Posted: 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014
By Joey Ickes
The truth is no team drafts with a pure "BPA" philosophy.
It is a consistently popular dialogue this time of year in NFL circles, how are teams going to draft? Will they focus on their positions of need, taking a player at those positions, even if someone around them might be a "better" player, or will they set their board based only on each players talent and select the most talented player on their board when their pick comes up?
The latter option is referred to as taking the "Best Player Available" or "BPA" for short.
In a vacuum either option can make some sense. You don't want to field a team the next year without addressing some glaring position of weakness, but you also don't want to "reach" and take a lesser player that may not actually improve your team. However, in addition to this pure talent vs position argument, there is are discussions of scheme fit, injury concerns, off-field problems, positional depth (or lack thereof) in the draft, implied positional value, and more. When you understand this you understand that both the "BPA" and the "Need" theories are very limited in and of themselves.
There fore, let me introduce you to my new description of teams draft theory, that is, "Best Grade Available."
When teams put their draft boards together, each player receives a grade, some teams use a pure numbers system from 1.0 to 9.0 with 9.0 being a transcendent talent and 1.0 being an undraftable guy with no future in the NFL. While others, (like your Dallas Cowboys) use a different system. A sample grade for a Cowboys prospect would be a 1.10. With this grade, the first number 1 is a constant and doesn't change, the second 1, immediately following the decimal point represents the round of the draft where they will fall, and the zero representing where in the round that player would fall. In this case the zero would indicate that this player is the very first player in the round. Therefore the 1.10 grade would be handed to the best player in the first round of the draft, which would of course be the best player in the entire draft.
However, this grade, regardless of grading system, will no doubt take into account each of the items we discussed before. How that player fills a need might bump a guy from a 1.15 (middle of first round), up to a 1.13 ( Top 1/3 of the first round) grade, where as failing to fit the scheme, or play a premium position might drop a guy from a 1.12 (Top 5 player in round 1) down to a 1.18 or 1.22 type grade (where Shariff Floyd likely should have fallen on the Cowboys board in 2013). So taking the player with the highest grade available means that before the draft, when you are not in the heat of the moment, you have taken things like your self evaluation of your team, your projection of the prospects' talent, their fit in your schemes, whether they are the RKG, their medical condition and any other information you obtain into account in your slotting of those players. Then when you get to your pick in the draft, you've already got guys in position where you feel comfortable taking them, and it's not based on some partial evaluation or short sighted criteria, like the best talent available or a pure team need.