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A Letter From the Editor: Defining the ‘Best Player Available’ approach to the NFL Draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers are setting up to be able to have plenty of options open in the 2022 NFL Draft, but the ‘Best Player Available’ approach might not mean the same to everyone.

NFL: APR 26 2018 NFL Draft Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are certain terms which get thrown around a lot in an NFL offseason which can have multiple meanings. One of those terms which surrounds the NFL Draft is a specific team taking a ‘Best Player Available’ or BPA approach throughout the three day selection process.

A team who can take a BPA approach to the draft is certainly would be considered a best-case scenario. Considering their roster is sufficient enough at every position the team doesn’t feel the need to address any one position with any of their draft picks.

Even if a team finds themselves with a roster which is equipped for a BPA approach, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will follow this BPA approach to the strictest definition of the term.

Take a look at the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers as an example. If the Steelers are able to add a strong safety, and even a veteran wide receiver, before the draft, many would say they have set themselves up to take a BPA approach in the draft at the end of April. But if you take the definition at face value, would the Steelers really be taking that approach?

The genuine definition of BPA is you take the very best player available on your draft board, regardless of position.

So, if this is the approach the Steelers were to take, and at pick No. 20 the best player available on their draft board is a left outside linebacker, they would make that pick. Forget the fact they have the best pass rusher in the game, and 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, in T.J. Watt, you make the pick.

The same could be said if the best player available at the time of their selection were a running back. It wouldn’t matter the team drafted Najee Harris out of Alabama last year with their top pick, you take the best player available.

Most of you reading this will likely be nodding in agreement thinking, “Of course you don’t take those players, they aren’t positions of need.”

And that is the entire point of this article. While many of us scream BPA from the mountain tops prior to the draft, what we actually want to see from the Steelers is a combination of BPA and positional need.

In other words, if the draft board is falling a certain way, the Steelers would take an approach where they take the best player available, but at specific positions. They wouldn’t take a running back in Round 1 for the same reason listed above. So, they would go to the best player at a position where they could use the infusion of youth and talent.

There will be fans who squabble over this definition, and which is the best approach for the Steelers, but most can agree the team should always avoid a position specific approach in the early rounds of the draft. In other words, taking the best player at a specific position, even if there is a better player available at a different position.

Two of the most commonly used draft picks in recent memory where the Steelers focused on position would be when both Artie Burns and Terrell Edmunds were selected. There were better players available when both of those players were drafted, and this has been well documented.

What every fan should realize during this yearly debate, is how the Steelers’ overall plan leading up to the draft always dictates the team’s plan during the draft. Take a look at the moves made so far in free agency, and how they will impact the team’s planning for the draft.

QB Mitch Trubisky
IOL James Daniels
IOL Mason Cole
CB Levi Wallace
CB Ahkello Witherspoon
ILB Myles Jack
DT/NT Montravius Adams
S Miles Killebrew
CB Arthur Maulet
OT Chuks Okorafor
KR/PR Gunner Olszewski

If the Steelers are able to sign a strong safety, which hasn’t been done at the time of this being written, and maybe a veteran wide receiver, they would have checked almost all of their proverbial team need boxes this offseason. This would mean they would be able to take a BPA approach, but I think we can all assume the BPA approach will be tailored to specific positions where they could use the infusion of youth and talent.

What those positions could be...well...that’s an article for another time.

(Note: The Letter From the Editor feature runs every Sunday morning during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)