Eagles Draft 2014: Drafting For Need vs. Best Player Available | Eagles Addict

After signing Malcolm Jenkins, Bryan Braman, Chris Maragos, Nolan Carroll and trading for Darren Sproles, have the Philadelphia Eagles done enough in free agency to truly utilize the “Best Player Available” approach to the 2014 Draft?

I wrote about this topic a little over a month ago, but I saw another article recently talking about “drafting the best vs. drafting for need” and it renewed my interest in discussing this subject.

Howie Roseman stated that he didn’t want to enter May’s draft with glaring holes to fill because that tends to make teams reach for need when making their selections.

Roseman and the Eagles have adopted the philosophy of building your team through the draft, reward your own players with extensions, and use free agency as merely a hole-plugging tool.

While I agree with that for the most part, I still wonder whether or not they did enough “hole plugging” in free agency.  Braman and Maragos will be good for Special Teams, Carroll will be nice depth at Corner, and Sproles was a luxury addition.

Jenkins is the only hole-plugger of the group.

Is that, along with the hope of continued progression from the current players, enough to fix a defense that finished 2013 ranked 29th overall, 32nd against the pass, 17th in points, and 20th in sacks?

Sure, the defense seemed to get better as the season went on, but they also had the benefit of a relatively soft schedule and a series of fortunate circumstances that led to some victories…

Playing Green Bay without Rodgers, Arizona without Andre Ellington, Detroit in the snow without Reggie Bush and Dallas without Tony Romo for the NFC East Championship.  They were also one bad decision by RG3 and one questionable penalty away from potential losses to the Redskins and Cardinals.

In other words, we have to take the defense’s performance with a grain of salt.  They were “okay” last year and did very well in the takeaway category, but there is certainly a lot of room for improvement.

Entering this offseason, the biggest needs were Safety (at least one, if not two), a pass rushing OLB and depth all across the defensive line (that’s how I personally ranked their needs).  They addressed exactly one of them (Jenkins).

The free agent market for Outside Linebackers was bare, so there was nothing they could have done about that.

However, there were some good depth/rotational defensive line players to be had at the mid-level tier.  This is where I was disappointed in free agency.

I understood about not going after Jairus Byrd or any of the big ticket guys as well as wanting to save money for next offseason’s potential list of player extension handouts.  But, I still I felt they could have made at least one or two moves to strengthen their DL rotation.

They could have went for a player like Paul Soliai, Linval Joseph, Tyson Jackson or Arthur Jones — any of whom would have been a good addition at an affordable price and all of whom would have been an upgrade over Joe Kruger, Brandon Bair and Damion Square (our current depth).

They weren’t superstars and weren’t super expensive. Soliai received 5 years with $14 million guaranteed, Joseph was 5 years with $12.5 million guaranteed, Jackson was 5 years with $8 million guaranteed and Jones was 5 years with $10 million guaranteed.

Maybe I’m overreacting on the DL depth front, but after watching DeMarco Murray physically abuse the defense in the “NFC East Championship Game” and then get run over by Mark freakin’ Ingram in the playoffs, I think we need to get more stout up front.

Bennie Logan, Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton are all young and promising, but they need help.  With only six picks in the draft, this is the area they should have focused on in free agency.

But I digress, what’s done is done.  However, all of that leads me to wondering how it will impact the draft.

Is Safety, a black hole since Brian Dawkins left, now “fixed” with some combination of Jenkins, Allen and Wolff?  Outside Linebacker is still a huge need and with the release of DeSean Jackson, we could certainly use a new Wide Receiver.

And that’s not to mention depth/upgrades along the DL as well as the future at CB and ILB (Ryans’ successor).

When I think about the philosophy of taking the best player available, it’s exactly that…take the best football player still available regardless of position.  Here’s a quote from Howie Roseman about their current philosophy:

“Zach [Ertz] is an example of who we are now,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. “We go into a draft and obviously there are positions you’d like to fill. But you have to stick to what you believe in, and that’s taking the best player.”

“The way we formulate our draft board is basically like an expansion team,” Roseman said. “It’s like we have no players and let’s make sure we have a clear mind.

“It’s very hard to go in and know maybe the weaknesses that you have on your team and not grade players up a little bit because of that. But we try to grade all the players in the draft like we don’t have any at that position.”

Sounds good in theory, right?

But, my question is how can a team not factor in their needs when making selections with premium picks?  BPA is fine for mid-late rounds, but Rounds 1 – 3 is where you get the bulk of your impact.

With the holes on the roster, how can the Eagles possibly sit back and take the BPA every time they’re on the clock?

With all of their needs on defense, what if every time it’s their turn to pick the BPA is an offensive player?  What if a QB or OT is the best guy sitting there at pick 22?  Or, what if the best player on the board in consecutive rounds plays the same position that you just drafted in the previous round?

Furthermore, with only six draft picks, the Eagles could easily walk away with a good percentage of their draft haul being players that play at non-need positions thereby still leaving holes on the roster.

If you want to build using the draft as your main source of impact players for your team and you truly use the BPA method, you could theoretically go years without finding a good Outside Linebacker, Safety or whatever position it is they need to upgrade.

In other words, if the Eagles don’t address some needs in this draft, they’ll be heading into the 2015 offseason with all of the same needs as they do now.

That’s why I call BS when it comes to truly drafting the best player available.

Teams can easily justify their picks with the “he was the highest rated player on our board” explanation and we just have to take it as face value, because, that’s all subjective.  They can also hide behind the “scheme fit” justification as well (not that scheme fit isn’t highly important though).

However, instead of promoting the BPA method, teams should simply say they’ll refuse to “reach” for need.  And by reach, I mean taking a player a full round or two early because you have a need at his position.

Like taking Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round.

All teams have to factor in their needs at certain positions.  They just can’t be dumb about it.

Last offseason the Eagles addressed several need areas via free agency.  However, we could argue that Lane Johnson was a need as well as Bennie Logan, Matt Barkley and Earl Wolff.

Zach Ertz was the only obvious non-need, BPA type of pick.

This year, I would rank the Eagles’ needs, in order from biggest to least, as OLB, DL, DB, WR, ILB/OL (tie), TE, QB, and RB (Kicker is in there somewhere, right?).

Quick hypothetical:

What if the Eagles were on the clock at pick 22 and didn’t have any good trade-back offers.  On the board were the following players: Eric Ebron, Zack Martin, Calvin Pryor, Dee Ford, Kony Ealy, Kyle Fuller, Teddy Bridgewater and Kelvin Benjamin.

They can’t trade back and have to pick one.  Who should it be?  Who would they pick?

Well, if you go by the most common player rankings by draft analysts, either Ebron or Bridgewater would be considered the “best player available”…right?

Would the Eagles actually pick one of those two players who play at a position that is towards the bottom of their need list?  Or, would they look down their big-board rankings and take one of the other players that plays a position of more need?

You’d like to think it would be the latter of the two which would therefore nullify a true “BPA” method.

We could sit here and argue all day where the Eagles themselves have those players ranked, but we’ll never know.  That’s why we can only go by the general concensus of most analysts and draftniks out there.

Ultimately, the Eagles will have to factor in need when placing a value on a player at a given position in a given round.  Otherwise, they will risk having some of the same deficiencies over and over again.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying they should focus solely on needs at each pick.  But, it should certainly factor into their decision.

For example, if they’re sitting there at pick 54 looking at their draft board and trying to decide between Player A that they have rated higher but plays a position of less need, or Player B that is maybe a few spots lower but does play a position of need, they should take Player B as long that player isn’t significantly lower in their ratings.

Unfortunately, they didn’t really help themselves much in free agency and still have plenty of holes to fill.  The draft should be primarily focused on improving the defense. Will the BPA always be at one of those positions?

They only have six picks so each one has to count.

What do you think?  Are the Eagles really in a good enough position as an overall team to truly take the best player available each time they’re on the clock without regard for their position?


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4 Responses to Are the Eagles in a Position to Truly Take the BPA Approach in the Draft?

  1. tom gelbach says:

    A provisional Yes . Just as long as they pass on QB, RB,& TE
    they should take the BPA . i also believe they should go defense with 22 and in the second Consider a WR assuming he s the BPA which seems very likely

    • But Tom, therin is the question…what if the BPA is a QB, RB or TE? By truly sticking to that method, that’s who’d they’d take. But yes, I agree with going defense at 22 and if a good fit at WR is there at 54, I wouldn’t mind that. However, if I had my choice, my first 3 picks would be all defense and then I’d consider a WR.

  2. Steve says:

    I think you are arguing with yourself. The BPA is in the mind of those doing the picking. Plus you are downplaying the abilities of the current roster and the potential for those players to improve beyond what a draft pick may yield. Known vs. unknown. Just because a guy is rated high in the draft is not a guarantee that they translate into success at the higher level.

    Granted the chances of round 1-3 picks being a bust is lower than the later rounds, but how many 1-3 round picks become an absolute “star” in year 1?

    For my money I would tend to think the balance of the roster will improve in year 2 of an entirely new coaching staff.

    • I tend to like arguing with myself Steve! :)~ I agree that the BPA is in the mind of those doing the picking, but that’s not exactly what I’m questioning. If you read the Roseman quote and what the BPA method means, what I’m arguing is that the Eagles almost HAVE to factor in need when making their selection.

      What abilities on the current roster am I downplaying? I’m going by what we saw last year on defense…and it absolutely needs to be improved. And while we can’t count on any player from this draft to be a “star” in year 1, it doesn’t change the fact that they should be drafting primarily defensive players.

      I agree that the roster should improve this year, but we’re basing that on blind hope. We hope that Malcolm Jenkins is a difference maker at Safety. We hope that Earl Wolff takes a big step from year 1 to year 2. We hope that somehow the defense gets a better pass rush. That’s a lot of hoping without much of them doing something about it.

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