After some brain crushing soul searching (3 beers, a nap, and watching some opening day baseball), I have distilled my draft thoughts into the simplest form.
I am a believer in using a draft board and a priority needs list as your roadmap. Otherwise, why even hire scouts. You must completely and unconditionally trust your scouts. If you don’t, you need new scouts. Duh.
I am also a believer in simplicity. A simple strategy, if well thought out, will provide you with a very strong sense of organizational direction and confidence.
Finally, there are two topics that I will discuss before getting into my 109 Word Draft Manifesto. The first is in regard to quarterbacks. While I believe that your primary focus should be building your team rather than chasing franchise quarterbacks, I can’t argue with proof.
In 2010, 9 of the 12 playoff teams had QBs drafted in rd 1* (both SB teams featured R1 QBs as well)
In 2009, 8 of the 12 playoff teams had QBs drafted in rd 1* (both SB teams featured R1 QBs as well*)
In 2008, 7 of the 12 playoff teams had QBs drafted in rd 1 (one SB team featured R1 a QB as well)
In 2007, 7 of the 12 playoff teams had QBs drafted in rd 1** (one SB team featured a R1 QB as well)
In 2006, 8 of the 12 playoff teams had QBs drafted in rd 1* (both SB teams featured R1 QBs as well)
Legend: * Drew Brees was the first pick of round 2 and I’m calling him a first rounder, so sue me ** the ’07 Redskins played 14 games with Jason Campbell as starter and made it to the playoffs largely with him under center
So, in the last 5 years, 39 of the 60 (or 65%) of the playoff teams had first round QBs starting for them. 8 of the 10 Super Bowl QBs (or 80%) were first round picks. And here’s the nail in the coffin: ALL FIVE QBs* of the past 5 Super Bowl winning teams were first round draft picks. That’s 100% for you math majors out there. You cannot argue with the proof.
Understanding that having an elite QB is the highest indicator of postseason appearances and success is very important. Quarterback is the most important thing. Period.
However, you can’t very well draft the best available QB in the first round on your team's draft board every year. That’s insane. And I don’t want to give Al Davis any ideas. The issue is that you’ll end up missing out on phenomenal players at other positions every time you do. So, my 109 Word Draft Manifesto is QB-centric, but it does include a qualifier. You shouldn’t draft a first round QB just because other teams think that a particular QB is a first round talent. You should draft a QB in the first round if an available QB is probably better than any QB you have on your roster. Yes, this generally goes against Ted Thompson’s idea of drafting Aaron Rodgers. But there are variables in every situation. Thompson felt as though Rodgers was too good to pass up and that Favre only had a few years left. So he made a move. Although it was risky, it worked. That’s not normal either. That’s the exception to the rule. I am not saying the 109 Word Draft Manifesto (109WDM) can’t be tweaked and changed year to year, because it can, but I think that it is a good baseline.
The second topic that needs some color before diving into my 109WDM is the concept of Best Player Available. BPA is a pretty huge discussion topic, as is BPA’s cousin, Need. Ozzie Newsome has long contended that his strategy is almost always to take the best player available. And he's tough to argue with. He has a great track record. But there is no right or wrong. And they (BPA vs Need) are not mutually exclusive strategies that teams employ. A team might draft for need in round 1 and go BPA in round 2 for whatever reason. What I tried to do is give a very high value to the BPA but use a measuring tool for whether or not to draft for need or not based upon a team’s completed draft board. Each one of us (draftniks, dorks, nerds, die-hards, Broncomaniacs, idiots, etc) that cares about the draft and has a favorite team has some sort of mental draftboard. But it’s probably messier than the cover of my Pee Chee folder in 5th grade (if you don’t know what a Pee Chee folder is, you missed out on an epic canvass for doodling during Social Studies).
But every NFL team has a perfectly drawn up and detailed draft board (Jimmy Jones concurs). Essentially, it lists every player available in the draft ranked by who is best. When I refer to a draft board, that’s precisely what I am referring to. I am NOT referring to a board broken down by positions. Although teams likely have some iteration of a positional draft board, that’s not the ‘big board’ that the teams use to determine BPA. Also, a team must have a priority list of positional needs going into the draft. This becomes important to the qualifier of whether or not to draft the BPA. Using the needs list and and a BPA big board would produce the best results.
At last, I hope this gives you some fodder for a longer conversation about draft strategy. If you have questions for me or simply want to tar and feather my strategy, then let me have it.
Full disclosure, I wanted the Broncos to draft Freddie Mitchell back in 2001. We took Willie Middlebrooks. Both of those players were horrendous. Especially when you realize Reggie Wayne, Drew Brees, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ochocinco, Kris Jenkins, and Matt Light were all available. Also, I would have bet my mortgage that Denver was going to draft DeSean Jackson in the 2nd round of 2008. But we took Eddie Royal instead (I’d take D-Jax 100 out of 100 times over Eddie, bless his taco hawking soul). Last year, I wanted Dez over Demaryious (I’d still take Dez over D.T. – wardrobe problems and all) and I kinda sorta called the Tebow pick. Beyond that, my credentials to teach draft class aren’t dissimilar to every actor’s credentials to blather on about politics whenever somebody shoves a hot microphone up their nose.
Yes – it’s oversimplified. I mean, it doesn't account for a QB that will be available in a later round. And no – I don’t actually think John Fox or Brian Xanders will find this and email me and offer me a spot in the war room because of my elegant thought process. Of course Elway wouldn’t call me ‘Beautiful Mind’ when he met me. But I can dream.
Here it is – my 109 Word Draft Manifesto:
Is there a QB in this draft that’s PROBABLY better than any QB you have on your roster?
If yes – will he be available with your first round pick?
If yes – draft him
If no – who is the best player available?
Does that player fill one of your biggest 2 needs?
If yes – draft him
If no – is there a player at your biggest need still available that's within 2 places of the BPA on your draft board?
If yes – draft the player at the position you need most (if the player is within only 2 places of the BPA on your draft board)
If no – Take the BPA
Applying the manifesto for this year would yield a first round selection of Nick Fairley, but that's only because I have Fairley as my #2 player in the draft (Peterson's #1). Most of you would end up with Dareus or Miller or a QB if you think Gabbert or Cam (and his arrogant smile) Newton is probably better than Tebow or Orton. As you can see - I would rather have Tebow or Orton than any of the QBs in the draft. In fact, I like Locker best, but only in the second round. And I don't expect him to last that long.
The results from the manifesto are somewhat predictable. Teams at the top of the draft will mostly end up drafting for need. At the end of round 1 and continuously increasing through the end of the draft, teams will begin drafting BPA more and more as the draft moves along
My needs list:
My top 5 players in the draft (big board):
As you can see, my top 5 list probably looks nothing like yours...
As a parting shot - just remember - love the pick or not - Tebow WAS a 1st rounder....