The Shiny Kawann Short, Etc.



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 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 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.

Posted by Himself in Quick Out | 9 comments


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  • HansDatMarch 31, 2013 at 2:13 pm

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    Another aspect of the need-based BPA drafting strategy is creating tiers of players within the actual rankings at each position so that you can compare a bit between a cluster of players at different positions when it comes down to it at pick time.

    Say you’re on the clock and at a mid-first round pick and you’ve got a top-tier LB vs. a second-tier CB available at that time, and you rate CB and LB as similar needs. On the face it seems a no-brainer b/c the top-tier LB is better – take him! But it may be better for your needs to take the second-tier CB because the dropoff in talent after this CB is huge, but there may still be a number of upper-tier LBs on the board, etc.

    Am I making any sense? Did I just basically restate what M-E said?

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    • FriarBobMarch 31, 2013 at 3:15 pm

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      Well yeah, you more or less did restate it, but you did bring up an interesting point. You pointed out both why it seems like it’s not a bad idea, and the reason it tends to backfire. (It doesn’t always backfire tho…)

      Let me explain. First off, you’re both completely right that Kiper is a tool and his approval means exactly jack squat when the games start getting played. Worse, his approval is far too often flat WRONG, as all the re-drafts with huge changes obviously prove. And you’re completely correct that if there is a “huge” drop-off later in the draft for certain types of players, there is a LOT of justification for taking the weaker player because you feel you so badly need him.

      But you’re also part wrong, because this is exactly what everybody is obviously thinking when you start getting a “run” on a position type. People are in panic-mode and they think they won’t be able to fill their needs any other way than to “reach” for a player they so desperately need. Sometimes it works out. Far more often than not, it doesn’t. Ingram to me appears to be exactly that sort of situation. They “had” to get back into the first round to grab “their guy” before the “run” on the position started. They didn’t think they’d find a good enough guy in the second round, especially when they really didn’t know if we had anybody else available at the position and we might actually need an every-down back after all. As is happens, they were wrong. The best backs of that draft were taken in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th+ round. Worse yet, all our other guys came back healthy, so we didn’t even need him at all. And if we never win another Super Bowl before Drew retires, I consider this wasted pick the #2 reason for it. (#1, of course, is obvious in light of Adolf Goodell’s blatant hypocrisy and at least falsehoods if not outright lies.)

      My complete lack of ingramania then wasn’t too popular. I think I’ve been pretty well justified by now. The only thing that could save this pick at this point is if we either trade our other guys and use him as an every-down back or trade him and get our missing 2nd rounder this year back. Since neither is likely to happen, I guess I’m just relegated to grousing about it.

      But back to this draft. Everybody and their brother is going to pan us if we don’t draft an OLB pass rusher. Every mock draft I’ve seen has us taking Mingo or Jones or the like. Not anymore. Not after our FA signings and at least two maybe three guys already here even BEFORE that who already have plenty of speed to be used as pass rushers. And we have plenty of ILBs as well, at least for now. No, we’re either going offense to try to outscore people, or we’re going NT/DE, or we’re going secondary. Or else PayLoo completely lost their minds when they drafted Ingram and still haven’t recovered. But I think Payton spending a year out and seeing just how useless it is to have 4+ good RBs when they can’t all be used (much less aren’t used) will apply those same lessons to having 5+ OLBs. We only need 3, after all, maybe 4. 5 is a luxury we can’t afford. And while even an elite NT/DE might sit for a year or two, Smith is old and won’t be on the team in 2015 (if he’s even there for 2014). And probably the same with Vilma, so ILB really isn’t a bad idea either. The newbie at either position could sit and learn for a year and then play in 2014 and really help us out.

      On the other hand, our secondary was flat putrid last year, and while an effective pass rush would have helped them some we all know just how badly Harper and Jenkins just flat suck. Jenkins is a pretty good nickel corner and a very good dime one, but he just doesn’t cut it at FS. And Harper just sucks. Then again, we’ve said that about other players they kept for awhile too, so who knows. But I really do hope Vaccaro is still around at 15 (and of course, that he’s as good as advertised), because if we have one true hemorrhagic-critical need on this team it’s at safety. I’d love to see that hole filled with Quddus and Vacarro. But that will probably only happen if we can trade Harper somehow, and that’s not terribly likely either. Bleugh.

      Well, unless there’s somebody out there who thinks they can make an effective LB of our Harper. Everybody says he’s too small to become an LB, but then again Sam Mills was clearly way too small to play football at all and he made up for it with sheer heart. And we all know Harper can rush the passer and do OK against the run. That’s about ALL he can do, but he can pull that off. So maybe we (or somebody) will put him at ILB in a 3-4 and see what happens. Can’t be worse than leaving him back at safety, can it? (Famous last words, I know…)

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      • HimselfMarch 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm

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        Harper at inside linebacker? He’s a decent tackler (although he has too strong a tendency to hit rather than wrap up), and a good blitzer, and he can cover at least as well as most OLBs can…but he would be destroyed playing inside. I can’t see him holding up to centers and guards–he would just be flattened.

        And actually, I think it’s a bad idea to try to make an outside linebacker out of him, either.

        Regarding the #1 reason Drew may only earn one ring in his career: Gregg Williams called a formation that left Vernon Davis one on one on a crossing pattern with a safety. We were 40 seconds away from going on to a second title in three years.

        And, as gets suggested almost every year, the strategy I favor (if we find a partner) is trading down and stockpiling picks. We need to plug holes, not add a single star to the roster.

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        • PhilistineMarch 31, 2013 at 7:41 pm

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          From a bang-for-the-buck standpoint, teams need to sign second-tier free agents that fill a specific need, and they need to identify and draft good players that can help the team. PayLoo seems to have this mostly figured out, except for the who-to-draft part; they’re hit-and-miss in that department, mostly miss regarding defensive backfield.

          In evaluating team need, things get complicated. Take, for example, the running backs, brought up by FriarBob. It seems to me that low yield by a running back could have absolutely nothing to do with the running back’s ability. If the scheme doesn’t work or the offensive line can’t open holes, even a great running back will struggle – especially when they use one running back for actually running the ball and another for pass-catching out of the backfield. Similarly, if the defensive front can’t pressure or sack the quarterback, the defensive backfield will look worse than they really are. IMO, the running backs looked worse because the offensive line didn’t help much and the scheme was predictable; while in the case of the defensive backfield – well, with a worst-ever defense, pretty much everybody gets to share the blame, I guess.

          Anyway, I mostly agree with Himself on all this, and never bought into the Best Player Available BS, because it’s just too simple-minded, for all the reasons stated by various people above. Case in point – because the Saints lost Bushrod and weren’t too stout along the offensive line to begin with, that has to raise the value to the Saints of offensive linemen in some form.

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          • HimselfMarch 31, 2013 at 8:32 pm

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            Another way of looking at this that I just thought of…

            Suppose you have $500,000 to spend on one item. That can buy you a Lamborghini Murcielago, or a complete course of chemotherapy. Which is better? That depends on what you want: to survive cancer, or get laid by a supermodel. Outside of need, how can you assign value?

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            • PhilistineMarch 31, 2013 at 8:45 pm

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              That is both twisted and elegant.

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  • The Angry Who DatMarch 31, 2013 at 10:39 pm

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    Hey, so, um, you’re posting every day again. I guess I have some reading to do.

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    • HimselfApril 1, 2013 at 7:41 am

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      Don’t worry…it won’t take long. I finally figured out how to do this.

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      • PhilistineApril 1, 2013 at 11:56 am

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        That’s right. We have short attention spans. ;-)

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