Should the Cowboys (or any NFL team) really draft the best player available?
At BR, I published five important questions for Dallas this offseason. One was if they should indeed draft the best player available in the draft. I have pretty strong feelings on this topic and I will discuss it quite a bit as the draft approaches.
I really believe most people have a distorted view of how teams should handle the draft. Namely, I reject the prevailing notion that teams should draft the best player available just because he’s the highest-rated player on their board.
In my view, teams should usually (but not always) draft the highest player on their boardat a position of need. The primary reason I believe that blindly drafting the best player available is disadvantageous is because teams overestimate their ability to identify the true best player available. In reality, NFL teams are pretty inefficient at drafting players, but they approach the draft as if their rankings are flawless.
One problem with drafting the best player available is that he’s probably an outlier on your board, i.e. you have him ranked higher than any other team. And while draft grades shouldn’t just be groupthink, there’s certainly value in knowing that the rest of the league doesn’t view a particular prospect like you do.
When you start to factor your own fallibility into the mix, the difference between your best player available and the next-best prospect shrinks. That inflates the value of drafting a player at a position of need.
Teams and fans know deep down that they shouldn’t always draft the best player available. What if the Cowboys’ top player available in the first round this year is a quarterback, but there’s a defensive end ranked one spot behind him? Clearly drafting the quarterback would set the franchise back; I’m just taking that argument and extending it a bit further.
Sometimes the true best player available will be at a position of extreme importance and need. Those situations make for easy draft picks. But other times things won’t align so nicely, in which case Dallas will need to make a choice between its board and need.
The Cowboys should never pass up an extreme value who is ranked very far ahead of other players, but otherwise, drafting the best player available is an overrated draft strategy that assumes infallibility in draft rankings that clearly doesn’t exist.
Verdict: Draft the best player available at a position of need.
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