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Best Available Player (BAP) versus Team Need

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; BAP versus Need Draft Theory Volume 1 Number 1 The Dichotomy between concepts of Best available player and Team need in a salary cap era Let us begin this draft theory article with a cautionary tale, one that should be ...

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Old 02-25-2007, 08:23 AM   #1
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Best Available Player (BAP) versus Team Need

BAP versus Need
Draft Theory
Volume 1 Number 1
The Dichotomy between concepts of Best available player and Team need in a salary cap era

Let us begin this draft theory article with a cautionary tale, one that should be familiar to astute draftniks but still bears repeating for the record.Even though the following is not a tale from the football world, the relative simplicity of the this draft structure and starting roster requirements in this example lends more relevance to the football draft than most would realize. A draft is a draft; the setting of this story simply has fewer variables than the current manifestation of the greatest selection process in the greatest of sports: the NFL draft.

In 1984 the Portland Trailblazers had a roster full of talented guards and small forwards (including Clyde Drexler), and logic dictated they needed a center to complete the puzzle. Their pick was second overall, just out of reach of the real premium center that year, current Hall-of-Famer, Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwon out of Houston University's Phi Slamma Jamma.

The consensus second best player was an explosive and dynamic player from North Carolina, a young shooting guard by the name of Michael Jordan. But the Blazers didn't need a guard, they needed a big man.

Hence they picked for need and selected Sam Bowie out of Kentucky, letting the best available player (a.k.a. the BPA or the BAP) fall to the Chicago Bulls picking third and the rest is history. Bowie had an injury-addled career as a journey-man and Jordan went on to be what many consider the greatest of all time (a.k.a. the G.O.A.T.). It should also be noted that future Dream-Teamers Charles Barkley and John Stockton were picked at 5 and 16 respectively.

So what's the moral here? Always draft the best available player and forget about need, right? Well, that was a quick draft theory entry. Class dismissed.

Wait, hold on a second. As noted earlier the NFL draft is not nearly as simple as this example; an NFL team has to fill over four times the amount of starting slots as an NBA team and has to deal with hard salary cap constraints.

In addition the variable of offensive and defensive systems comes into play - for example a player that might fit well as a penetrating defensive tackle in the 4-3 defense might be completely out of place reading and reacting, occupying blockers in a 3-4 defense. An offensive lineman who would excel in a zone blocking scheme might not be the best fit for a team with a man blocking scheme. Yet another factor is the team culture - some teams prioritize character to such an extent that certain players will not be on their draft board. Other teams have no such reservations. Determining how a player fits into the team's systematic and character philosophies also contributes to the idea of that player's relative value.

In the NFL it often is too complex to issue any blanket statements, however that is not going to stop us from issuing the following: the optimal selection BOTH fills a team need and is the best available player on the board. Unfortunately this is a rare situation and things aren't usually so cut and dried.

For every team and every pick there is often a delicate balance required between drafting the BAP and drafting for team need. As more variables are entered into the equation the border between a bad decision and a good decision becomes less distinct.

What is a team to do, if for example it is their selection and the BAP on the board is clearly a QB. However the team already has one of the highest paid (and best) QB's in the league on the roster? These two players together would take up over a quarter of the cap and only one can play at a time.

Meanwhile what if this same team has a below average left tackle and wants to protect the blindside of its most valuable commodity - the aforementioned franchise QB - but the top left tackle that is on the board when they pick is projected to go 10 to 20 slots later? Do they "reach" to fill team need?

In this case the correct move would be to try to broker trade down with a QB hungry team (as QB is one of the few positions teams will trade up for routinely) get an extra pick and the player they wanted anyway at a lower price. Trading down and draft value are entirely separate topics and will be addressed in future articles. However the point here is that from the perspective of the BAP, the best available player should always go higher than the player determined as a best fit for team need. Once a team puts team need over BAP it is making a mistake, reaching for a player of lower value than the draft slot.

Let's take two other examples, first that of the New Orleans Saints who in 2001 drafted running back Duece Mcallister in the first round, despite mortgaging an entire draft only a couple years earlier on Ricky Williams, and more recently the New York Giants selecting defensive end Mathias Kiwaunka despite having Michael Strahan, Osi Umeniora and Justin Tuck on the roster. At the times these moves were looked upon at as BAP gone wild, so to speak, taking the most talented players on the board, but putting them in a log jam for playing time that would ultimately hinder their effectiveness. Of course both players proved useful as trades, injuries and age removed existing players from the equation to varying degrees. In these cases taking the BAP over team need, even working toward a position of strength was the correct move as the rosters of NFL teams are far from static. There is also the idea drafting toward a position of strength with the intention of forming a "super unit" (which will be discussed further in future articles).

It is also important to establish the difference between consensus BAP and real BAP. In 2001 the Patriots selected Georgia defensive tackle Richard Seymour with the sixth overall selection. In Mel Kiper's final pre draft mock just a day before the draft, Seymour was projected to be taken around slot 20 in the first round - this was essentially his consensus value as a late first round (or early second round) pick. At the time it appeared that the Patriots were making the classic mistake of putting team need ahead of BAP value, and the pundits at the time commented as such.

However as the years have passed it became apparent that the Patriots had actually pulled off the optimal draft pick - one that satisfied both team need and the condition of being the best available player on the board. In hindsight Seymour may have been a better pick than Gerard Warren taken at 3 overall! The point here is that if as a team your scouting process has identified a certain player as better than consensus value (and further if your scouts take character and systematic values into concern) then you should have faith in that scouting process and it's correct to disregard the consensus value.

So with all these variables how can a team pursue the best available player but at the same time fill the needs of the franchise? The best drafting teams often fill all of their obvious needs via free agency (which opens for business roughly eight weeks prior to the draft), so that on draft day they can make their selections without the pressure for filling needs clouding their judgments. If they miss out at the stud at position of need, at least there will be a quality veteran lining up on opening day who can do the job. Even if this team gets the stud at position of need, the veteran can buffer the transition time as the rookie finds their place in the big scary world of the NFL.

There is a saying around the league that is relevant to this discussion: a bad team that looks to the draft to fill their immediate holes will remain bad. For the most part this is a true statement. While all NFL teams want immediate impact from their draft picks, this is gravy - the industry standard period of time for player development is a range from three to five seasons (i.e. the length of an average rookie contract). With talented juniors declaring every year, many of these players come out as boys and must first grow into men before they can truly be effective on the gridiron.

In conclusion, teams are generally better off sticking to the BAP philosophy over team need whenever it is possible. Team need is always a consideration, especially in terms of planning salary cap investment over years, however getting a good player at a position of strength is always preferable than a mediocre player at position of weakness.
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Old 02-25-2007, 08:28 AM   #2
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RE: Best Available Player (BAP) versus Team Need

Now the question is this:
When do we look at other players in round 1 at 27 that are not CB, LB, or need position?
When your down to the 4th best CB and 4th best CB?
What is your short list of the BAP that maybe there at 27? Say 20 to 32?
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Old 02-25-2007, 05:40 PM   #3
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holy crap, someone did the homework here. Nice job

BAP is always a toss up for me...if there is a guy that is the best guy on the board, but we are full up at that position do we not pick him just b/c of that?

I mean, If Calvin Johnson were there at 27 (I know, he wouldn't be there unless every other GM had a complete brain-fart..including Millen who would finally pick something right) do we NOT pick him? I'd jump on that pick like it was a cookie at a fat kid convention. But Depth Chart says we have good WRs, and needs elsewhere.

BAP is generally the best way to go IMO. It may give us an overflow at a certain spot, but it paid for us last year with Bush, and with Deuce in 01. We could have gone elsewhere in 04, but took Smith even though we had Grant and Howard (yes, we saw the writing on the wall with Howard thanks goodness). Then again, we reached in 03 and got three years of Sully;s fat ass abyssmal play.

Positions that we could look at BAP IMO at 27 are Safety, OL or WR. If someone falls to us that we need, cool, but if a great pick at any of those spots, which seem to be covered already, falls to us...we nab them...'specially OL.
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Old 02-25-2007, 05:51 PM   #4
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RE: Best Available Player (BAP) versus Team Need

good article hagan.........
while colston was a fluke, i mean come on, drafted one or two before the last man chosen, we did not have a bad draft........actually we had a damn good one........really, we probably had the best draft ever........so, i won't gauge last yr with this one, but i will look for results none the less....
so, the question is bap that i think or bap that the staff thinks........?
aaaahhhhhhh,,,,,,we both know that answer...........
here is what i think with little or no explanation........
i think we may go wide reciever because for the simple fact that one may be available when we pick.....i'm hoping dt is available but wait a minute............should'nt we see what we do in fa before we decide.? nnaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwww.........
we speculate...........this is the fans job.................and while we may not be good at it, we definitely have earned the right.........the pay is, well, it sucks........the hours are, well, they suck tooo, the end result............priceless........................
i think we finally have a staff in place that can get us to the promise land......smitty
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Old 02-25-2007, 06:59 PM   #5
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Best player without a doubt. I think ever Payton has already that that's what he intends to do. After last years draft I expect nothing less. I afraid if you draft by need, it's to hit and miss. He might look good on paper or in shorts at the combine and look like dookie in pads and on the field. I really think that if you look at the Saints, we are not very deep at many o\positions, so if you go best player it's hard to miss.
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Old 02-25-2007, 07:32 PM   #6
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Agreed, JoeSam. I'd say running back is the only position that I wouldn't consider.
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Old 02-25-2007, 07:43 PM   #7
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I'm Gumby! Praise me damnit!!!!!
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Old 02-25-2007, 08:37 PM   #8
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If Willis is on Board which is a need, and CJ or Rice is on board who would you go with? I go Willis no matter what, I dont care how you or other teams think he looks, the guy is the best LB in the draft.

Oh, great article too Hagan
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Old 02-26-2007, 09:20 AM   #9
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BPA yielded us Deuce McAllister and Will Smith... and to a certain degree, Reggie Bush.
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Old 02-26-2007, 09:55 AM   #10
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just about to say that papz. why do you always steal my ideas. i think you are controlling my mind. i think you take best player available to some degreee. if th best player available is a running back well as much as you would like the tlent i am not sure how in the world you could do that. so it is the best idea but not in every situation. it just depends. thats my story and i am sticking to it.
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