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.
This is such an interesting topic. Thank you for posting it. Your post shows some great insight and original thought on your part, IMHO. Great job.
There is a book out recently which discusses New England's HC Bill Bellichek and the way he drafts. Apparently he developed a grading system which incorporates many, many different variables and condenses them down to a single number. This allows him to quickly compare players at different positions. My guess is that Baalke has access to this system and utilizes it, or something similar.
The draft is such a complicated exercise, with many, many variables. Your post does an excellent job of discussing two different approaches.
That said, it still seems that it boils down to the BPA approach. The question, though, is how to determine who the BPA is.
It might be relatively simple, sometimes, to figure out who the BPA for the number one pick overall might be. A very talented QB is going to trump most other positions, then its a question of narrowing down the other variables. Luck vs. RGIII, for example, appears to boil down to the difference in their experience in a pro style offense, but either of them would be considered BPA over everyone else by some margin, great or small.
But after that, it may be more difficult to decide who's the BPA between half a dozen players at three or four different positions. The task is not made any easier based on the fact that the pool of players are the best 250-300 players out of the thousands who played college football at one level or another. They're all very talented. BPA among them might be judged very differently by two different GMs or NFL scouts.
Ultimately, every GM has to find a way to narrow his board down to the BPA at any particular point in the draft, i.e., for each round. Every team appears to consider factors such as measurables (ht, wt, speed, etc.), character, and medical issues to narrow their boards. Some teams add other elements, such as playing experience, desire, unique athletic ability, etc. Your discussion adds the factor "missing elements" which allows a team to add "need" into the mix when determining BPA.
Although no system is perfect, and every team has its share of "misses," the teams that have a grading system in place that allows them to narrow their board to BPA most efficiently and effectively appear to be the teams that enjoy the most consistent success.
It appears that Baalke is utilizing such a system, one that considers some factors which are unknown to us, as fans. This would explain some of the picks that are unexpected. Time will tell if Baalke's grading system proves to be consistently successful. Based on last year's results--admittedly a small sample size--it seems that there is reason for hope.