There are 131 users in the forums

Remember
Not a member? Register Now!

Theory: Trent Baalke's Draft Strategy is not traditional BPA

Bill Walsh used to talk about how he would draft players who "fit" on the football team well. "What specific things can this player do?" Dwight Clark was not a great athlete, but Walsh fit him in by looking at what he could do well, but physically and mentally.

Another thing is, once a team has lots of talent, you have to become more cognizant of the fact that you want your draft picks to have a chance at making the team better, not just providing a slight upgrade by beating out another good player.

Most importantly though, they liked the players they took.
I want to just add that I think too many of us get caught up in say 10 players in the draft (usually big name guys) and when we don't draft one where we think they are the BPA (or biggest name in a lot of cases) we get upset. I think they look at these guys as puzzle pieces and how they all fit in. So a lot of guys we might have liked they felt didn't fit into our system. They are also looking for a certain type of person... usually extremely competitive with great passion for the game. We don't get to interview these guys and talk to people that know them to get to find out more about them. Plus we don't get to see guys like Kilgore at RG practicing so we don't know what they expect from him and how much of a need they see the positions as. I think Baalke's board was a lot different than the experts. When they mock maybe some put guys that fit best with the scheme/style but rankings overall you can't judge based on 32 team's philosophies. Like AJ Jenkins could have been #10 overall on our board but completely off another team's board because maybe they didn't fit their style/system or already had a similar player. So Baalke could have went BPA and the rest of us think well so and so is a better WR than Jenkins without knowing or considering our need/fit.

P.S. Like Walsh said it doesn't matter where a player goes. If they are a good player than take them. Sure it's nice to get the best value but a lot of that is just for experts and fans to discuss. It's become a major hobby. It's not good enough you got the right player... now you have to get exact value. "Oh, we could have traded down to 32 and got Jenkins instead of taking him at 30". Trades aren't as easy as people think... takes two teams to work together and be willing to trade plus for the value to be right.
[ Edited by Gore_21 on May 4, 2012 at 10:02 PM ]
McDRUNK drafted the "biggest player available." That's how you end up with Kentwan Balmer.

Baalke drafts excellent football players.
OTC, how do you explain the LaMichael James pick in terms of value, in this case, Baakle's valuing speed. James is almost a duplicate of Kendall Hunter. Neither of your two theories explains that pick. The one that best explains LaMichael James' pick is pure value, BPA regardless of need.

In contrast, your own example of a BPA draft, you take Gordy Glenn in round one. Clearly, a BPA at a position of need.

In the second, you take a wonderful football player, Ronnell Lewis, who fell to the 4th round I believe because he is a tweener, All the teams recognized the talent and the desire in Lewis, but apparently they just didn't know where to play him. That would be 32 GMs telling you and all the public value boards that you overvalued Lewis.

I love all your picks, cause in each case, they are players that were rated higher pre-draft and they fell on draft day. Based on a pre-draft, consensus/averaging estimate of value, your draft is bountiful indeed. And really, what other set of criteria would we have as fans? We don't watch Kilgore in practice. We don't know how fast he is developing. But we can watch all this season's college players and form opinions on who is our favorites. And we know that we have a hole at RG that we have to fill in the draft cause we haven't signed a FA.

But your big value draft begs the question, why did all these players fall not only past Baalke, but all the other GMs as well? And the only answer we can give is to infer it was because they weren't as high on 32 team value boards as they were for Kiper, Mayock, Rang, OTC, or MD's public value boards.

Last year, you could have made the same argument about Aldon Smith and Chris Culliver, that they were drafted before their consensus ranking, hence were reaches. But now in hindsight, we marvel at how well those two selections turned out.

And there is the rub. After all that investigative work, 250+ player resumes, watching the combine, risers and fallers, Baalke and Harbaugh didn't do what we would have done based on consensus value boards, or our own variants. Now we have to sit back and watch how the players we took, and the players we could have taken perform next season, and in all fairness, the season after that.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What you are advocating is, all things being equal, that consensus valuing is more reliable than Baalke's, or anybody else's, idiosyncratic valuing. And statistically, that would be correct. Yet the talent raters that we most value, are the guys who see beauty where no one else sees beauty. Baalke has made a huge gamble by going against consensus value boards. Last year's gambles and his free agent moves, brought us to within a fumble of the SB, and garned him Best Exec. All I can do, is hope he knows something that I don't know, which is definitely true, so it's not much of a reach.

Lastly, I want to thank MadDog and you for your herculean effort in covering this draft and many previous drafts. You two educate me each year on who are good players, allowing me to pretend I am the GM. Great fun. Many hours of entertaining debate on the zone. We all owe both of you props. Till next year!
Was going to write a response to this thread, but I've been drinking some and I don't really have the motivation. So instead I'm just going to copy and paste a portion of a post I made in another thread. But I think it fits:



It seems to me that the Niners look for certain physical attributes as well as a certain attitude in the players they pick. They don't just draft based off of raw skills in a bubble, they draft based on whether the skills a player has fits within their schemes. It seems to be the belief that players need to have certain skills and attitudes and the rest can be corrected by coaching and giving them a role that best highlights their skills and hides their limitations. That's a very Patriots way to operate and has proven to be pretty successful.

That's how players like Deion Branch and Tully Banta-Cain can play like crap on other teams and come back to the Patriots and be productive. It's how undersized cast-offs like Danny Woodhead can play so well, that's how Mark Washington and Andre Carter can have their best seasons in years. That's how we can take career mediocre players like Carlos Rogers and make them pro-bowlers, and lose 5 starters on D yet end up with an even better defense by promoting from within and signing free agents left over after the big rush was over. It's knowing which players have skills that are replaceable and which players have rare and essential skills and locking them up long term. Small sample size, but the 49ers appear to get this.

The 49ers apply this to the draft and value players accordingly which might not match up with conventional wisdom. The 49ers achieved their objectives in the draft and drafted players they think can play well within their scheme
Originally posted by OnTheClock:
I think this deserves to be discussed because I see a lot of it going on in multiple other threads. Although.. I think mainly it is the hot topic in MD's draft grade thread where I think he may be being overly-critiqued. There are several draft strategies, but I'd like to just look at two, comparing the first one with what Baalke's strategy appears to be to me.

-----------------------------------------------------------------


Draft Strategy One: Pure Value Drafting

Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals (look at their recent drafts) employ this simplistic strategy that basically says "take the overall BPA across all possible positions of needs the team has." So basically, if you need a RB, CB, and DT and the best player available among those three positions is a CB, you take the CB. Some teams are much stricter and will put far less weight on need and in that scenario if they saw a WR rated higher, they would take him instead, regardless of the fact that it was not a need. But that's a whole other strategy to discuss. Back to Pure Value... MD has a valid point in thinking that value drafting can lead to good results -- IF you are a good talent evaluator. Teams that draft for value but their board and rankings of players is utterly silly, simply won't experience the benefits of value drafting.

If I were to apply this strategy for the 49ers this year, I probably would've done something like this:
1. OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia - I had Glenn as the 2nd best OG behind DeCastro and graded him a top 20 player, better than Konz)
2. OLB Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma - Oddly enough he was selected by our original 4th. I felt he had mid-late 2nd round talent and upside.
3. WR Chris Givens, Wake Forest - Would've given us a FAST player who can catch better than Ginn and other drop-prone WRs.
4. DE Jared Crick, Nebraska - Crick is way more talented than this.
5. CB Alphonso Dennard, Nebraska - As dumb as he is for doing what he did, the talent would be hard to overlook.
6. RB Michael Smith, Utah State - An explosive player that, while not as productive, would bring the same kind of speed as LMJ.
7. OLB Cam Johnson, Virginia - Would not have changed this pick at all. Despite the health stuff, still feel this was a tremendous value.

That's just based on my personal ratings an example of a Pure Value Draft. Would I employee that exact strategy? Not necessarily..


Now let's discuss what Baalke appears to do...

Draft Strategy Two: "Missing Elements" Drafting

While I'm certain Baalke's draft do take into consideration needs and value (like any team), I believe Baalke's drafts focus on specific players with specific "elements" to add to this team. I believe he looks at the best players with the specific "elements" he wants to add (for example, speed on offense), and based on his evaluation formula -- whatever it is -- stacks and compiles his board that way. This can be an extremely risky endeavor, and it certainly narrows down the players you are looking at to select in the draft. This strategy essentially redefines "value" to the team during this given draft. Players that may be considered better overall at their position by most could feasibly be rated lower due to the lack of a desired element. Ex. Mohamed Sanu running a 4.67 vs. AJ Jenkins running a 4.39.

I firmly believe Baalke looked at the most explosive players such as Kendall Wright, Jenkins, Hill and Chris Givens and rated them heavily based on explosion and polish. Our speed guys last year were Ginn and Williams. Ginn is horribly inconsistent catching and separating against certain coverages, and Williams is unpolished, inconsistent separating, and doesn't protect the ball. If I had to guess, their ranking of the top WR fits in this draft may have been something like 1) Wright, 2) Jenkins, 3) Hill, 4) Givens.

I firmly believe we did that for running back too, and believe this is why we brought in David Wilson for a visit. If I had to guess, I think that ranking was probably 1) Wilson, 2) Pead, 3) James. James may have been in front of Pead, but it depends on what they thought of his "character" record.

I think Baalke does take best player available or value but he also has additional factors that eliminate some players. but you have to look at how the player is going to compliment the team.

Baalke

1) COLLEGE PRODUCTION - Baalke rates highly on what the player has done in college. He wants to see production (jenkins, James, Robinson, Slowey, Looney, Fleming, Johnson) all have production.
2) FOOTBALL IQ / LOVE OF FOOTBALL - He wants guys that "love" the game 24/7. (Rashaun Woods was more into fishing that football.)
3) CHARACTER GUYS - No Jenoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson's, Probably not Mike Adams........I think he may take a risk on a Perrish Cox, Randy Moss, Braylon Edwards with no risk contracts. He might take a flier on a draft pick late, but not really his style or what Harbaugh wants. But this is huge for them. (Look at the Bengals draft.....they take a lot of "risks" and it effects the team. The Rams also took a lot of questionable guys and there is a huge risk reward for them. The strength of our team is that we have a solid foundation of character guys and that started with Nolan / McCloughan and they have kept that mentality.
4) SIZE / SPEED - Production is first for them, if they produced in college that is going to trump the Size and Speed however they do have some qualities they are looking for
5) TOUGHNESS - Ray Mac, Justin Smith, LaMichael James, Willis......tough guys, not afraid of contact
6) MEDICAL ISSUES - If you do your homework, Niners aren't afraid to take chances on players with injuries or had some injuries.. You can take an Aldon Smith who might be a little lower on the draft value by some, but actually he has higher value because he played injured his entire year. Looney was going to drop because he got hurt at the senior bowl and teams may overlook him and teams did. Frank Gore had two ACL's but the Niners weren't afraid on drafting him in the 3rd round. Cam Johnson has sickle cell anemia, but they are getting great value.

D Lineman - DE are DT's in College, run stuffers first
Backers - OLB's (DE's in college that can convert to Backer, fluid
O Lineman - They need to be able to run block. They want fast lineman and physical lineman that are mobile. (This may have hurt DeCastro....and raised Looney's stock) I also think they want guys in shape (Cordy glenn at 345 with a weight issue isn't going to get it done). Iupati is physical, Large but he has the frame for it.
Secondary - They are looking for bigger corners, but they arent afraid to take a Trenton Robinson for the value. But they want guys that can cover, the day of the old safety is dead.
Receivers - They want a combination of guys.
Running Backs - They like guys that make decisive cuts. One or two cuts and hit the hole. They don't mind a smaller back who can get "lost" behind the large Oline they have built low to the ground. ( Gore 5 9, Kendall 5 7, James 5 8) They also want

WHEN YOU ARE AS DEEP AS THE NINERS WITH NO GLARING NEEDS YOU CAN TAKE BPA.

1) DRAFTING RULES - Take your guy if he's there, but if you can still safely trade back (See Navarro Bowman, Joe Looney,) and still get your guy even better. This draft was really deep in the 3rd round with a lot of guys with similar value here so he can trade back 20 picks and still get his RG of the future.

I think Baalke did a great job of going into the draft as deep as possible especially getting Jacobs, Manningham and Moss

I still don't know what the Draft gurus are ranking Jenkins so low. He is fast (4.31 at pro day 4.39 combine), Productive for 2 years and can run all of the routes. You can make the case for BPA or at least a first round draft pick. Tell me why Kendall Wright is better than Jenkins? Jenkins also had a much inferior QB(s) than Griffin. At WR (Blackmon, Sanu, Quick, Jeffrey) are slow recievers and wouldn't match well with what we already have. Sanu might have been rated highly but he doesn't fit well with the WR that we have.

RB was not a glaring need for the team. I can see that they rated James very high, his numbers beat most of the backs in the draft and maybe the best. The only thing he doesn't have is the ideal size, but the niners aren't afraid to take a smaller back.

Looney was a BPA guy that they feel very highly of, but they knew "his" perceived value may not be as high to other teams and they also knew that by trading back into a high 4th round pick, he knew teams are going to overpay to get their guy.

So by this analysis it shows that Baalke isn't going to overpay, or reach for a player........so why do you think Baalke isn't going BPA? Baalke is all about value, he has even more qualifiers on players so he's going to have a shorter list of potentials players. Jenkins and James are both value picks and hit all of the other intangibles that they are looking for.....smart, high character, productive, speed was a bonus and it is also what his team lacked but wasn't the number 1 driver.
Originally posted by mebemused:
OTC, how do you explain the LaMichael James pick in terms of value, in this case, Baakle's valuing speed. James is almost a duplicate of Kendall Hunter. Neither of your two theories explains that pick. The one that best explains LaMichael James' pick is pure value, BPA regardless of need.

In contrast, your own example of a BPA draft, you take Gordy Glenn in round one. Clearly, a BPA at a position of need.

In the second, you take a wonderful football player, Ronnell Lewis, who fell to the 4th round I believe because he is a tweener, All the teams recognized the talent and the desire in Lewis, but apparently they just didn't know where to play him. That would be 32 GMs telling you and all the public value boards that you overvalued Lewis.

I love all your picks, cause in each case, they are players that were rated higher pre-draft and they fell on draft day. Based on a pre-draft, consensus/averaging estimate of value, your draft is bountiful indeed. And really, what other set of criteria would we have as fans? We don't watch Kilgore in practice. We don't know how fast he is developing. But we can watch all this season's college players and form opinions on who is our favorites. And we know that we have a hole at RG that we have to fill in the draft cause we haven't signed a FA.

But your big value draft begs the question, why did all these players fall not only past Baalke, but all the other GMs as well? And the only answer we can give is to infer it was because they weren't as high on 32 team value boards as they were for Kiper, Mayock, Rang, OTC, or MD's public value boards.

Last year, you could have made the same argument about Aldon Smith and Chris Culliver, that they were drafted before their consensus ranking, hence were reaches. But now in hindsight, we marvel at how well those two selections turned out.

And there is the rub. After all that investigative work, 250+ player resumes, watching the combine, risers and fallers, Baalke and Harbaugh didn't do what we would have done based on consensus value boards, or our own variants. Now we have to sit back and watch how the players we took, and the players we could have taken perform next season, and in all fairness, the season after that.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What you are advocating is, all things being equal, that consensus valuing is more reliable than Baalke's, or anybody else's, idiosyncratic valuing. And statistically, that would be correct. Yet the talent raters that we most value, are the guys who see beauty where no one else sees beauty. Baalke has made a huge gamble by going against consensus value boards. Last year's gambles and his free agent moves, brought us to within a fumble of the SB, and garned him Best Exec. All I can do, is hope he knows something that I don't know, which is definitely true, so it's not much of a reach.

Lastly, I want to thank MadDog and you for your herculean effort in covering this draft and many previous drafts. You two educate me each year on who are good players, allowing me to pretend I am the GM. Great fun. Many hours of entertaining debate on the zone. We all owe both of you props. Till next year!

GREAT POINTS Mebemused......I could have said it better myself.
  • buck
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 9,651
In 2011, we took Aldon Smith in round one, Colin Kaepernick in the second, and Chris Culliver in 3rd.

In 2010, we too Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati in the first round, Taylor Mays in the second round, NaVarro Bowman in the third.

All of these picks seem to reflect a strategy that combines best player available with positional need.

Of the seven players drafted in the first three rounds of the 2010 and 2011 draft, five seem to be solid to excellent picks.
Taylor Mays was the only bust. Kaepernick has not played and has not had to play, so we really can not evaluate his pick.

This year, we took AJ Jenkins in round one and LaMichael James in the second. We traded away our third round pick.
In my estimation, AJ Jenkins also fits into a strategy that combines best player available with positional need.

But, again in my estimation, James does not fit very well into this schematic structure.

I find his selection, even though I appreciate his skill set, baffling.
I do understand that I may be baffled because my analysis of the team's positional needs is wrong.

His pick may indicate that Gore longevity is less than I anticipated.
In looking back at the last year, I noticed a substantial decline in Gore's receiving skills and to a lesser degree in his blocking.

Another factor that I might not have appreciated sufficiently is that the quality of the team (thanks to Baalke, Harbaugh, and the coaching staff) allows the team the flexibility to draft for mismatch packages.

In a sense, I feel the Jame's pick does coincide with the Missing Element concept laid out by OTC.

However, I am hesitant to say that his pick is an indication of a shift in strategic.thinking.
His pick could be nothing more than a reflection of the team's current contingent situation.




OTC......just wanted to talk about your BPA picks.....my comment are next to your picks

If I were to apply this strategy for the 49ers this year, I probably would've done something like this:
1. OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia - I had Glenn as the 2nd best OG behind DeCastro and graded him a top 20 player, better than Konz)
- Not the most mobile guard plus he's overweight
2. OLB Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma - Oddly enough he was selected by our original 4th. I felt he had mid-late 2nd round talent and upside.
- Obviously a lot of teams had problems with this guy.
3. WR Chris Givens, Wake Forest - Would've given us a FAST player who can catch better than Ginn and other drop-prone WRs. - Doesn't he have a lot of off field issues?
4. DE Jared Crick, Nebraska - Crick is way more talented than this. - Then you wouldn't have gotten your guard that you like. (He also probably likes Tukafu, Wiliam, RJF, and Dobbs more than to pass on Looney
5. CB Alphonso Dennard, Nebraska - As dumb as he is for doing what he did, the talent would be hard to overlook. - STUPID ASS PLAYER.....Not going to be taken
6. RB Michael Smith, Utah State - An explosive player that, while not as productive, would bring the same kind of speed as LMJ. - You already got LaMichael James with a high pick, you obviously thinks James is a special back because he's a little undersized and you still have him as BPA at the end of the second. NAME A BACK WITH BETTER PRODUCTION?
7. OLB Cam Johnson, Virginia - Would not have changed this pick at all. Despite the health stuff, still feel this was a tremendous value. GREAT VALUE BPA
[ Edited by Oldschool9erfan on May 5, 2012 at 12:08 AM ]
Bpa is bs they tell to the media most GMs draft for need.
They also like football players that have the right mentality for the team. And we aren't privy to that info before the draft.
  • buck
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 9,651
Originally posted by Oldschool9erfan:
If I were to apply this strategy for the 49ers this year, I probably would've done something like this:
1. OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia - I had Glenn as the 2nd best OG behind DeCastro and graded him a top 20 player, better than Konz)
- Not the most mobile guard plus he's overweight
2. OLB Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma - Oddly enough he was selected by our original 4th. I felt he had mid-late 2nd round talent and upside.
- Obviously a lot of teams had problems with this guy.
3. WR Chris Givens, Wake Forest - Would've given us a FAST player who can catch better than Ginn and other drop-prone WRs. - Doesn't he have a lot of off field issues?
4. DE Jared Crick, Nebraska - Crick is way more talented than this. - Then you wouldn't have gotten your guard that you like. (He also probably likes Tukafu, Wiliam, RJF, and Dobbs more than to pass on Looney
5. CB Alphonso Dennard, Nebraska - As dumb as he is for doing what he did, the talent would be hard to overlook. - STUPID ASS PLAYER.....Not going to be taken
6. RB Michael Smith, Utah State - An explosive player that, while not as productive, would bring the same kind of speed as LMJ. - You already got LaMichael James with a high pick, you obviously thinks James is a special back because he's a little undersized and you still have him as BPA at the end of the second. NAME A BACK WITH BETTER PRODUCTION?
7. OLB Cam Johnson, Virginia - Would not have changed this pick at all. Despite the health stuff, still feel this was a tremendous value. GREAT VALUE BPA

It seems that you just copied and pasted OTC words.

If that is the case, give him credit.
Originally posted by buck:
It seems that you just copied and pasted OTC words.

If that is the case, give him credit.

I have my points next to his points, I thought that was obvious since it was his thread that we are following, but made it more clear.
Originally posted by Godsleftsock:
They also like football players that have the right mentality for the team. And we aren't privy to that info before the draft.

This really says it all...... succinctly.

The Niners have a long list of criteria that they use to evaluate a player....talent, athleticism, speed, positional need, love of the game, instincts, intelligence, character, work ethic, and ability to learn and digest a complex system (either on offense or defense).......just to name a few that we know of...

This is the biggest issue I have with so-called draft experts. In general, they tend to place much too much weight and emphasis on sheer talent or athleticism. Baalke and Harbaugh seem to believe (with good reason and a lot of years of experience to back up the belief) that the most successful NFL players tend to be the ones that love the game the most. I heard Brock Huard (former NFL QB) on the radio up here in Seattle say that he believes only about 25% of all NFL players really love the game. That is not a very high percentage. Huard also said that many just play to get a good paycheck.

After learning a bit more about a guy like Jenkins, it is clear why the Niners preferred him over guys like Hill, Randle, and Quick... Jenkins simply had more of the qualities they felt were important for success in the NFL than the others....and when you actually look at Jenkins' resume, it is hard to argue that point. Guys like MD may prefer the athleticism and potential of a guy like Hill, but it is pretty clear that Jenkins is far more ready to contribute to an NFL team right now than Hill.

Cheers!
  • GORO
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 1,802
Baalke drafts for need. When Sing was the coach we need upgrade to OL he drafted Davis and Iupati. Last year they prioritized pass rusher and Cb he drafted Aldon and signed Carlos Rodgers. This year it was wr and A.J. Jenkins was the choice. I believe he believes in bpa but he get input from the coaches and if the wr coach is high on Jenkins and he is rated lower than others, Baalke is not afraid to pull the trigger.

The Bengals draft for value and look good every draft but don't they have the fewest scouts in their personnel department. I remember reading this some where and I believe the Niners rely on scouting more especially in the later rounds.

I love what the Baalke did in the 2nd and 3rd round getting extra picks and bringin in talented players at OG,OC, OLB