Draft Principles: Team Draft Boards
Who will your favorite team draft in this years draft? Once the NFL season ends, this is a very common question. Despite the fact that most fans have strong opinions, the process itself is highly misunderstood.
Every team has their own personal approach to the draft. There is however one commonality every team has. That is, they all have a "draft board." Over the next two months you will hear terms like; "trust their board," "BPA (best available player)" and various other phrases and quotes that include the word "board." So what is a draft board? Quite simply it's a teams draft prospect ranking. Most fans understand all of this to this point. This is where the misconception begins.
Many of you look around the web at various peoples draft rankings. The draft is something you can find many conflicting opinions on. But as always, you end up with a consensus in the end for the most part. Through millions of mock draft, many feel pretty confident they have it all figured out. Where many feel the consensus rankings are pretty close to the gospel, people fail to realize there will be 32 unique draft boards on draft day and 32 teams playing a big game of poker.
So how do teams stack their boards? Obviously the whole process is started by the evaluation process, but that's a whole other subject. After teams have finished their evaluations they begin rankings the prospects. Certain prospects that are in mainstream rankings often aren't included in certain teams draft boards. For example, I don't thin you will find Matt Stafford or Mark Sanchez on the Colts draft board. You many find some quarterbacks, but that wouldn't be until later on in the draft. Teams will also not include player who simply don't fit their scheme or a major need. Teams will stack the prospects based on their team specific evaluations according to talent.
At this point it gets a little more team specific. Needs are evaluated. Teams ask themselves, where do we need to get better. These needs are prioritized and weighted appropriately. The area of the draft throughout the rankings begin taking precedence, because what might not be a need for one round, might be one for a later round.
There are many fans out there who take a simple approach. They feel their team will designate one particular position as their #1 need and that's what the pick must be. A phrase I mentioned earlier was "trust your draft board." This means exactly what it says. A team will in fact have a #1 need, but that doesn't mean they don't value a player from another position more.
Teams at or near the top are a little different, because they can simply "target" 1-3 players and know they can get one. Teams later on in the first round, and every team from round 2 on no longer has that option. This is where "trusting their board" comes into play. Most teams ultimately want to come away with the best possible talent. There are teams that will pinpoint certain positions, but in the end they seem to just be chasing their tail.
Example of a team draft board:
New Orleans Saints
1. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
2. Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
3. Jeremy Maclin, WR/KR, Missouri
4. Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
5. Malcolm Jenkins, CB/FS, Ohio State
6. Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
7. Rey Maualuga, ILB, Southern California
8. Brian Cushing, OLB, Southern California
9. Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
10. Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
11. James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State
12. Darrius Heyward-Bey
13. Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
14. Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
Now I'm sure this board isn't exactly what their board will look like. But I do believe it should be a close representation of the positions they value as an area that fit's a need. Michael Crabtree is #1 on this board, but receiver certainly isn't their top need. This is just a case of his overall value outweighing the value of filling their top need. A very recent example was the Pittsburgh Steelers taking Rashard Mendenhall, a running back in last years draft. This was simple the case where his value was high enough in their eyes to have him very high on their draft board.
The Saints pick 14th overall. So with this example board with 14 prospects they would be guaranteed to be able to get one of them. Their draft board obviously wouldn't stop here, but this one is far enough to explain. They would quite simply cross off or remove the prospect as they get drafted. Their pick would be the top rated player still avialable on their board. This is where teams often will back peddle and begin to not trust their board. My most recent mock for example had the top 6 player on this board get drafted prior to the 14th pick. Best player available that fit a need was Rey Maulauga.
Notice with this board several top prospects are absent. Let me explain why. Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez are obvious...Drew Brees. But what about the OT's? Where are they at? The Saints have one of the better young LT's in the league in former top 15 pick Jamaal Brown. So fiscally OT doesn't work. If they put one on the right side, they would have way too much money tied up at OT. I also didn't include B.J. Raji because the Saints drafted Sedrick Ellis a DT high in the first round just last year.
Where the Saints board would look differently than mine would be one their view on the individual prospects, but more so how they weighted each position based on the degree of need. This would just be a team specific process of need versus value.
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