Reaching For Value in the NFL Draft

Rather than try to do a Twitter rant with a 140-character limit, I just wanted to share some thoughts on NFL teams “reaching” in the draft.

Let’s look at a hypothetical. A team holds the 15th and 47th picks in the draft. The player they want is roughly the 32nd-best prospect on the board according to most teams and experts. Should the team still pull the trigger on that player, which could be considered a reach, or should they take someone with closer “value” to the No. 15 pick?

(Note: Literally just as I was going to hit “Publish”, I saw a link that made me realize this hypothetical is essentially the real-life example of Seattle and Bruce Irvin last year.)

I say you take the player you want and ignore the so-called “reach” criticism. What’s valuable is getting the player that you feel best fits your system and need. There’s a good chance that player would not be there when you pick again at 47. There is no guarantee you could trade down and get the player in the 20s or 30s; supposedly closer to where he is “supposed to go.” It takes two to tango.

Remember, when these Mel Kiper/Mike Mayock types rank players, they are looking at every position in the draft. The reality is teams are looking at a limited number of positions when it comes to that premium first-round pick. If Geno Smith is the best player available at No. 17, that doesn’t mean a damn thing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, because they have a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger.

Let’s look at a real example with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year. Last week I broke down whether or not Tampa Bay should be trading for Darrelle Revis.

These are the only positions the Buccaneers, who pick 13th (for now), should be considering with that pick: TE, WR, DE, DT, OLB, and CB.

You could argue it’d be no different in the second round (43rd overall) for Tampa as well. I almost didn’t include WR because of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams as starters, though you could imagine the value of a Tavon Austin in the slot in that offense. Still, it’s a fringe need for this team.

But the point is Tampa Bay is only looking at a few different positions, so their board is far different from many teams and that of the experts who will instantly be analyzing these picks. If Texas safety Kenny Vacarro is the best player available when Tampa Bay picks, then you can’t fault them when they pass given they have Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson. If they take a player that’s only 25th on Mel Kiper’s big board at No. 13, then you better adjust it for all the players Kiper had listed at positions Tampa Bay didn’t need to fill.

After you do that, you’ll likely see it was hardly a reach.

Historically, the 13th pick holds more value than the 32nd pick, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to produce a better player in every case. So you should focus on taking the best player for your team, even if he supposedly isn’t worth a top 15 pick. Every single year there are players who go at the end of the round that are much better than players at the start of that round.

That’s one of the many issues with analysis of a process so inexact. No matter who’s doing the mock draft, no one really knows how a team feels about the players they have and what they think they really need to upgrade. That’s why you end up with draft results that are so drastically different from expectations, which is how you end up with “that team reached!”

But the only real reach is thinking one can ever predict how a NFL draft will unfold.

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One thought on “Reaching For Value in the NFL Draft

  1. Tampa Bay can have Tavon Austin, anyone other than the Vikings….my god if the Vikings draft Austin (who my household has already begun to call “Troy Williamson 2”) I will jump in the damn MIssissippi RIver and not swim.

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