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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Is the BPA Draft Strategy Really Just BS?

Is the BPA (best player available) draft strategy really just BS? Yea, kind of. No one really thinks that BPA can be applied sterilely in every situation.  If that was the case, GMs would have to take players that wouldn’t start or improve the make-up of their team. The extreme example of a team with a franchise quarterback, like New England or Green Bay, taking a quarterback over a top rated player in a position of need alone dispels sterile application of BPA.

But the Godfather Gettleman has reminded us over and over that is what Carolina plans to do, take the best player available.

What does this really mean?  Throw out the extreme example of taking a quarterback and consider a player like ILB CJ Mosley, who projects as a 9th round pick and has falling 19th round pick.  Why the large discrepancy in projections? No one really questions Mosley’s football ability, but there are concerns about his health and durability.  While unlikely, imagine if Mosely slipped down the draft board to #28.  Would Gettleman really consider taking Mosely given we have a franchise middle linebacker in Luke Kuechly?  It’s doubtful.

If something like this were to occur, it would be reminiscent of falling Star Lotulelei in the 2013 draft.  Carolina grabbed him because he was the “best player available,” some claiming he was the best of the entire draft.   Then again, Gettleman sterilely applied the BPA formula when grabbing Kwann Short, or did he?

Carolina’s defensive line had big gaping holes right up the middle.  Grabbing Star and Short may have been applying the BPA formula, but defensive tackle was also a position of dire need.  Just consider how dramatically Carolina’s defensive performance jumped after addressing this position of need with the BPA. 

Again, you may be saying these are hyperbolic examples.  Perhaps, but I think hyperbole sometimes helps us to gain our bearings a bit. Still let’s consider a more realistic scenario to test the BPA formula.  Grant there aren’t any major slips of players that are “high” on Gettleman’s board, who are clearly out of reach.  A Zach Martin, Taylor Lewan, Kyle Fuller, or Mike Evans doesn’t somehow tragically (or magically) fall to #28.  How does the BPA formula pan out then when it isn’t as clear cut who is the best player on the board or what position Carolina needs to address in the 1st?  Is it as easy as taking the “best player available” or do you also factor in need as well?  People who call for Carolina to draft an offensive tackle in the 1st clearly endorse the latter.

Recently, Mel Kiper questioned the talent at offensive tackle being worthy of a 1st RD pick, stating “I don’t see anybody at 28 from an offensive tackle standpoint that would excite me over a wide receiver.”

Bill Voth, an analyst who has been annoyingly spot on with Panther coverage over the past months (and just started, which I advise checking out) warns Panther fans that this doesn’t mean the Gettleman will automatically look to a wide receiver as Kiper suggests.  Voth writes:
“But once the Panthers are on the clock at 28, if someone at another position — say cornerback — is higher on Carolina’s board than a receiver, they’re going to take the one they believe gives them the best value.”
This is something that I’ve been saying for a while! While I agree with Voth about potentially drafting a corner in the 1st, it’s not necessarily because I believe this would be a BPA pick. I don’t think it is that simple. 

Several draft analysts think that cornerbacks will be flying of the shelf in the late first round, partly because the new NFL is moving to this Seahawk model and partly because the drop-off between top cornerback prospects and the second level guys is substantial.  It’s not clear that this drop-off is as acute with wide receiver or offensive tackles that will likely be available at #28.  That means it may be best to jump on a guy in the 1st who isn’t the best player available because the guys in the 2nd and 3rd round are well….not the best players available.

So what does Voth’s cautionary advice tell us then about BPA? It tells us that BPA really means BPAIPON (best player available in position of need) in the context of the draft as a whole.  As Cover 32’s Reid Foster said on Cat Chronicles Combine Special, you have to look at the context of the whole draft when determining BPA. 

Reputable Panther analysts, however, have chastised fans for questioning the BPA formula. Many of these very analysts have praised the idea of drafting an offensive tackle in the 1st strangely.  Voth in a very fatherly tone mentioned that he was “pleasantly surprised” that Panther fans voted to draft an offensive lineman over a wide receiver in the 1st RD.  

Really, I understand the arguments behind BPA and drafting an offensive lineman in the first.  What I don’t buy is the idea that drafting Morgan Moses or Cyrus Kouandjio coincides with the BPA strategy.  I don’t think that drafting a cornerback in the first, as Voth suggested in response to Kiper’s comments, necessarily aligns with the BPA formula either. 

Look, I’m fine with Carolina drafting an offensive tackle in the 1st.  Sure, I’d be a little disappointed because it wouldn’t be the sexiest of picks, but Carolina needs help on the offensive line about as badly as the needed a defensive tackle last year. What I’m not fine with is people trying to sell that tired BPA formula as an explanation of why Carolina would draft a guy “with potential” or a guy with “injury concerns” over Beckham, Jr., Marquis Lee, Kyle Fuller, or Bradley Roby.  

Gettleman and the BPA advocates may say this was the highest guy on the board, so they picked him….but would you ever expect him to say otherwise? As Foster noted, you really have to look at BPA in the context of the whole draft, carefully measuring the drop-off in talent between the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd RD guys. Looking at BPA in a vacuum is about as silly as disregarding BPA near entirely to focus on positions of need.

I’ll put the question to you.  Say Bradley Roby, Morgan Moses, and Odell Beckham, Jr. are all on the board at #28. Who do you draft if you were to sterilely apply the BPA formula?  

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