Mock drafts in general are a shot in the dark, and conducting them a year before the next draft is even more so. However, Todd McShay has provided a 2015 NFL mock draft that does include some value to it. Just not in connection to the players and positions mocked out!
What is actually interesting about this mock is the way McShay figured out the draft order. He worked with Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz to use some of their early projected win totals. FO will continue to refine the numbers and publish them with their annual Almanac, later this summer.
For those that are not aware, FO figures out the percentage chance of each team finishing within various ranges of victories. They'll come out with a mean projection, but the real value in my mind is the various odds. For example, here is how last year's numbers shook out:
2013 Mean Projection: 9.7 wins
On the clock (0-4 wins): 2%
Mediocrity (5-7): 14%
Playoff Contender (8-10): 47%
Super Bowl Contender (11+): 37%
People focus in on the mean projection, but I think the percentages help a bit more.
This year, the early 49ers projection appears to include a mean somewhere around 9 wins. Here's how the entire NFC West shakes out (I've posted 2013 mean projections and actual record for each team in parenthesis):
Seattle Seahawks: 10-6 (10.3, 13-3)
San Francisco 49ers: 9-7 (9.7, 12-4)
Arizona Cardinals: 8-8 (6.5, 10-6)
St. Louis Rams: 6-10 (5.8, 7.9)
It's obviously way too early to know how the 2014 season will shake out. I think most of us expect better than 9-7 from the 49ers. And as I mentioned earlier, I'm more curious to see the various percentages for win ranges. I think that will give us a little bit better idea of FO projections.
And for those actually curious about the pick, McShay has the 49ers selecting TCU defensive end/outside linebacker Devonte Fields, with this analysis:
Fields played in only three games last season, his 2013 campaign cut short by injury, but he showed off his considerable talent as a freshman when he recorded 10 sacks for the Horned Frogs.