns Fan, Comedian & Stage 4 Mockaholic

 
Year 1 of the Browns Daily Mock Draft Experiment is complete.

I know it’s been awhile since the NFL Draft, and this column has been a long time coming. If you’d like, you can blame my writing tardiness on the vicious strain of South American Death Flu that waylaid me for most of the past two weeks. Reflecting introspectively on a yearlong endeavor such as the BDMDE is difficult, especially with the combination of virus and flu medications causing me to ping pong back and forth between impressions of Rip Van Winkle and Tommy Chong. However, now that flu recovery is underway, I can step back and review The Experiment in full, attempting to answer the questions “Was the initial hypothesis correct,” “How much did I personally learn about the Draft process and the people involved in it” and most importantly “Was staring at Fanspeak every day until my eyeballs crossed worth it?”

I’ve decided that the best method for answering all questions about this endeavor is to actually open it up to queries from those who have followed along all year, in mailbag format. The following are thoughts graciously sent in from the thousands of dedicated, interested and imaginary fans of The Browns Daily Mock Draft Experiment. I love you all. (But especially Emily) (She sent nudes)

What was your first Mock from a year ago? Was it even close to what really happened?” — Eric, Stratton Ohio

Well … OK, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, Mock #1 wasn’t even remotely in the realm. (See below) That’s OK though, that was the genesis of this entire idea. A year ago we saw the “Way Too Early 2017 Mock Drafts” circulating around DraftTwitter, and I realized the entire Draft industry exists in a kind of cycle of silliness. Every year in May, Draft experts claim to ‘know’ who the top prospects are for next season; every year, they all turn out to be wrong. Mock Drafts vastly change in just the short time between the start of Draft Season in January and the actual Draft, and I thought it would be a fun and interesting exercise to see how much more they changed if I did a mock every day over the course of most of an entire calendar year. So … um … yeah, here’s Day 1, from the Wayback Machine.

 

“Was Day 2 any closer?” — Dan, Fielding Utah

Yes, and I did not just take this question so I could prove it. Not at all. Nope. See, here’s Day 2. (I rock) (OK, it’s Adult Contemporary Rock … from the 80’s … but it’s still Rock)

 

“How much did the Mocks change over the course of a year?” — Eddie, Munster Indiana

Well, if you go back and look at them in order, or read the weekly columns I wrote during the season, you’ll realize two things. One: You really need to get a life. Two: you’ll see I altered who I picked each mock based on what everyone thought were the Browns biggest needs at the time, and those needs fluctuate over time, which only makes sense. For example, most of the mocks during the painful 1-15 2016 season included Linebackers and Offensive Linemen, because those were perceived weak spots on the roster. It actually made mocking tough, because with a weak OL class, I had to choose between overdrafting guys, or missing out on OL altogether. After the Browns signed and extended Jamie Collins, then nabbed Zietler and Tretter in Free Agency (as I predicted they would and everyone laughed at me and called me names and told me this team would never invest that much money in the OL position group)(Yeah I’m tooting my own horn a little; you do a mock every day for a year and you can toot your horn), the needs changed, so the picks changed. It seems simple to say, but it proves that what we “know” about draft needs can change in the blink of an eye, with a single Free Agent signing or knee injury. It’s a fluid process.

“So wait, you did this every day? EVERY day? Why? Don’t you have anything better to do? What are you, some kind of loser shut-in, content on wasting your time on pointless activities and making jokes about it with your dorky friends? Why don’t you try to do something more productive with your life?” — Anonymous

Mom, I know that was you. I’ve told you, I did it because it was interesting and fun. I’m not having this discussion again. Tell Dad I said hi. See you at Thanksgiving.

“In your opinion, what changed the most over the course of the year?” — Sam, Malone NY

Has to be the Quarterback class. If you’ll recall, last May it was all about Watson, and no one else. According to the experts at that time, he was clearly the #1 guy and any other opinion was not only invalid, but stupid on a level deserving public stoning. A year ago, Kizer wasn’t really being considered because he was a Redshirt Sophomore, very few had Mahomes on their radar, and fewer still even knew who Trubisky was. As more folks in DraftWorld became familiar with those names, and the season played out, each of those along with Davis Webb, Chad Kelly, Brad Kaaya and others rose and fell on the Big Boards as play dictated. Along the way we also had Mason Rudolph, Luke Falk and Josh Allen in the mix for varying periods of time, before each decided to return to school. During Official Draft Season, names like Nathan Peterman, Jerod Evans, Josh Dobbs, Trevor Knight, Cooper Rush and even Alek Torgersen had their moments of “buzz.” Compare that to how things actually fell (CJ Beathard in the 3rd?) and it illustrates how incredibly silly it is to claim to “know” anything far in advance of Draft Night. Keep that in mind as we currently sift through the Draft experts definitively ranking the 2018 QB class of (potentially) Darnold, Rosen, Jackson, Allen et all nearly 12 months in advance. My guess, based on what I observed this past year? The final QB rankings next April will be vastly different than what they are today – 1 of the big names will regress, another will suffer an injury, another will decide to return to school, and there will be at least 1 or 2 names considered “potential 1st round picks” that most of us haven’t even heard of yet. Go ahead, beat your chest, choke on your testosterone and tell me that I’m wrong and you now EXACTLY which QB will be the best of this group as of TODAY. You’re wrong. It’s just the way it is.

“What was the most fun part of the entire experiment?” — Lloyd, Christmas Michigan

I’d have to say the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made along the way. It sounds corny and cliche, but I’m a corny and cliche kind of guy. I’m also not wearing pants, though I’m not sure that’s currently relevant. A ton of Browns fans who I probably never would have met otherwise found me through the hashtag, and some of us have become regular interactors online. I’ve also been given the opportunity to become varying levels of friends and acquaintances with folks from other teams DraftHives, as well as some of the bigger NFL Draft Guru names out there. For whatever reason, some find my peculiar combination of semi-draft knowledge and booger-joke-whimsy entertaining, and it’s been fun getting to know them. Not everyone is a joy online, though. Some folks who disagree with you in DraftTwitter and are overflowing with testosterone seem to relish unleashing their language skills at you while offering various alternatives for having sexual relations with your relatives, and let me tell you: that testosterone is a helluva drug. It’s OK though, it’s all part of the DraftTwitter experience. I’m no Draft expert, and have never claimed otherwise. I’m just a Browns fan who’s fascinated by The Draft and the entire process. I had a ton of fun, I did far more player research than in years past so I feel like I’m more informed, and I learned a myriad of new curse words from folks who didn’t like my picks. Other than free bacon, what more could a football fan want?

“Your Mom was right, you are a professional time waster. Why don’t you get off your ass and help me for once?” — Anonymous 2

You’re not anonymous, I know who you are, and let me just say to my wife: you knew who I was when you married me. After this many years, you have only yourself to blame. Much like in the NFL Draft, you made a very bad pick, now you’re stuck with the contract. You should have held out for more offset language. HaHa on you. #Shrug

“So let’s cut to the chase. How did you do with your Mocks? Were you even close to what the Browns actually did? Did all of this research and all of these new Draft contacts lead to you getting a lot of picks right, or are you just some idiot blowhard with a Browns related hashtag thingee?” — Norm, Peterson Minnesota

First of all, those are two completely separate questions; I got a fair number correct, yet I am most definitely an idiot blowhard. Second, I was pleased with my Mocks overall, but unlike other folks out there who publish 5 Mocks total, how can I grade over 300? Just because I had a guy once, does that count as a hit? Does getting a guy right in a mock one week before The Draft carry more weight than it does in a Mock done last August? Should it? How do I quantitatively assess this incredible waste of my time? To answer all of these questions at once, let me just say: I don’t know, I’ve never done this before. OK OK, I’ll try.

*NOTE – Somehow, there are 23 mocks that went missing. The files simply vanished. I have no idea where they went, or how it’s even possible, but I suspect the Russians were involved somehow. For statistical purposes, let’s just assume I hit on every single pick in every single missing mock, shall we? No? Wow, you’re strict.

Over the course of 300+ mocks, here’s how many times I hit on each of the guys the Browns actually picked:

Garrett 202
Peppers 29
Njoku 13
Kizer 66
Ogujnobi 9
Wilson 6
Johnson 7
Brantley 7
Gonzalez 0
Dayes 1

A few notes about each of those picks:

-I know, I know; how the hell did I only have Garrett 202 times? Well, if you’ll recall, back last summer DeSean Watson was clearly the #1 QB, and there was a pretty hard core debate over whether he should go 1st overall. Starting around October-ish, it was Garrett at 1 all the way.

-I mostly had Peppers last summer as well. I had several S prospects I liked more and in most mocks consistently grabbed one with one of top 5 picks, but Peppers was not at the top of that list. Now that he’s on my team though, he’s my guy and I want him to go to ten Pro Bowls.

-I mostly had Njoku in mocks before his meteoric rise up draft boards, and there’s a reason why. I liked the idea of TE relatively high early on (to the point where BrownsFacebook gave me multiple “TE in the 2nd? LOLOLOL YOU’RE AN IDIOT” comments), but as I saw the depth of the class I believed they would go for one of the 3-4th round prospects (like Jonnu Smith) while filling other positions (CB) with the early round picks. That said, it’s very difficult to not love the pick.

-I started the #KooKooForKizer hashtag waaaaaaaay back, and he remained my QB1A without exception. For several months leading up to The Draft I had Mahomes as QB1, and he’s in virtually every mock, but anyone who follows me knows there was never any doubt DeShone was inches behind him, and my belief in the Golden Domer never wavered. Getting him at 52 was a coup, IMO.

-I liked Ogujnobi, and more specifically liked him at 65. 65 was my sweet spot for a 3T, and I had wanted to rotate between him, Montravius Adams and Caleb Brantley at that spot (up until the Brantley charges), in most of the final month mocks. Unfortunately, Larry didn’t always last until 65. In the real Draft, I’m thrilled he did – the fact that they were able to grab him at 65 and still get Brantley multiple rounds later is a cherry-on-top scenario in my mind.

-Howard Wilson is an interesting case. I liked him a lot, as stated on my Twitter TL repeatedly. However, when the SPARQ and other testing scores came out low for him, I figured the Browns wouldn’t be interested and moved him off my mocks. So how do I handle that kind of situation moving forward? I’m not sure, as I try to make my Mocks “What I’d Do” but also want to try to align my thinking with Sashi & Co. “What I’d do” with a heavy dose of “Here’s Why, because They’ve Done This In The Past” is the goal.

-I only had Rod Johnson in my picks back last summer, when he was widely considered a Top 10 prospect. As the season wore on, he dropped further and further, and to be honest I didn’t expect the Browns to take any OL at all in this class.

-Brantley addressed above.

-I intentionally did not pick any K or P in this year’s mocks, but if Gonzalez is everything they say, that spot is locked down for a decade. #BigHooray

-I could swear I had Dayes in more than 1 mock, as I was intrigued and asked Dane Brugler about him as far back as November. I’m going to assume he was picked in those 23 missing mocks, because it’s my prerogative to do so, you can’t stop me and if you try I’ll send you nudes of Ed Asner as punishment.

The most picks I got right in any single mock was three, in a couple of different combinations:

Garrett Kizer Njoku 3 times
Garrett Njoku Wilson 2 times
Garrett Kizer Ogunjobi 2 times
Garrett Kizer Brantley 2 times

Overall, I’d give myself a solid B for the Experiment as a whole. Look for yourself though; below I’ve inserted all of the 300+ mocks, in order from last summer through Day 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft. Why? Well, I don’t have a lot going on at the moment.

“Will you repeating this entire ridiculous experiment again for the 2018 Draft?” — David, Banner Elk NC

I will, after a hiatus. I’m thinking of starting it up again around Training Camp. I’m also currently considering some fun additions, such as weekly video mocks, ticket giveaways and a few other tricks that may or may not involve cookies.

Thanks for hanging with me for year 1 of The Browns Daily Mock Draft Experiment. Year 2 promises to be bigger, better and an even more colossal waste of my time. Waste it with me on Twitter @BrownsMockDraft and @15Stephen15, won’t you?

Go Browns.

PS If you’re curious, here’s a 2018 Mock I did on May 2, 2017, for the sake of posterity. Now we’ll all have it too look back on and ridicule.

Stephen Thomas is a professional comedian, and has been a season ticket holder in The Dawg Pound since 1991. He still hates John Elway, Jeremiah Castille and Mike Davis, will swear to his grave that Rich Karlis’ kick was wide left, and would root for a team of Satan’s Minions if they played against the Steelers.

 

ALL 300+ MOCKS, IN ORDER