Disclaimer: This is not a mock draft post! 2014 NFL Draft prospects will not be discussed in this post! I know that there is an extreme shortage of mock drafts available out there, but you are going to have to look a little harder to find one I guess. Instead I decided to go a different direction with the draft looming less than a month away...
If you ask John Dorsey who he plans to take with the #23 pick in the 2014 draft his answer would be "the best player available". It's a tired old cliche, but there is a bit of truth there. If you constantly pick players at positions of need while neglecting to consider what players project to be good to great NFL players, even if not at a position of need, then you have a recipe for a pretty bad team over time. Consequently, if you were to pick the pure BPA every year you could possibly do worse. I could definitely see OT being the BPA in the first round 5 years in a row, and I fail to see how picking an OT in the first round 5 years in a row would significantly improve any team. What if the best player in the draft is a punter?
Any NFL fan that has even the slightest understanding of a 53 man roster and salary cap can figure out that there are far more criteria than best player available that need to be evaluated if you plan to successfully build a team through the draft. I really can't see the Seahawks taking a QB in the first, even if QB happened to be the BPA because one fell to #32. It just wouldn't make any sense. It is nearly impossible to successfully draft using a pure BPA strategy. At the very least you have to consider positional value and your current roster strengths and weaknesses.
So to have a little fun, I have attempted to get between the ears of the brain trust at One Arrowhead Drive, and develop a draft strategy specifically tailored for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2014 draft. I wanted to try to imagine all of the criteria that they might consider for making picks and prioritize the possibilities to maximize team improvement through the 2014 draft. I started by brainstorming criteria for identifying players to best improve the team and the basic categories I came up with were:
Generational Talent/Franchise QB- Every so often a prospect like Andrew Luck, Calvin Johnson or Joe Thomas comes around. These prospects are the best of the best in a decade or more at their position. These are can't miss prospects. If you have the opportunity to draft a player like this YOU DO IT regardless of what position they play and what consequences may come from it, even if you have to release Peyton Manning to do so. If the Chiefs EVER have an opportunity to get a franchise QB, (defined as a 10+ year player for this team, going to multiple pro bowls and winning playoff games during his tenure) then they have to make that move at all costs. The value of a Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning outweighs everything else when it comes to building a Super Bowl contender.
Best Player Available- This category is some type of mix of college production vs. athletic ability vs. projected ability. Depending on what Andy Reid and the rest of the coaching staff want and need to be successful on the field.
Positional Value- You can't take a long snapper in the first round no matter how good he is. You just can't. Positional values has to play a part when deciding what player to take in a draft. When trying to prioritize here I started with a saying I have heard around the NFL a time or two when describing what positions are most important to building a winning football team. You need a QB, you need to get to the opposing QB, and you need to protect your QB. I also tried to factor in how rare the physical skill set of the position was, how much the position could directly affect scoring or preventing scoring, and the historical availability of quality players at specific positions in later rounds . The rest is just my best guess. In order of importance from top to bottom:
- OLB (3-4DEF) /DE (4-3DEF)
- DE (3-4DEF) /OLB(4-3DEF)
- ST/Role player
Position of Need- This category is different for every team. Reid and Dorsey have to ask themselves "Can this player come in and compete and/or win a starting role on the team now or in the near future?". If the answer is NO then you have to really question whether you would benefit from drafting this player even if he is the BPA. This is a double edged sword because GMs tend to reach for a player in a position of need and overlook a more talented player. It's better for this team to draft a pro bowl RB than a bust at FS or WR with the 23rd pick. The next list was based on an April 8th AP poll for a Chiefs big board and the rest is purely my opinion of what the Chiefs most urgent and important needs are:
- ST/Role player
Trade Opportunities- Dorsey and Reid have to consider options to trade up and trade down. If the believe that they can get a Generational Player or Franchise QB then they owe it to the team and the fans to trade up pretty much regardless of the cost. I personally would trade every draft pick that the Chiefs have this year for Andrew Luck and not even think twice. I highly doubt the Colts make that trade, but you understand my point. When the Chiefs draft pick comes around they must also carefully consider any offers to trade down and pick up more players. If they can improve the team with similar level talent while trading back, and pick up even more picks later in the draft to help improve this team then they probably should. You want to get good value for trading back. Considering this draft has been heralded as "The Deepest Draft in 10 Years", then trading down will likely be the Dorsey's best option on May 8th if a good offer is on the table.
Projected Availability of Quality Players at a Given Position In Later Rounds- If Calvin Pryor and Marquise Lee are available at #23, then you can't tell me that the thought of whether there was a better chance to pick up a quality FS or WR with pick #87 wouldn't cross Dorsey or Reid's mind. If you are trying to fill multiple holes on this team then you have to at least consider potential availability of quality players at a given position in later rounds. If you draft too many players at any one position, then you risk them not making the team and losing any value that the pick once had to the team.
Salary Cap- It is important to understand that there is only so much pie to go around. Hard decisions will have to be made to let certain players go so other players can stay. This is the harsh reality of the salary cap in the NFL. If you spend too much money at any certain position, then you risk not having enough money to fill needs at other positions. Holes made by salary cap casualties will have to be filled, and it is always more prudent to draft a position a year before you need to unload a player at that position. This HAD to have played a big part in Dorsey selecting Eric Fischer in 2013.
I know I am probably missing or overlooking something here, but to sum it all up in order of priority I ranked it:
1. Generational Talent/Franchise QB
2. Best Player Available
3. Positional Value
4. Position of need
5. Trade Opportunities
6. Projected Availability of Quality Players at a Given Position in Later Rounds
7. Salary Cap
If I try to extrapolate the above into a coherent draft strategy I come up with this:
First and foremost, Dorsey must identify if there are any projected Generational Players and/or Franchise QBs in this draft. If there is then he has to do everything he can to obtain that prospect. If no prospects like this exist or they can't trade up to acquire one, then he needs to then look for the Best Player Available when their pick comes up. He must prioritize similar talent level players at different positions by Positional Value as well as Position of Need. He then has to weigh the player left on the top of the board against any possible Trade Opportunities while considering Projected Availability of Quality Players at a Given Position in Later Rounds. Lastly, Dorsey must consider the projected Salary Cap implications, and possible cap casualties of the near future.
So what have we learned? Who should the Chiefs draft with picks #23, 87, 124, 163, 193 and 200? I'm not sure. I may be more confused now about who I believe the Chiefs should pick than when I started writing this. What do you think?