There’s something that I need to get off my chest, and it is the notion of BPA – best player available. It’s becoming a bit of a catch phrase in the discussion of the NFL Draft and seen as rationale for justifying selections which should really go beyond just 3 simple letters. After-all it’s the best player available, how can there be an argument against it? Any other player you’re selecting would be the not-best player available, and clearly you don’t want to build an organization aiming for 2nd or 3rd best. But if taking BPA is the “best” way to build a team, why are there even people in the war room? Just put a checkmark by the box that lets you autopick based on who the highest person available on your board and go hit some golf balls, right?
I’m going to do something crazy, so brace yourself: I’m going to argue against drafting BPA and call for the shunning of all people who use the term to defend the drafting of somebody. To me, the rationalization of a draft pick as BPA can be used synonymously with the phrase “I don’t feel like going into further detail.”
Best “Prospect” Available
First and foremost, “best player available” is just untrue. For 2009, Mike Mayock had Eugene Monroe at 1, Michael Crabtree at 2, Robert Ayers at 3, and Knowshon Moreno at 4. Matt Stafford was behind Mark Sanchez, LeSean McCoy was behind Donald Brown, and his 5th ranked receiver was Brian Robiskie with the comment “best route-runner, great value.” And that’s not to pick on Mayock, as he is one of the best in the business, but projections are often so off from reality that it’s surprising that anyone actually claims to be an expert. If the 5 best players to come out of the 2012 NFL Draft end up being Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, David DeCastro, Matt Kalil, and Morris Claiborne (the top 5 of yours truly) I’ll consider myself more lucky than good. Unless you’re Nostradamus you just don’t know how players will develop, how they’ll handle the spotlight, and how they’ll cope with successes and failures. The correct meaning of BPA should be “best prospect available” because that’s what they are – prospects.
Whose Board Is It Anyways?
One of the reasons that I’m not eager to make a big board is that I don’t know which team I’m making it for. Teams will value different traits in players based on the scheme they run. West coast offense, zone blocking, 3-4, 4-3, Tampa-2, wide 9, the list goes on – each team that runs these can have a completely different definition of prototype.
Also important, who is on the team? If you have Tom Brady, is Andrew Luck your best player available? If you have a solid pair on the outside but lack a true slot cornerback, do you have the slot higher on your board?
Adding even more confusion to this whole mess, what kind of scenario is your team currently in? Do they have the luxury to take a gamble on the high upside of a Stephen Hill or do they need immediate production right now? Does your locker room have leaders that can provide guidance to a Janoris Jenkins or will he fall into the same bad habits that troubled him in college? Far too many elements come into play for boards to be uniform between every team so it begs the question, whose board is it anyways?
It’s important to look at the landscape of the entire draft (or even the one after) when making a selection. As I was taught ages ago when first starting to drive, grasp the big picture of the street – don’t just constantly calibrate yourself between the dotted lines. If the top 5 prospects left on your board are running backs with little fall-off between them, why take the first one? There is a chance that you can select a completely different position (or trade down) and still get one of those 5 running backs. Have your cake and eat it too.
I also write articles for fantasy football with ProFootballFocus.com and one of the biggest blunders that I see far too often is the selecting of a quarterback early. In a 10 man league, I can name you 10 quarterbacks right now that I would be more than happy to have as my starter. Even though having Drew Brees or Tom Brady is friggin’ sweet, if you don’t have a great QB you can pick up a starter off of the waiver wire more times than not – same can’t exactly be said about running backs and receivers. With quarterbacks, your handcuff IS the waiver wire.
The idea is to get the best playerS (emphasis on the “S”) available. Thus, understand how the dominoes are going to fall. Imagine that your two biggest needs are OT and CB. This draft has a pretty large drop-off after Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff whereas at cornerback though Morris Claiborne is said by many to be the top one in the draft, Janoris Jenkins, Dre Kirkpatrick and Stephon Gilmore are good consolation prizes. I wouldn’t bat an eyelash if a team found the pairing of Reiff/Gilmore to be better than Claiborne/Mike Adams.
As I mentioned before, knowing the strength of future drafts is important as well. A month ago, I wrote this article comparing the 2012 NFL Draft to what we could see in the 2013 Draft. I recommend either reading it or making your own list. Teams aren’t built in just one draft, a long term approach is imperative.
Supply and Demand
Also important is to understand the supply of a position and the demand of them on the open market. This past offseason, Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch are the only running backs to receive what I would call large contracts (6 million plus). Meanwhile, as Ray Rice and Matt Forte are en route to potentially nasty holdouts, Vincent Jackson, Stevie Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, and Laurent Robinson all reeled in contracts worth at or more than 6 million annually. Even guys whom most would call good running backs such as Mike Tolbert, Peyton Hillis, Michael Bush, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis had to settle for contracts worth less than 4 million per year. Though it’s a hard argument to drive that running backs are easier to find or less valued than wide receivers, the free agent market certainly seems to be dictating that’s the case. Right now, the top free agent wide receivers are two guys that nobody seems to want: Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens. At running back, Cedric Benson, Justin Forsett, and Tim Hightower (just to name a few) are still looking for work. Supply and demand, supply and demand. If supply is high, you’re a fool to pay a high price for it. If you disagree, I have a nice bag of sand that I would like to sell to you.
Need Based Drafting? You’re Crazy Mike!
For some reason, need based drafting is accompanied by stank faces and condescending looks – and I’m not sure why. Even though SportsCenter would have you believe that games are decided by the superstars, watching the same instant replay can show you that it was just as much (if not more-so) decided by the worst player on the field. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Like a phalanx, a single weak spot and the unit is compromised. There are certain transcending players who could make the BPA argument hold up – but to that I say that such a gamechanging player would be “needed” by any team. Check. And. Mate.
Next week, I’ll go into detail on why having an offensive line is unnecessary. Stay tuned!