The Shiny Kawann Short, Etc.
9 Posted on March 31st, 2013 by Himself
Random thoughts on finding the right player, and on finding the right position for that player, and on why Matt Millen is the poster child for "best player available."
Quick Out, March 31, 2013
Just two quick mentions today (“quick” is what this is supposed to be all about, after all).
First, Gil Brandt at NFL.com has a blog post about Kawann Short’s individual pro day at Purdue. Apparently, the Saints sent five defensive coaches, plus Rick Reiprish, to work out Short. (And, in passing, I should point out that there’s no mention of this on NOLA.com. But there is a new entry on “What everyone else is writing.” So much for sports journalism in New Orleans.)
Short was a dominant, Warren Sapp-like talent for Purdue. He had seven sacks last season, more than (for instance) Sharif Floyd, or Sheldon Richardson, or Star Lotulelei, or…well, just about any defensive tackle. Except Brandon Williams, a true nose tackle, which brings me to my point. Short is too small to use as a nose tackle, and too talented to waste as one. If the Saints are really interested in him, it must be as a defensive end. He’d be a pretty big end, but he’s athletic enough to pull it off.
And that would mean relegating Akiem Hicks to nose tackle. Again, he could pull it off—he’s very athletic, but also very big—but it may be a waste of Hicks’ talents. Maybe. But maybe Williams would be a better choice, since that’s his natural position. Frankly, I think I’d rather have Williams, with Hicks outside, than Short with Hicks inside.
The second mention is of something Mike Detillier wrote:
Just as teams prepare for the NFL draft, they will have to find five-to-six players in free agency each season that would play at the same level no matter where they end up.
The rest is about finding the right player to “fit” what you do offensively and defensively. It is the key to success in the NFL.
This goes for the draft, as well. The notion of “best player available,” without regard to your team’s need, is a lot of hooey. In pure terms, it’s a Matt Millen strategy. But it’s also impossible: you can’t judge talent without an ideal to compare it to, and there are too many variables involved to be able to compare apples with, say, master’s theses in medieval Bohemian poetry. There’s also the value of the position: is an all-time great defensive tackle better than an all-time great center, for instance? How about an adequate quarterback and the greatest long-snapper who ever played?
The proper way to evaluate, it seems to me, is by need. Rank your team’s needs, in order of importance, and rank the best players to fill those needs. Take the one that tops the list; then scratch that need off and go for the next one. For instance: if your biggest needs are defensive tackle and center, in that order, and before you can draft all the top defensive tackles are gone, but the best center is still available, take the center. You can always get a middling defensive tackle later. That could be called “taking the best player available,” but it’s still based on your team’s needs. Doing otherwise, being “faithful to your board,” you might wind up with a player who is either going to ride the pine, or relegate some other perfectly serviceable starter to the bench. And that hurts teams.
After all, the point isn’t to win the draft: it’s to win the Super Bowl. For that, you need a team, not Mel Kiper’s approval.