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Getting Max NFL Draft Value

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Drafting for value, drafting for need or best player available. These are the three tactical holy grails of the NFL Draft and to be frank, all three are often misunderstood terms. Let’s break it down.

Best Player Available

Ahhh, purest love this. On the surface drafting the BPA makes a lot of sense until you consider the reality of it. For instance, if you are the Minnesota Vikings and the BPA is a QB when you are on the clock you have a dilemma. You have zero need for a first round QB but unless you can find a trade partner that would be the selection. So looking only at BPA doesn’t seem to be the answer for any round which brings us to the next tactic:

Team Need

If  you’re a team badly in need of a QB and when the clock is ticking on your pick and you fill that need by “reaching” for a player that fulfills the requirement but on game day isn’t good enough to get the job done then, in reality, all you have done is wasted a pick. Bill Belichick is fond of pointing this out and he’s 100% correct. So “Picking” a player using team needs as the primary selection criteria doesn’t give the best results either which brings us to the final tactic:

Drafting for Value

We have finally arrived at the spot where longtime practitioners of the NFL Draft hang their hat. When you combine both of the above tactics you get value and that is the key to successful drafting. Of course how to determine “value” is key. To wit let’s look at the Dallas Cowboys.

For this exercise, we have to agree the Cowboys have team “needs” at LB, OL, Safety, and WR (disclaimer: I don’t agree with the list but it’s the one being most used right now). Then as their first-round pick comes at 19 they are looking at several available players on their board.

To get the most “bang for their buck” in the first round the Cowboys have to consider which player would be available in the second, which position group has the biggest drop off after “their guy” is gone and just how good is the guy they are looking at.

The WR class is deep and while both receivers are talented they could very well be around in the second and the drop off after they are gone is not steep at all with several other players available later. Not the best value here.

LB is a huge need due to the health concerns of the two Cowboys starters yet Sean Lee could very well play every snap of the season (probably not) and Jaylon Smith’s nerve could fully regenerate (probably not) and he could break out leaving a first round pick getting very few game day snaps. Not a good value pick here.

After Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick went off the boards the remaining safety talent is a mixed bag that talent level wise is day two material. A pick here at safety would almost certainly be a reach and very well could get the same treatment as a LB selection as the ‘Boys could very well have their starting safety tandem already on their roster. Not a good value pick here at all.

OT would fill a need but require a move to OG by Collins which diminishes the overall return they get with the move and with Williams you would still have a lot of questions. The value is there, but it’s risky.

OG would also fill a need and would be a plug-and-play solution as he would slide right into a waiting role and has the first round talent to get the job done. There are no “sure things” in the NFL but man-mountain Will Hernandez, fellow crusher Austin Corbett or the more versatile James Daniels all have “first-round” grades and would maximize the return on their selection. Tons of value here.

So “value wise” the team has to consider BPA, team needs AND the depth of the draft and their roster in order to get a relatable value that can guide their selection. Of course, this is the Cowboys and Jerry Jones is the owner/GM so they will probably draft a TE with an injured knee but I digress, the best “value” for the team isn’t solely based on position, team needs or draft, roster depth, it has to include a focus on the player. No matter the direness of the team need ultimately a player has to get the job done on game day. No matter the reason, be it injury, suspension or roster depth if a player isn’t getting serious game-day snaps then a team is NOT getting good draft “value” no matter the round the player was selected. Just ask Cowboys fans who have watched a series of high draft picks sit on the sidelines due to injured knees, backs, heads and various off-field issues that were all predicted.

The Cowboys are a great team to use to close out this piece as the owner is fond of explaining to any who will listen how he gets great “value” with his draft picks as the players he selected would have gone much higher in the draft if only they didn’t have one (or two) little issues. His definition of value produced:

  • 2nd round DE that has been suspended his first two years in the league
  • 2nd round LB that missed the 1st year and underperformed in 2nd
  • A series of TE’s that all sat behind Witten before moving on to other teams

That’s not draft “value.” That’s a draft nightmare.

Dallas will have an enticing handful of players to choose from at 19 this year. No matter what the owner, GM, pundits or the Ouija board say, however, the draft “value” of the player they select won’t be known until you count how many snaps the guy gets after the whistle blows.

Gavin Escobar was a huge talent in 2013, Randy Gregory’s first step was the best in the 2015 draft. Jaylon Smith is a young man of outstanding character and was an acknowledged top 10 pick before his horrific Fiesta Bowl injury.

Not one of the above players gave good draft-day “value’ for the team or its fans. For any team who’s on the clock later this month, they have to look at the player and consider not only his talent level but his availability. When it all comes together you get a fourth round QB leading your team to the playoffs in his rookie season. When it doesn’t you get a TE winning his Super Bowl ring on a different team.

Draft for value. NFL Draft April 26th. See you there.

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Senior Analyst, Editor, Photographer, Podcaster at SportsTalkLine
Senior Analyst, Editor, Podcaster & Photographer for @SportsTalkLine Network. Started covering the Cowboys on Moved to the same gig here and now head the NFL desk. Catch me on Twitter @StevenVanOver
Steven Van Over
Steven Van Over