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Reassessing Best Player Available Draft Strategy: Why Teams Should Often Bypass BPA To Maximize Overall Value

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Jonathan Bales

“Reassessing Best Player Available Draft Strategy: Why Teams Should Often Bypass BPA To Maximize Overall Value”

Sounds more like the title of a thesis than a blog post.  Nonetheless, I wanted to again delve into what is one of my favorite football topics: draft strategy.  Last year, I published an article called “Why Selecting Best Player Available in NFL Draft a Myth.”

The post highlighted a few of my unconventional (and wildly unpopular) thoughts on draft and game theory, the most intriguing of which is that selecting the best player available, even at a position of need, is often a mistake.  I will recap that article with a few quotes, but I suggest clicking the link above and rereading it if you are bored at work, or entertained but simply don’t have a lot of work to do, or even if you have a ton of work, or if it is nighttime and you are off of work, or if your name is Betty.  Just read it.  Here we go. . .

Like many (or even most) of the long-held NFL “truisms,” the concept of selecting the BPA (best player available) is mistaken.  As is the case with punting on 4th and 1 or always kicking extra points, selecting the BPA will actually lead to sub-par results.

GMs who say they always take the BPA are simply lying.

The key to this strategy is a concept I’ve discussed in a few of my fantasy football articles–VORP (value over replacement player).  In a nutshell, VORP means selecting not the player with the most projected points, but the player with the largest disparity of projected points compared to the next player at the same position who you could secure in a later round.  If you read between the lines, you can see game theory is really the backbone of this strategy.  To effectively maximize value, it is critical to understand perceived worth.

Game theory is all about understanding opponents’ beliefs and using them to your advantage.  If you had perfect knowledge of other teams’ draft boards and knew the top player on your board was rated three rounds lower on everyone else’s, you would wait to select that player.  BPA, even at a position of need, promotes the dismissal of potentially useful information.

Although no team has perfect knowledge of a player’s perceived value, the notion that perceptions can and should alter draft theory remains unchanged.  BPA as a draft strategy is too shortsighted and could force premature selections, ultimately decreasing overall value.

On a real world example from 2011:

Let’s assume the ‘Boys will select a defensive end and an offensive tackle in the first two rounds, but they’re unsure of the order.  Now, let’s provide a numerical value to the possible targets.  As a guide, we will use the NFL draft trade value chart and my own 2011 NFL Draft Big Board to assign these values.

As I’ve already proposed, let’s assume Dareus (ranked No. 2 on my Big Board) is available for the Cowboys.  At that ranking, he’s worth a whopping 2,600 points.  As I’ve argued in the past, however, I think there is a major problem with selecting a defensive end in the first round.  By the time the Cowboys’ 40th selection rolls around, there is zero chance that a top-tier offensive tackle will be left on the board.  My top five tackles–Tyron Smith, Ben Ijalana, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, and Derek Sherrod–will almost certainly be gone by the second-round.

Thus, the top offensive tackle that is left to pair with Dareus, according to my personal Big Board, is Alabama’s James Carpenter. . .all the way down at No. 71 overall.  According to the value chart, that selection is worth 235 points, bringing the Dareus/Carpenter duo to 2,835 combined points.  Certainly our VORP has been compromised, as Carpenter is terrible value in the second-round.  But is Dareus’ BPA status enough to compensate?

To determine this, let’s project the Cowboys’ possible selections if they take an offensive tackle in the first-round.  At No. 9, the ‘Boys may very well have their pick of the litter, and according to my board, Tyron Smith (No. 8 overall) is that guy.  The eighth overall selection is worth only 1,400 points–a far cry from the 2,600 that we assigned to Dareus.

We can already see the Dareus/Carpenter duo is going to win out.  Even if the Cowboys somehow land Cal’s Cameron Jordan in the second-round (which is clearly a pipe dream), his 14th overall ranking–worth 1,100 points–would still bring the Smith/Jordan duo to only 2,500 overall points–335 behind Dareus and Carpenter.

Although the Cowboys selected an inside linebacker in the second round, they still landed Smith in the first.  My hunch is that he was their BPA, but he should have been selected even if they had a prospect rated higher than him.

It’s worth noting that, although the optimal tandem turned out to be that which was comprised of the BPA, the process by which we discovered that was still VORP.  Thus, teams will often arrive at the right selection, but implement the wrong method of getting there.  Selecting the correct player helps you now, but selecting the correct player by utilizing the proper draft strategy will help you in the future.

Mathematics often leads to counterintuitive results, but the teams which disregard their “gut” and utilize the numbers on draft day are generally the most successful.  Remember, the “gut feelings” are already implemented into a team’s rankings (whether they admit to it or not).  Draft day is not the time to follow hunches.

What I mean here is that film study, interview results, and other non-measurables are already reflected on your board.  Ironically, if you disregard your board on draft day (in relation to VORP, not BPA), you will actually be forgoing those gut feelings which were already implemented into your rankings.

VORP is an all-encompassing draft strategy that leads to greater ultimate value than BPA–a more short-sighted draft philosophy which disregards the future in favor of optimal value right now.  Would you rather have $100 today (BPA) or $500 tomorrow (VORP)?

Well?

After I posted that article, I found more support in my critique of BPA draft strategy from Code and Football in their article on why drafting the BPA is simply a way to optimize buyer’s remorse:

Consider this scenario: you have three players in the middle rounds you are considering, whose “true career value” is about the same. We’ll assume drafting is an efficient market for now, so our estimation of the value of these picks is a normally distributed estimate whose mean is based off their true career value. Which one of these men do we draft? We draft the player whose value we have overestimated the most. Consequently, we draft the player most likely to underachieve our expectations.

Since in most drafts there are very few times a true BPA falls into the lap of teams (i.e. players where one is wildly superior to all other candidates), it would seem that BPA is a way of optimizing how heartbroken a team will be over the draft choices it actually picks. Though this approach would appear to gather the best athletes, in a draft with a large error, and multiple situations where you’re picking from nearly equivalent athletes, perhaps all BPA will get you is maximally suffering from buyer’s remorse.

This idea has differences from my own, but it points out the fact that the value of taking the BPA is often minimized because of a team’s overestimation of a prospect’s ability.  The argument that BPA can help a team secure the most elite prospects, then, seems less compelling.  With 32 teams all acquiring nearly the same information, the chance that a single team will obtain a player whose value is so much greater than the other options that it overrides the value of VORP is slim at best.

————————————————

In the two main articles I posted on draft strategy (here and here), we had over 50 really insightful comments.  Many of these raised interesting critiques of VORP, game theory, and other draft strategies, and I wanted to address a few of them now. . .

“VORP doesn’t address the ‘real world’ value of specific positions.”

It does.  Much as the measure of “intangible” things like heart and determination are actually reflected in advanced football statistics, the value of a specific position over another (quarterback to linebacker, for example) is reflected in a team’s draft board.

“VORP as a long-term strategy will lead to less overal talent than BPA.”

VORP leads to the greatest overall value because it has a far greater focus than BPA, or BPA at a position of need (BPAAAPON, if you will).  VORP is in the business of temporarily bypassing short-term value to secure greater value in the future.

The most valid critique of the draft theory is that it requires too much knowledge, i.e. you can never have enough knowledge of other teams’ intentions for the draft theory to work in practice.  It is a pipe dream, some might say.

While this might be possible, I think that argument would be a better one when applying VORP to the later rounds of a draft.  For the most part, we all know which players will go in or around the first couple of rounds, so predicting the abundance of talent at a specific position is made easier early in the draft.  That task only becomes very difficult after the first few rounds when boards do not match up as comparably.

In effect, VORP becomes a less valuable draft strategy as the draft rolls along and opponents’ beliefs become less predictable.  In the later rounds, when the goal is to maximize upside (as opposed to the goal of minimizing downside early in the draft), selecting the BPA has more merit.

“The draft is a crap shoot, so VORP is no more valuable than any other strategy.  Just select the best players.”

The draft is a crap shoot in which a large majority of success stems from luck, but at the same time that doesn’t negate the value of specific draft strategies.  The idea is comparable to blackjack, where the outcome of any single hand is determined almost solely by “luck.”  A great blackjack player might win perhaps one out of 100 hands more than an average player.

In a sport like football where the competition is so stiff, though, very small advantages equate to big success.  It is the difference between a DeMarcus Ware and a Bobby Carpenter, for example.  One draft selection can lead to a monumental difference in production.

“VORP is a baseball term and should not be applied to NFL draft strategy.”

I simply use VORP (value over replacement player) as a label.  Change it to ‘position scarcity’ if you would like.  The idea is the same: short-term bypassing of the BPA can lead to overall greater value, particularly in the draft’s early rounds.

“Too many things can happen in the future which make using VORP now usless.”

The same thing can be said for any draft strategy.  We can only work with the information we have at hand.  What if Tony Romo tears his ACL in camp?  There are a lot of things in the future that could alter the efficiency of past decisions, but the best way to maximize the opportunity for future success, and the only way, is to use all present information.

“VORP assumes that each draft is an independent variable and the potential of future drafts has no bearing on the draft this year, which simply isn’t true”

Again, all present information can and should be factored into rankings.  I’d say the ability for any organization to effectively evaluate the positional talent for a draft which is over a year away, however, is small enough that it should have little to no bearing on current decisions.  In addition to not knowing draft slots, teams don’t have a grasp on which prospects will enter the draft, which ones might get hurt, how they will perform in their final collegiate seasons, and so on.  Bypassing a talented player at a position of need which VORP draft strategy suggests to select because the subsequent draft might be full of talent at that position seems like a poor philosophy regardless of the draft technique used.

“The draft is an inefficient market, devaluing the use of VORP.”

VORP’s value would certainly be decreased if the draft was an inefficient market, but for the most part it is very efficient.  Yes, teams hit and miss all the time, but that doesn’t make the market remarkably less efficient.  When we take a large sample size of drafts into account and analyze the success of players based on draft slot, we see a very specific downward curve.  Whether we compare draft spot to years as a starter, Pro Bowl selections, or career approximate value, higher picks tend to perform superior to lower ones: http://www.advancednflstats.com/2009/04/career-success-by-draft-order.html

In short, although there are random deviations (which are to be expected), teams are generally efficient in the draft market.

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23 Responses to Reassessing Best Player Available Draft Strategy: Why Teams Should Often Bypass BPA To Maximize Overall Value

  1. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Ok Jonathan,

    You know that I don’t like the VORP strategy – for most of the reasons you stated toward the end of the article. Most notably, the 2nd to the last statement of viewing each draft as an independent variable (I’m not sure if that was my quote specifically from last year but it’s close).

    Too many fans want to improve the ENTIRE team in one year. Let’s say the team needs this year are CB, FS, OG, DE, LOLB, P, TE, QB and FB. You let fans have their way and through FA and the draft, each and every need listed would be addressed. That’s flawed thinking. If the only way for me to fill the TE need is with a low end FA or 6th round pick, then am I really filling the need? I’m mostly just selecting the best of an inadequate pool of talent. And, unless I can sign guys to 1 yr deals (which isn’t likely out of the draft) or to deals that have little cap affect, then it’s easy to tie up some of my $ on a guy who didn’t really fill a need.

    Last year, the Boys got Smith, Carter and Murray in the 1st 3 rounds (everyone picked in the 4th and later round – besides FBs, Ks or Ps – are essentially ST or PS players). An injured ILB in Carter wasn’t a need; there were many other ILB candidates that could’ve stepped in a played immediately. But, the Boys selected Carter because of his future upside. ILB wasn’t a need LAST year but it is now (when Carter is healthy).

  2. moses says:

    You also have to consider free agents and practice squad players. In addition, you have to know your scheme and select players that fill it well. They aren’t always the best athletes but they fit into the system.

    Giants, Patriots, Packers, Saints, Baltimore and Pittsburgh run their teams well. It doesn’t seem like the Cowboys do this well at all. They could save themselves a lot of money by just picking up a draft guide the morning of the draft.

  3. Mont Seventeen says:

    Someone remind this dude that the OT Carpenter, went in the first round! VORP is a pipe dream, a scenario that would need teams to pass on Top talent in one position while a plethora of talent is being passed at another. Let alone the knowledge of who wants what and when…

    The fact is teams have different philosophies when it comes to draft day… Teams like the Bengals, Cowboys and Raiders are run by ownership, they have reactionary approaches. While teams like the Ravens, Steelers and Giants build an identity forged by their leaders on the field.

    When Jerry drafts a player he is drafting him on filling a need from the previous season, real teams draft players to compliment the teams philosophy. You can’t use BPA or VORP to build a consistent winner bc you are taking the human element out of the game.

    Everyone wants to make a madden draft day synopsis, but reality is teams that win draft for holes for upcoming seasons not just the current season.

    For example the Pats drafted OT and the Steelers drafted a DE… Not 1 draft expert had them going in that direction, why? Bc they are playing chess not checkers!

  4. Mont Seventeen says:

    I take that back ab the late Al Davis, his philosophy was speed… Jerry’s is more like who will be a Super Star that no one else in the world predicted, I call it the “Leon Lett” syndrome. This is why Jerry continues to draft guys like Jason Williams, AOA and Isaiah Stanback many years after Kavika Pittman, Quincy Carter and Duane Goodrich.

    Jerry’s philosophy is who has the potential to be the biggest star! This is why he drafted Carter, a player once considered a top 15 pick. If Jerry could he would draft a Ryan Leaf #1 over all every year, like with Carter, reality of can this guy actually play in the NFL in not a concern as much as the potential of him being a star.

    Carter couldn’t even get meaningful snaps on one of the worst defenses in the league. Why? After rehab there is only 1 reason why a 2cd rounder that was projected as a Top 15 didn’t see more playing time… Carter is too stupid to learn his assignments!

    This is why Jerry will never build a winner… You can’t just put guys in a locker room and say win. Guys like Marty B will always wear the star, while guys like D Ware will grow old and unsung.

  5. Mont Seventeen says:

    Sam Hurd is the perfect example of what type of players wear the star… BPA or VOSP on draft day, doesn’t matter… Jerry has an eye for guys that are Boom but all bust!

    This is why this teams only identity under his direction (not the Jimmy or BP years) is Romo-friendly!

  6. Vince_Grey says:

    JB – While I generally agree with your assessment, I’m not sure Dallas needs to follow that approach.

    In almost every situation where the Cowboys have whiffed on a high pick, Jerry has gone away from the big board and the BPA strategy, such as when he went after Felix Jones despite their being other players, including other RB’s, who our scouts rated higher on their board.

    It seems like when we follow our board more to the letter we draft much better, so I’d like to continue that philosophy.

    So, while as a rule I am against drafting a DB or OL at 14, if there’s a guy there who is by far your top rated player still on the board, then I say either trade down or bite the bullet and take the guy.

    However, if there’s not a really wide disparity between the players in question, for God’s sake, please stay away from WR’s, DB’s, kickers, and interior OL that high in the 1st round.

    Mont – You kill me. First of all, Jerry’s not going anywhere so all this carping about him is moot. Second, you seem to want to blame him 100% for every bad pick under his watch, but give him zero credit for all the good picks. Well, you can’t have it both ways, so which is it?

    And oh yeah, you keep harping on the “Romo-friendly” thing. Excuse me, but what exactly does that mean, IYO, in terms of real world effect? IOW, what exactly did the Cowboys do that was so wrong to make the team more “Romo-friendly”?

    Dude, seriously, please stop listening and reading all the reactionary, mainstream sports media nonsense about the Cowboys. They know jack-crap about *real* football and usually just spout the talking points of the day, which is virtually always anti-Jerry and anti-Romo `cause they know that will spike the meter so to speak.

  7. Tyrone–Awesome eye! That was your quote (and one of the top arguments against VORP by far, IMO). If there is one way VORP can harm you, it is if you “miss” on a specific position after taking a player lower on your board with the first pick. It is a riskier strategy than BPA, to be sure, but also one with more upside. I would agree with your assessment that some positions do not get “fixed” and a 6th-rounder isn’t doing it, but I don’t think BPA solves that issues any more than VORP. BPA is actually a superior strategy in the late rounds when, instead of minimizing downside, you want to increase upside–take the most elite athletes then.

  8. Moses–No arguments here. Jerry Jones has done an underrated job of loading the team with talent, but is that talent a cohesive unit? Are they great football players or just great athletes? I don’t know.

  9. Mont–I wrote the bit about Carpenter prior to the draft, but the point–that the team could get an OT with the talent of Carpenter (not, say, Castonzo) in the second round)–remains unchanged. The Cowboys board was probably wildly different from mine, and if they thought Carpenter and other OTs had first-round talent, perhaps they would have passed on Tyron in the first knowing they could get in the second. Again, it is about knowing your board and its relation to others’ boards. The fact that Carpenter went (much) earlier than expected does nothing to discredit VORP. If you are hoping one player at a specific position falls, you are in for a long draft no matter what strategy you use.

  10. Vince–I think you raise an interesting point, and that is that VORP has some BPA built into it. Never, ever would I suggest taking a player at a certain positions (say RB) who is lower than a player at the SAME position. In that sense, ALWAYS stick to your board during draft day. You work all those hours so you don’t need to get flustered with those sorts of decisions during the draft, and going against the wisdom of scouts or trying to get cute at the last minute is a horrendous approach.

    Having said that, VORP simply proposes (at times) bypassing the top OVERALL player on your board for the top player at another position. I think a lot of people get scared when they visualize VORP as bypassing elite players, but in reality, you are still taking the highest player on your board at a specific position, and in all likelihood that position is one of need as well.

  11. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I knew this article would bring about tons of discussion and was glad when I saw it. Again, much credit to you JB.

    Every NFL football team has some sort of strategy. Mont, your point about certain owners targeting certain types of players (Raiders w/ speed, Steelers w/ tough nose guys, etc.) has validity. If you apply that same mentality to the Cowboys, I would think the players are “finesse” players – players who are talented but also have a showman type era about them. Outside of the O and D lines (and even some of them don’t really count), who on this team is really a workhorse / dirty player / roughneck type of guy? Even Ware, as tough as he is, is “smooth.” I think this mentality is a carryover from Irvin, Emmitt and Deion.

    With that in mind, there ARE players, both in FA and in the draft, that fit that mold. Should be an interesting draft…

  12. Tyrone–I’d agree to an extent, but I think the Cowboys need to do a better job of finding a more specific type of player. I don’t think “finesse” is the right word–I’m all for finesse players in this day and age. I think the Eagles draft finesse players–DeSean, Maclin, McCoy, Dion Lewis, etc. All of those guys fit a specific mold, whereas the Cowboys draft “finesse” players only insofar as they aren’t really tough. JJ does an underrated job of finding talent, but he needs to improve at finding talent that can work as a cohesive unit, ie bypassing a player like Jason Williams.

    I think we are starting to see that trend change with Garrett…this draft will be very interesting, but I assume it will resemble that from last year–high character players with versatility. I commented on that last year: http://dallascowboystimes.com/2011/04/dallas-cowboys-2011-draft-grades-did-boys-find-value/

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  14. valmont says:

    JB,

    wish you’d stop butchering VORP. In fact, I wish you’d really critically examine your argument.

    your logic is fundamentally wrong. I’m frankly amazed that you keep insisting that it’s correct. It’s not.

    look, in math you often look at limit (i.e. what’s happening at extremes) to understand what’s happening.

    ok, let’s look at the extremes. Let’s assume the following:
    -Dallas takes Decastro with their 1st pick
    -Justin Blackmon falls to the 2nd round

    Dallas’s biggest hole is CB, and if you went by your convoluted ‘replacement player’ analysis, you’d probably have to conclude that Dallas should take Trumaine Johnson because that’s a larger ‘replacement player’ change than Blackmon over Robinson. That should give you pause.

    The whole thing was so wacky. You were using the draft trade value chart to quantify replacement player value.

    Understand, in fantasy football you get one draft, so a replacement player strategy makes sense. In real football teams are continuously drafting and acquiring players through free agency and it no longer makes sense to apply a one time ‘replacement player analysis’.

    Oh, and Code and Football, his entire argument lacks fundamental logic as well. here’s his logic.
    -the draft is efficient
    -therefore, drafting your highest rated player maximizes the error you’ve made

    except what’s the alternative? draft for need? that doesn’t fix the problem. now you’ve just drafted the player you’ve most overrated at your position of need.

    whether the draft is efficient or inefficient is almost irrelevant to BPA vs. Need (unless you’re getting into some really convoluted logic that need is random, therefore the random aspect of need neutralizes the scouting department’s overrating errors).

    that the draft is efficient. If the draft is efficient teams should fire their scouting departments and

  15. Valmont–Your example of Blackmon falling into the second round is incorrect, as VORP (or WHATEVER you want to label position scarcity) suggests to take Blackmon if he is rated that highly. Again, as I suggested in the article, VORP takes BPA into account.

    Also, my usage of the trade value chart as a demonstration of actual player value is just that…a demonstration. In reality, the Cowboys would be using their own board as “the chart.”

    Now, I agree (and admitted) the biggest potential flaw with BPA is if you don’t take the BPA in the first round and an elite player drops and you are “forced” to take him in the second. If the team sees an abundance of quality guard prospects which will be available in the second, for example, they might take Courtney Upshaw over DeCastro. For argument’s sake, let’s say Blackmon falls to the second and they take him. The team would have bypassed the BPA at a position of need (DeCastro) for a slightly lower player, thus decreasing overall value.

    However, the odds of this happening, IMO, are far less than the odds of no elite player dropping (one who is so elite that, even at a position like WR, Dallas would have to take him) and the team correctly assessing early-round position scarcity. This is why VORP works so much better in the early rounds, as the opportunity to secure unbelievable value in the second round isn’t outstanding. Everyone’s boards are relatively the same near the top, and so no Justin Blackmon, Robert Griffin, DeCastro, or Matt Kalil is going to be dropping into the second round. Later in the draft, I’d advice BPA (not even at a position of need).

    As a final example, assume this draft was so loaded on rush linebackers that there were 15 of them with nearly identical first-round grades and the Cowboys simply knew they could draft one in the second round. Also assume DeCastro was the only guard they had rated in the top three rounds, and they were deciding between him and Upshaw (who we’ll say is slightly higher on their board).

    Pretending the positions are of equal value to Dallas, who do they take? BPA and BPA at a position of need say Upshaw. But that would be ridiculous. If they have 14 (or 10, or 5) other players with nearly-equal grades and no interior lineman can sniff DeCastro, the guard is the clear choice. This is an extreme example to demonstrate how VORP could be useful, but the Cowboys could certainly have their eye on a second-round rush linebacker who they are 99% sure will drop to them. Again, they should take the guard in that situation, ultimately maximizing overall value.

  16. valmont says:

    “As a final example, assume this draft was so loaded on rush linebackers that there were 15 of them with nearly identical first-round grades and the Cowboys simply knew they could draft one in the second round. Also assume DeCastro was the only guard they had rated in the top three rounds, and they were deciding between him and Upshaw (who we’ll say is slightly higher on their board).”

    step out of JB theory land and into reality. This is almost exactly the strategy that was espoused last year (except with DL). You know what happened? All 13 DL were drafted before Dallas’s 2nd round pick came around.

    Seriously. The evidence is screaming at you in the face. Everyone is saying that Jonathan Martin or Reiff is probably gonna slip to Dallas. Do you really think Dallas would be better off with with say Tyron and Devon Still instead of JJ Watt and Reiff/Martin?

    If you want to think about this clearly you need to do it systematically. Comments

    -you need a standard measure of value (instead of the ‘draft chart’). I’d suggest you try and quantify how many points per game a player is worth over an average player.

    -you need to look at career value, instead of just looking at the change for one season (because players are drafted for their careers, not their rookie seasons).

    do that and you’ll start to get results that make a lot more sense … and push you back towards BPA.

  17. valmont says:

    just to be clear, the most obvious flaw is that this analysis rests on a 1 year timeframe. Players are drafted for their careers, not their rookie years.

    If you’re looking at career value for a player, if that player is replacing a big hole, then their career value does get a bit of bump.

    but in a league where teams a turning over almost 90% of their roster every 4 years, you really do not want to put to much weight on short term benefit.

  18. The example was purposely outrageous to demonstrate the point that perfect knowledge would make position scarcity far and away the most valuable draft strategy. Perfect knowledge is of course out of the question, but the idea that the availability of a prospect in the second round can and should affect your decision in the first round is still true.

    Your point about future player value is a good one, and of course teams don’t draft for a single season. However, I have two rebuttals:

    1) If you are drafting for BPA, the difference between the top player on your board and the second player is likely small. If the gap is wide, all draft strategies (including VORP) would suggest taking the top player. With such small differences in perceived value, why NOT take the #2 player at a position of need. Surely his contributions in the first few years at a position you know is one of need would outweigh the very small decline in perceived value. Again, this is only for very small differences in value.

    2) If you agree BPA at a position of need can be superior to BPA in these circumstances, why not extend your vision past a single pick and to the next round? In a way, VORP (or position scarcity) is really BPA at a position of need with greater scope. And I realize VORP’s implementation is superior in a one-year, 12-team league as in fantasy football, BUT the idea that you can accurately predict the future scarcity of prospects at a position in the first few rounds of the draft is not (necessarily) impossible.

    So to recap in a single sentence: I think the difference among perceived value of the top prospects on a board at any given time (in the first few rounds) is (except in rare instances) quite small, meaning the additional value added from selecting a player at a position of need or using VORP to do so with a greater overall draft vision is superior to simply blindly selecting the BPA.

  19. valmont says:

    this is sounding a lot more reasonable than ‘BPA is a myth’.

    you’re saying that need should be factored into the decision.

    I agree. that’s non-controversial.

    the only question is how much weight. Due to the shortness of NFL careers I’d say the weighting should be pretty low … since whatever the position it will probably be a ‘need’ within 2-3 years.

  20. Sean says:

    JB appreciate your work and followed links from your nytimes contributions.If the concept is that position scarcity or depth in this draft should be factor, that makes perfect sense. Though it doesnt seem to merit an acronym or mathematical analysis. I could certainly see the Browns passing on Morris Claiborne b/c there are CB’s to had at 22. That being said, I still think BPA is almost always the way to go. Draft for need, you’ll have the same need two years later. And sometimes small difference in your rating are exponential differences
    in career trajectory. Trust your scouts. If you like somebody grab em.

  21. Sean–Thanks for making your way over here. My official position is to draft BPA in the middle and later portions of the draft, but grab the BPA at a position of need (with position scarcity in mind) in the first for sure, and potentially in the second as well. One of the reasons which I don’t elaborate on as much as I should have in the article is that teams have basically the same boards early in the draft.

    Yes, some teams are superior to others and there’s no reason to trust other teams’ evaluations, but for the most part there aren’t any top-tier players dropping early because everyone recognizes them. Whereas it is easy to see a player you gave a second-round grade drop to the fourth, rarely will someone you have a top five grade drop out of the top 15. Similarly, I don’t think many first-round graded players in general are dropping out of the first 50 picks or so. Thus, the small advantage drafting for “need” can give a team early is enough to justify a pick, IMO.

    Let’s say player A has a rating of 85 on a hypothetical scale of 100, and player B is 84. Player B plays a position of great need, however, and player A plays a position at which he simply won’t get on the field for your team. NO team in the league is taking the BPA in that situation, and those who say so are liars. Every team, to some extent, drafts for need early. By implementing position scarcity as a component of need, teams can enhance their potential overall value EARLY in the draft over a BPA draft strategy, in my view.

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