2014 NFL Draft: Analyzing position vs. 'Best Player Available'

Justin K. Aller

When discussing various franchises, and their approach to the draft, there is usually a phrase reserved for those franchises that have found consistent success over a reasonable period of time and are currently enjoying a championship window, usually with a stacked roster. The phrase is, of course, "they are not afraid to draft the best player available". It is said with connotations of fearlessness and courage, and the phrase is uttered with reverence by draft pundits across the world.

It has become synonymous with championships, effective ownership and is usually joined hand in hand by the classic "they are so successful because they always look to build through the draft". Teams such as The Baltimore Ravens (boo and hiss), The Green Bay Packers and The Pittsburgh Steelers, amongst a few privileged others are granted this cherished status. I would imagine The Seattle Seahawks, for example, will soon join this class.

I don't mean to denigrate these great franchises, who have been historically great at drafting, and have won multiple Super Bowls while remaining mostly competitive for a very long time. However the phrase i feel is mostly redundant, and only really serves to say that this particular team has either drafted well recently or their front office are good talent evaluators.

Generally no team goes out their way to pick the worst player available, and no team picks with reckless disregard to position the best player on the board. Had the Colts understandably had a rough start in the Luck era and had the No. 1 overall pick they would not have taken a stud QB if he were on the board, and the Rams are unlikely to pick say Clowney when they have two very serviceable DE's in Chris Long and Robert Quinn.

Likewise no team has ever truly been successful by not building through the draft, to the best of my knowledge anyway. Just look at the disaster in Philadelphia last year, and i believe the Dolphins have made a few miscalculations of their own recently as well.

Generally i believe every team wants the best player available. This seems obvious. Franchises may poorly evaluate talent in the draft or they may poorly evaluate talent on their roster and misconstrue their needs, but i believe most every franchise has this philosophy at heart.

Over the last couple of days i have had some spirited debated over potential prospects for the Steelers, amongst which is the argument between which position the Steelers should draft. The two sides as i perceive them to be are as follows...

Before i start i should say none of this relates to quarterbacks.

On one side, there are those that believe that regardless of need or position, if there is a bonafide star you must draft him. To make this easier I am going to use a percentage grading system. This player is a 100 percent star. A potential franchise cornerstone, a game changer,a face melter, you may choose your own adjectives. I'm not saying he is 100% going to be a star, but he has 100 percent talent. He is at a position that may be thought of as relatively secure and stable, there is players there who can play adequately, even pretty well but they are simply not this guy. Thus you draft this guy

The other side, which i admit freely I am on, is that there must be a marriage of need and pure potential.If there does not project to be anyone anywhere near close to this guy, then he should be drafted. But of there is comparable talent, say a player has between 80-90 percent talent, and he is at a position where you are not stocked,do not have adequate or good players, or perhaps where an addition of some kind can be a real difference maker, then he should be drafted, even though you are aware of the other 100 percent talent player. The argument for this is that you will still be getting a star players, a difference maker who will make an impact, maybe he's not a first ballot hall of famer, but he projects to be quite special. And your building the team in areas where it needs it. I do not think the Steelers can currently afford to to draft a position not considered a need if they're is another great player available somewhere that is.

I fully understand both sides, and drafting a 100 percent talent guy can never be a bad thing, just so we are clear. And I am aware of the argument that drafting for needs is what gets you in a bad, precarious position, because you are not accruing the best possible talent. However I do not feel that would be the case this year for the Steelers.

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