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I had a Dream I was Kevin Colbert's Assistant!

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It was neat.  It was one of those dreams you don't want to wake up from.  Anyhow, you all know how dreams are. Things can be really silly and way off base.  Anyhow, thought you'd be interested in how mine went, even if it was off base.  Kevin and I were in the office alone, and he trusted me unconditionally.  He was grooming me for a GM job down the road.

MR:   Kevin, can you explain the philosophy of the draft to me?  Need vs. Best Player Available?

KC:   (laughing) That's like nature vs. nurture.  It gets argued with no clear answer.

MR:  But you always come out every year at this time pounding your fist ensuring the media that we draft purely on BPA?

KC:  That's standard procedure.  It keeps the media off my back.  If I indicate the inclusion of need, I'll get pounded as to what those needs are.  Keep it as simple and as ambiguous as possible.  Drafting is a very, very tight-lipped procedure around here, around everywhere really.  Besides, why would I tip off our competitors by narrowing our focus?  Let them think the universe is our availability.  Don't give them any information whatsoever.

MR:  But you said that we would draft BPA, except for a quarterback.

KC:  I like to throw the media a small bone when I can, as long as it's harmless.  Pollian tells the folks in Indiana that he'll draft BPA, except for quarterback and tight end.  That's not tipping your hand, when it's that obvious.

MR:  OK, so what's the deal?  Need or BPA?

KC:  Both.  They're ranked in hierarchy then measured against each other.  In essence, it is done on a sliding scale.  The talent is measured against the need.

MR:  Excuse me?

KC:  Well, we start by ranking each of 12 positions in order of need, from 1 to 12.  This year it is OT, CB, G/C, ILB, S, DT, DE, RB, WR, OLB, TE, QB.  Of course, that assumes we sign every one of our current players. That hierarchy changes if we lose folks.  Then we rate every available player and assign an efficiency number.  The numbers go from around 60 to 100.  Then we construct our draft board.  Our draft board is a ranking system of players we would take if it was our turn to pick.  In other words, the first guy on our draft board is the guy we would take if we had the number one pick, etc.

MR:  So how does the player efficiency numbers relate to the need hierarchy to form the draft board?

KC:  We look at the highest rated player, the best talent, and then look to see how that fits need.  If the highest player matches our highest need, that's a no-brainer.  But let's say the best player available is a 94 at outside linebacker.  If there's a guy who ranks 93 at offensive tackle, that guy will be higher on our board because the need gap would be much greater than the efficiency gap.  The board has to take into account both gaps.  Sometimes, the difference in efficiency is razor thin, while the difference in need is wide.  Other times, the BPA must be taken because his superior talent trumps need.

MR:  Can you give me an example?

KC:  Yeah, Rashard Mendenhall.  He was high on our board.  Willie was coming off surgery and these days you need a second running back if the first guy is aging or has any injury issues.  Actually you'd like two regardless.  Mendy was also a great talent with good size, so we ranked him high.  When he fell, we had other needs, but his talent level warranted us to grab him.  BPA trumped need in that case.

MR:  Can you give me an example of the opposite?

KC:  Heath in 05.  He wasn't the best football player when we took him.  He was one of the best remaining, but not the best.  Our need at that position was so high, the difference in talent was a sliver.  It was a no brainer.  Logan Mankins and Michael Roos were still were still available, and they were actually a bit higher BPA-wise, but again, we felt a huge void at tight end.

MR:  Have you ever had a situation where the highest need happened to be the BPA?

KC:  That only happens under two conditions.  First, if you have a very high pick, you'll get both, but we don't have many of those, fortunately.  Second, if your highest need/BPA falls in a draft, you might trade up just to hit the jackpot.  Actually we did that twice recently, once for Troy and once for Tone.  It's got to be the perfect situation, since you pay a high price for moving up.

MR:  So, once you construct your board, which takes into account both BPA and need, you stick to that board no matter what?

KC:  Absolutely, just like Mendenhall, Heath, Ben, everyone.  But, after you make your first pick, the board immediately gets adjusted.

MR:  Why is that?

KC:  Because once you add a player, the need immediately lessens for that position.  After we got Ben first in 2004, all quarterbacks immediately dropped, regardless of BPA.  The next year, after we grabbed Heath, the tight ends dropped.  When we picked second, Alex Smith was actually the BPA, but after Heath we went in other directions. 

MR:  So the need drops once that position is added to the team.

KC:  Often but not always.  In 2007 we got Timmons and then followed up in the second round with Woodley.  First, they play two different positions within the linebacker position and second, there are four linebacker positions to begin with.  The fewer "spots" there are, the more need drops after acquisition.  After a quarterback, the need drops off the map, but with positions that make up three or four players, the need not might drop much at all.

MR:  Boy, this discussion would shock the "BPA purists" out there.  They think BPA is absolute.

KC:  Let them think that, and besides, BPA is critical in the equation.  You're always looking at BPA, but it's certainly not exclusive or absolute.  And remember, we'll never get hounded if we keep the company line, and keep the public message simple.