2012 NFL Draft: Trent Richardson and BPA

Acting like drafting solely based on best player available with no regard whatsoever to team needs is a bit like wearing a tie. Obviously that's what the picture's about. (via)

So the SB Nation Head Writer Mock Draft is well underway, and as Van noted earlier, he opted to select Trent Richardson with the sixth overall pick.

The idea alone makes me a bit queasy (though I did have chocolate-covered potatoes with oyster juice for lunch), and while I've made the case here, here, and here and most recently and more specifically to Trent Richardson here. That being the case, I won't revisit it yet again. I wouldn't want any of you who also enjoy the occasional chocolate-covered potatoes with oyster juice repast to feel my pain.

Instead, I'll address the "best player available" draft strategy, and the absolutism of that strategy that seems to find more and more converts every year.

There are two major aspects of the Church of BPA that I find get glossed over far too often - positional value and crapshootery.

Positional Value

This is the issue I've tried to raise with respect to the running back position for a couple of years now. Given that Mark Ingram, a Heisman-winning RB clearly at the top of his class, fell all the way to 28th (and was rescued by a New Orleans Saints team that traded up to get him ahead of a mediocre rookie campaign), it looks like teams are starting to side with me.

To be honest, I was a bit dismayed to hear Mike Mayock note that the RB position is declining in value. This was supposed to be classified knowledge for the Rams, not a general line of understanding among all teams.

But let's get away from running backs for perspective. Why don't punters go in the first round? Why don't guards or centers go in the top (save for a handful of interior linemen before 1990)? Because the positions don't carry the value of QBs, WRs, DEs or CBs.

It's impossible to ignore that and suggest that the absolutism of BPA means that you take a safety at #1 overall because he's the best player on the board at the expense of a top player at another position. This isn't just a hypothetical situation; I had Eric Berry second on my overall big board in 2010 behind Ndamukong Suh and ahead of Sam Bradford. Should the Rams therefore have drafted Berry? Of course not. They needed a QB. Sam was the best in his class. And just like the top two picks this year, it's automatic.

While this gets muddied the further in the draft you go, when talking about the first two rounds, it's foolish to completely avoid and ignore.

Crapshootery

Is it a word? Not really. But you get the idea.

Teams are wrong about the players they draft. Consistently. And often. So what does that mean? It means that if you completely draft the best player available and he busts or even doesn't live up to expectations, then the entire rationale for drafting him becomes incorrect.

I remember this piece in the WSJ from a year ago. Not just because it states exactly what I just did, but for a reference to Colts owner Jim Irsay:

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay says his team always takes the best player available.

The best evidence as to how silly BPA absolutism is? The Colts' 2011 record. If you put all your stock into drafting the best players regardless of position and they turn out not to be the best players regardless of position, you've doubly screwed yourself.

Sure, the opposite is just as silly -- drafting entirely for need with every pick. But as I've often said, the blend of the two is the balancing act that teams have to get right year after year to be successful.

Developing a young talent base requires multiple positions to be addressed. It requires a mélange of stars and role players, athletes and powerhouses.

There are very few things that can be put in black and white terms in life. Football isn't one them.

Neither is the draft.

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