I have been an avid (bordering on religious) reader of this site for several years, and am a life-long Cowboys fan. This is my first FanPost. Keep in mind this is only my opinion. This was written just to provoke some conversation and thought. That said, be as hard on me as you like. :)
It seems one of the biggest philosophical differences between us fans when it comes to the draft is how to approach choosing whom to pick. We seem pretty evenly split between those that would, if given the GM seat on draft day, draft the best players we could find to fill the current needs of the 2012 cowboys roster, and those that would choose purely the best player available - independent of their position or our team needs.
In case the title didn't give it away, keep reading to figure out which camp I am in......
Now to build the case: Why is it ALWAYS better to choose the best available player?
To the answer the question, we have to try to see things through the eyes of an NFL GM, a person who is not only responsible for fielding a competitive ballclub this year, but next year, the one after, etc. Drafting based purely on need is, simply put, short-sighted. It's focus is solely on what we need to improve in order to be the best we can be, today, with no thought to how this will affect the next two to four years. The draft is the only chance our team has to add affordable talent and athleticism to the team. Reaching for a position of need only curttails the total talent on the team. More on this is a bit. Here are the Cowboys last four drafts, along with the nationally perceived team needs at that time, and my opinion as to whether the Cowboys were drafting for need or Best Player Available. I've only included my opinion as to the first four picks of each year, because it is tough to find 5, 6, and 7th round players on a consistent basis successfully.
|1||***||Roy E Williams||WR||Need|
|Felix Jones||Tashard Choice||Tyron Smith|
|Mike Jenkins||Stephen McGee||Sean Lee|
|Martellus Bennett||Bruce Carter||Dez Bryant|
|Roy Williams||DeMarco Murray|
|Akwasi Owusu Ansah|
For those keeping score at home, I've collected the results in a tidy little table. The first thing you might notice is that there are two pretty decent players and one the jury is still out on that ended up over there in the Need column, with a huge helping of players that are no longer with this team. For the sake of avoiding argument, I'll include Arkin in the decent players, and make it 3 out of 9 Need players that we could effectively say actually filled that need. That's 33%. Not too great.
In the BPA and Both categories, (I'll combine them together, since the common thread between them is BPA) we have a good portion of the team's young and upcoming stars, with two almost certain busts and one the jury is still out on, which I will NOT include, again for arguments sake. This leaves us with 4 out of 7 players selected via Best Player Available in the first four rounds of the draft that have panned out as expected or greater. That's 57%. That is still a coin flip as was pointed out by our front page writers, but I would much rather take my chances with 50/50 than 1 out of 3.
You could also take out the fourth rounders, as it seems we have not been too successful with those, and eliminate David Arkin, Owusu-Ansah, Brandon Williams, Tashard Choice, and Stephen McGee. This changes our figures to 2/6 for need drafting in the first three rounds - still at 33%, while raising BPA to 4/5, or 80%!!!
In addition, I would even go so far as to say that each of the four players selected with the BPA approach is more talented and consistent at their position than the 2-3 successes found drafting for need. Flowing with the math, if we carried the percentage, say 50% over to this table, instead of 6 starters from the last four years,. we would be looking at 8.
It is my premise then, that in order to field the most talented and competitive roster each and every year, we must follow a few golden rules:
1) Select the best player available at each of our picks, regardless of position, because we will be acquiring more gifted/talented players than we would by reaching for need.
2) Make any draft-day trade that allows us to aquire extra picks in the first two to three rounds - the more players we draft in this area, the more successful we'll be.
3) Never pass up a gifted player simply because we already have some on the roster. Competition will make everyone better, and there is always the option of trading the lesser of two players to a needy team for yet another premium pick.
One final note for those that will argue that picking BPA is how Detroit selected 3 straight wide receivers: There are two definite options if you truly feel that a position that is already a strength of the team is also the BPA when you are on the clock.
1) Trade the pick to someone that needs that position, in the process acquiring at least one more premium pick for this or next year's draft..
2) If the player could be better than those on your roster at that position, pick the player and trade an older but still very productive player at the same position for either future premium picks or a proven veteran at another position of need sometime during the next two seasons.
Thankfully for me, it seems our Front Office since Garrett became coach has begun to adopt this mentality of filling holes in free agency, drafting the best talent possible. I for one couldn't be any happier to see it.
Thanks for taking the time out to read my opinion, fire away!