Some teams abide by a Best Player Available (BPA) draft strategy. Some according to Need. The truth is often somewhere in the middle.
Mock Drafts are great and all but they usually tend to emphasize Need or an arbitrary selection process (such as people that mock Alabama players to us just because Ozzie is an alum). Another issue with them, is that they often start with a predetermined set of picks - for example, because they may lack a QB. This leads to the draft being moved around to fit that preordained pick.
Some simulators do a good job of taking inputs such as positional priority and spitting out a draft free of such bias. But sometimes those results can get very weird and the inputs can be arbitrary. For instance, a sim I ran earlier spit out Derek Carr in the top 10 as the 2nd QB off the board. Have a hard time believing that will happen.
The truth of most drafts is that they are some combination of BPA and Need. For instance, Atlanta is not taking a QB no matter how good the QB is that falls to them in the 1st. Some teams absolutely would shore up a position of strength; however, it is hard to tell which teams would do that.
Teams typically develop a board of 100-150 prospects and work from that on Draft Day, balancing the goal of finding someone they can use to improve a position, while also getting the best player they can. Since we don't know who is truly BPA (which changes by team anyway), that meant finding a reputable, neutral source of who the top prospects are.
I used the following data sources:
- Top 50 prospects Board from Daniel Jeremiah (former Ravens scout, now NFL.com draft analyst)
- The Top 3 Needs per Team (also compiled Jeremiah to keep a consistent view)
The Needs were compiled with Free Agency finished so they are as updated as possible.
The idea was to build a 2 round Mock draft where each team would take the Best Player Available at one of its 3 positions of need. This ensured that crazy reaches didn't occur. It ensures that teams take a highly rated player at a position they do need and can justify. In a few cases, a team had no 'need' left to fill, so I assigned them the literal BPA (such as Cleveland at pick 35).
It also meant for some interesting results where really good players fell - just like Sharrif Floyd did last year who fell 20 spots from an expected spot of 3 to 23. This does happen in the draft.
The Mock Draft is as follows.
We see some interesting takeaways when we mock this out:
- The first is that Anthony Barr falls all the way to 16 at Dallas. Pass rushers are usually more coveted than this but per the needs listed, each of the previous 15 teams had at least three more critical needs and a player to fit.
- As for Baltimore, they make out pretty well, stealing Taylor Lewan for a Right Tackle at 17 for good value.
- At 47, none of the so-called "Needs" were there for BAL. So that meant true BPA. BAL lands ASJ, another classic value pick and definitely a player who fits what we want to do.
- Houston has the amusing opportunity of drafting Derek Carr as their QB of the future, brother of David Carr, their #1 overall bust from 2002.
- CJ Mosely and Eric Ebron fell hard. This somewhat amazed me, but at least for Mosely makes sense. ILBs are a low demand position and evidently not many teams needed one until DEN (although BUF could have at 9).
- Ebron in particular should go earlier. NE doesn't need a TE apparently but in reality, Gronk is hard to trust to be healthy - He probably doesn't get past NE at 29 who could use a receiver of any sort.
One reason this type of draft model is useful is because not all positions are represented in the top 50 - for instance, Center. Several teams need a center but there simply isn't one in the top 50 - its not realistic that a team would take one unless they convert a Guard (and not many of those either). The Ravens aren't taking a Center in the first 2 rounds, no matter how you slice it.
Of course mocks can't model trades, but this type of mock can make for an interesting study for potential trades - for instance, if Barr does fall, you start thinking that someone may want to jump ahead and get him. Similarly, if a team find itself settling for BPA at a position it doesn't necessarily need, then it starts thinking Trade Back.
In any event, mock drafts sometimes border on wishful thinking so placing them in the context of a top prospect board I think is helpful to closing the gap on how it may go. For example, Jordan Matthews is not in this top 50, yet he is often cited as a late 1st to mid 2nd.
And of course we know some teams get desperate, do insane things, and that throws everything off - few teams truly follow BPA. Mayock hasn't released his big 100 prospects board yet but hopefully I'll revisit this when he does.