This post is really just about some general draft strategies, ideas and sort of the guidelines that seem to navigate me through the discussions of who we might choose and why. It's not necessarily right or wrong as it's just my opinion, of course. It's not like any of us have actually been in a draft room before, so feel free to read through, agree and disagree. And then tell what kind of things you weigh in a draft strategy.
if there's a thesis here, it's not to say that you need to pick my draft strategy or agree with all my thoughts on it; the thesis would be to say that you should have a draft strategy - one that guides you on a big-picture level rather than just picking a favorite college player and trying to make him fit.
There's no specific order to the bullets, just randomness. There's a couple bullets that go into more than one paragraph. I couldn't figure out how to format the following paragraphs with an indent without numbering them (make sense?)... so just ignore those numbers :)
- Whenever practical, we should be looking to add youth at positions that have experience and add experience to positions that have youth. Aged players carry higher injury risk, inexperience carries face-palm moments, and too much of either prevents healthy year-to-year growth. Find the middle ground and marry it.
- Every year at draft time you’ll hear mentions of how often a certain position busts more than others. The information is widely known and often reiterated, but it would be unlikely that any team’s think tank would steer away from any specific prospect simply due to the particular position he plays having a slightly lesser success rate. Generally speaking, General Managers and Front Office personnel believe in themselves and in their talent evaluations too much for such a small aspect weigh against any player they really like. The takeaway is that you should put stock in positional value perhaps, but not in how often a position "busts". Nobody makes a decision based on fear, only on potential or likely impact.
I warn you.... the layout on this post really sucks. Apparently I'm not smart enough to figure out the formatting. Well, or maybe I'm just too lazy to spend the time :)
Mid-round draft prospects should be used on developmental starters, not developmental backups. This area of the draft is where it’s more advantageous to choose a raw player with the higher upside over the experienced player that is safer. Folks might argue here, but it's my game and my keyboard. Using this strategy, a team will likely draft less keepers but more starters. Stop. Think. Read that again and then try to argue. Essentially, instead of ending up with five "keeper" backups over a period of time, the team is likely to end up with two starters within the same period - making the more risky approach the more attractive approach in this specific case. Disclaimer, as if you care: Quarterbacks are often the exception to all rules and all strategies and guidelines.
- Doubling down on the same position to fill the same need in back-to-back draft years will always be a failure, because you’ve taken away the team’s ability to gain two starters with two picks. Instead, I think it’s wise to look at adding a veteran stop-gap as a security blanket for that position in question. Think Joe Mays for one year instead of giving up on Nate Irving (I wrote this post months ago and just never published it... low and behold Joe Mays was retained on what amounts to be a one-year deal - surprise?). Also, think Mike Adams for two years instead of giving up on Rahim Moore is what I'm saying here. And in other words - bluntly - stop giving up on kids that are still kids. When a 2nd and 3rd rounder doesn't become a starter in their first year, it's not time to replace them... it's time to take a breath my bro.
- Best Player Available (BPA) is a myth just like unicorns and fairy dust; They're both 90% false, only 10% true. Yeah, fairy dust. It's real ;) OK, so show me a team that you think drafts BPA in the comments, and I’ll show you how they somehow miraculously end up shockingly and surprisingly drafting a major team need early in nearly every draft. Yeah, you heard me... bring it. It's bull shi... well Timmy and B-Dawk would be mad at me for cursing, so you get what I'm saying, though, righ?
- In fact, how do you think mock drafts work? How can some experts get maybe up to 60% of their early round picks right? Stop. Think. If teams really drafted BPA, there would be no mock drafts. You would just have a "big board" where teams choose the best guy that’s left and go right down the list. Well, other than the Raiders… they don’t have any picks. And man, that really just made me smile from ear to ear as I typed that last sentence :D
- My dudes, iIt’s time that we all accept that only teams with incredibly deep rosters truly draft using the Best Player Available approach, and even then it’s incredibly rare to not take a position of need with your first two picks.
- Staying in the forest of mythical unicorns for a minute - and this is the long one - I think it’s important that we all realize that there’s more to a draft grade than performance or even potential. Now don’t get me wrong here, I don’t grade draft picks. I don’t have spreadsheets with all these speedy little guys ranked, and you’ll never hear me say, "I’ve got him graded as a late 3rd round pick". Nope, I’m not cool like that. I will, however, tell you that when a team develops their draft grade, scouting and actual talent is only one aspect of that grade. The takeaway here is to realize that Mike Mayock's grade for player X is often pretty far away from how Brian Xanders grades the guy. Mayock grades for talent, Xanders grades for everything.
- EFX get a grade for Player X from their scouting department. EFX then split up positional groupings among themselves and go over game tape on the prospects, too - they check the work of their scouts. When questions and differing opinions inevitably arise, they confer with the scouting department to try and understand better as to why they see things differently. Blah, blah, blah. You get the idea. Eventually there’s a finished grade for what I guess we could call talent. It’ll include game film, combine, SR Bowl. It includes his ability and potential ability on a football field.
- Once that’s done, though, the final grade is far from finished. There will be a grade for how smart he is and how quickly he picks things up. There will be a grade for his character - how many charities he’s involved in, how many DUIs he’s had and even how many baby mama’s he’s knocked up. Believe that. Then there are grades for intangibles - leadership, how well he gets along with people in the locker room, etc. Then the kid is going to get kudos or kicks for how much he’s perceived to love the game - you want it as his first priority. Work ethic is another big grade - huge for me. And then you’ve got to grade him on "scheme fit" - how well does he fit into your specific scheme. Yep. This isn’t plug-and-play my friends, it’s the NFL - most guys at a position can play that position on most teams, but certain guys are going to better for your specific scheme. Then of course, my MHR brethren, there’s also a boost or a knock for positional need. Yeah, believe that too - remember the unicorns? Another major grade teams use is their "NFL readiness". Potential is great, but if one player is going to take a year before making impact and the other player isn’t - well, it matters. It’s a big one.
- There’s no way to know exactly how much weight the grade in each of those categories carry with each specific team, nor can we know exactly what formula the team ultimately uses in developing their final grade. Still, the lesson for us here is that there’s more to a team’s draft board than the lists you look at from Kiper, Mayock and the boys. So for those with their pencils out, the takeaway here is that not all talent is created equal. Talent alone isn't enough to form your opinions, so dig deep... The Broncos do. Look girls, those ranked lists we look at are a checker board, but this is a game of chess. It’s OK to go against the grain sometime... Brian and the Johns certainly will.
- Let me segwey back to the idea that not all positions are created equal for a second because there’s another point there that deserves it’s own fancy little bullet here. Positions that cost more to hire in free agency are given higher draft grades. Why you ask? Lucky you... The reason is because you would rather be in position to need a free agent at a cheaper position than a free agent at a premium-paid position.Stop. Think. This one's important.
- Think of it like this: You want to add a great corner and a great DT, one through the draft and one through free agency. Those are your two major needs. A top-notch DT in FA is going to cost you $28M over the course of a four year deal, while a top-notch corner is going to cost you over $40M for the same length. Our #25 pick is going to cost about $8M over four years, pretty much regardless of position. Combine the two positions and with all things being equal, you’re saving twelve million dollars, or three million dollars per year, by drafting the premium position. Make the opposite decision a couple times and you’ve got a crap load of good money that could have been spent elsewhere. You're now needing to add spendier dudes in free agency.
- So again, premium paid positions get premium preference in the draft. It’s not an end-all be-all solution, but it’s maybe a good rule for tie-breakers. You’re not going to pass on Trent Richardson at #12 just because his positional value sucks, but if you’ve got a DE and a DT that grade out closely and have a need for both… go with the DE every time. And tell them Rodney told you to.
- OK, so now that the long one(s) are done, here's me just dropping some knowledge... High round draft prospects should be viewed as solutions, not projects. This is not meant to say each second-round pick has to be viewed as an immediate starter, but rather that he should have immediate starting potential, and that the team drafting him has at least an immediate opening for major contribution from him.Taking notes? I'm saying throw the word "starter" out the window and just make sure that any position we draft in the first couple rounds has immediate room to have major impact without pushing a major impactor out of the way. Sense does it make? No, probably not...
- A lot of second-round players don’t start right away, but we should all drill this in the ear hole nonetheless: He needs to have room to start or make significant impact. BPA and unicorns, remember? We’re drafting BPA at position of need in the early rounds, as all teams do. It doesn’t matter if the guy might be the next Mario Williams (DE) or Joe Thomas (OT). How much impact is he really going to make if he’s got Elvis Dumervil or Ryan Clady in front of him? Even if the guy ends up better than Clady, you’re still not maximizing your draft pick because he’s not getting enough playing time to make enough impact.Impact. Immediate and long term. When in doubt... steer there. It'll take you home.
- This one is specific to this current draft. With our first-round pick we want to add the most dynamic playmaker or the guy that is going to best improve our team immediately. For me, that means that if Broderick, Fletcher Cox and Devon Still are gone, I'm still going to draft Kendall Wright... although I can also understand why others would go after a cornerback. Corner would represent good positional value and it's a position we'll need soon enough, but for now, he's not going to immediately upgrade Tracy Porter or Champ Bailey - so his impact will be limited. This is why I say no. Kendall Wright will impact our team more than even Dre Kirkpatrick. Moving on, running back in the first-round, to me, is just horrible positional value, and he's just not going to have enough carries this year to make enough of an impact to warrant such a high-round pick.
Debate it or tell me what you think. Got any strategic nuggets of your own that sort of help guide you to your picks?