Sean Pendergast

The Mock Drafts' Biggest Misses of the 2023 NFL Draft

Thursday night was a long night for Kentucky QB Will Levis, who was not drafted until Friday night.
Thursday night was a long night for Kentucky QB Will Levis, who was not drafted until Friday night. Screen grab from YouTube
When it comes to investing thousands of man hours in order to get an endeavor right, there is no bigger folly than the NFL Draft. The league's franchises devote dozens of scouts, several more front office folks, and millions of dollars (in GM salaries and scouting travel costs) all to be correct a very, very small percentage of the time.

Hell, even in the first round of the draft, where prospects' futures should be the most predictable, NFL teams only "get it right" like half the time, if that. If you're looking for recent local draft work to back that up, the Texans had two picks in the top 15 in 2022 — Derek Stingley, Jr. and Kenyon Green — and right now, getting it "right" with just one of them would feel like a victory.

Part of the draft process, of course, is the prognostication via mock drafts as to where guys will be selected. There are literally hundreds of mock drafters out there with a keyboard and a website, some more respected than others. The consensus Mock Draft Database complies the most respected ones and blends them into a composite mock draft. This composite is fluid and changes as experts revise their boards.

Once the draft starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, the book is closed, players begin getting actually selected (as opposed to MOCK selected) and the composite mock draft is final. So how did the experts do this draft season? Well, they missed wildly on some pretty prominent names, that's how. I'm going to look at these in three groups.

We will start will the players who were way overestimated to be first round picks, some of them high first round picks. Here are the players projected in the first round by the mock drafters that fell 15 or more spots further than the experts thought they'd go:

16 spots – JOEY PORTER, Jr. – Mock 16th, Selected 32nd
20 spots – NOLAN SMITH – Mock 10th, Selected 30th
21 spots – BRIAN BRANCH – Mock 24th, Selected 45th
29 spots – WILL LEVIS – Mock 4th, Selected 33rd
32 spots – CYRUS O’TORRANCE – Mock 27th, Selected 59th
42 spots – JALIN HYATT – Mock 31st, Selected 73rd
45 spots – HENDON HOOKER – Mock 23rd, Selected 68th

By definition, these are all considered surprises, but the quarterbacks, Levis and Hooker, are the ones who move the needle. Levis was high up the odds board to go first OVERALL as close to the draft as the day before. He lasted into Day 2! Hendon Hooker was projected by some to be headed to the Texans with the 12th overall pick, and he lasted into the third round on Friday, in part because he is still rehabbing an ACL tear.

Okay, now we get the REALLY big misses. These are players projected by the mock consensus to be second round picks, and some of them fell well into the THIRD day of the draft (Rounds 4 through 7) on Saturday:

20 spots – JOSH DOWNS – Mock 59th, Selected 79th
23 spots – JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ – Mock 34th, Selected 57th
24 spots – DREW SANDERS – Mock 43rd, Selected 67th
33 spots – CEDRIC TILLMAN – Mock 41st, Selected 74th
38 spots – TRENTON SIMPSON – Mock 48th, Selected 86th
40 spots – SIAKI IKA – Mock 58th, Selected 98th
51 spots – DARNELL WASHINGTON – Mock 45th, Selected 96th
70 spots – KELEE RINGO – Mock 35th, Selected 105th
72 spots – ADETOMIWA ADEBAWORE – Mock 38th, Selected 110th
75 spots – DAWAND JONES – Mock 36th, Selected 111th
81 spots – DARIUS RUSH – Mock 57th, Selected 138th
98 spots – ANTONIO JOHNSON – Mock 62nd, Selected 160th

There are some very interesting names in that group. No player's draft stock was more volatile than Sanders, who oddsmakers had as the most likely linebacker to go early. He lasted into the third round. A couple of local players of interest, Ika from Baylor and Johnson from Texas A&M, took a deep tumble, with Johnson's 98 spot fall being the biggest one in this exercise.

Hey, it wasn't all bad news, though! Sometimes the mock drafters actually UNDERESTIMATE a few players, too! Here are the guys who went far EARLIER in the draft than expected:

16 spots – JAHMYR GIBBS – Mock 28th, Selected 12th
14 spots – WILL McDONALD – Mock 29th, Selected 15th
14 spots – JACK CAMPBELL – Mock 32nd, Selected 18th
17 spots – SAM LAPORTA – Mock 51st, Selected 34th
20 spots – B.J. OJULARI – Mock 61st, Selected 41st
32 spots – FELIZ ANUDIKE-UZOMAH – Mock 63rd, Selected 31st

Not a tremendously long list, with the headliner being Gibbs, who went to the Lions with the 12th pick in the draft. Gibbs is a good player, but a running back going that early is always risky.

SO as you can see, the draft process is very unpredictable. The only prediction I can make with any confidence is that we will have a list just like this one next year that will have about the same number of gross misses as the list here had this season.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at, on Instagram at, and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast