Draft debates take place every single day on the Internet (shocking, I know).
These debates often involve the Steelers and their needs. People spend lots of time discussing the various prospects who play these so-called positions of need.
Someone may also post a mock draft (shocking, I know), and this will also spark a discussion about the Steelers and their needs.
Right smack dab in the middle of this debate, however, someone will inevitably chime in and say something along the lines of, “Maybe the Steelers should simply draft the best player available...just a thought.” This person may also include the shrugging emoji or the smug emoji (I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s the one where the circle has its hand on its chin looking all smug).
You just know this person is extremely proud of him or herself. “I just said something profound, son!” Mic Drop
This person may then walk off stage with rap music playing in the background, a la Chris Rock after one of his legendary standup specials.
Ah, yes, the groundbreaking “Best Player Available” theory that someone comes up with every single year during Draft Season.
Why didn’t anyone else think of that? It’s like this person is drafting with chess pieces, while everyone else is drafting with checkers.
“If you draft the BPA, it prevents you from reaching,” they say.
That’s true, but isn’t it funny how the annual big boards and mock drafts often seem to line up with the needs of every single team in the NFL?
It’s weird that a handful of quarterbacks just happen to be near the top of the big boards and mocks almost every spring—right where quarterback-starved teams just happen to be drafting. It’s such a coincidence that Will Levis and Anthony Richardson just happen to be up near the top of the 2023 draft big boards, right alongside C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young.
Anyway, enough of my own smugness.
The NFL Draft is designed to help franchises pick the best players, but it’s also geared toward helping teams address weaknesses on their rosters.
It’s why mock drafts are written by people who almost always include phrases like “Address a need at (insert position here)” and “Shore up (insert position here).”
The key to a successful draft isn’t to pick the best player available; it’s to pick the best player available at a position of need.
If it was simply about picking the best player available, how would you feel about the Steelers selecting Bijan Robinson, running back, Texas, in the first round (17th, overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft? “The Steelers just drafted Najee Harris two years ago. That would be a stupid pick!” Doesn’t matter. According to the big boards, Robinson could very well be the best player left when Pittsburgh’s time on the clock starts ticking on the evening of April 27.
How about Calijah Kancey, DT, University of Pittsburgh, in the first round (17th, overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft? “He doesn’t fit their scheme!” It doesn’t matter. Kancey might be the best player left on the board.
He’d represent great value at 17.
Oh, right, it may not make sense to draft either one of those players. Why? Because one would be a luxury pick, while the other could be a poor fit, scheme-wise.
Obviously, the Steelers, like just about every other team in the NFL, will use the 2023 NFL Draft to address needs at certain positions (by the way, there’s a huge difference between addressing a need and actually filling that need—you don’t find out about the filling part until that player turns into someone like Troy Polamalu).
I don’t know how anyone can come up with a consensus on who the best player available is at any point in the draft, anyway. There are so many people covering the draft, crafting big boards, doing mocks, etc., that it makes it damn near impossible.
One person’s great value at 17 could be another person’s reach.
If there were just a few people analyzing the draft each and every year, yes, it would be a lot easier to figure out the best players and where they should be slotted. But the BTSC staff, alone, has like 10 guys with their own big boards (and me).
You multiply that by 70 million, and that’s why nobody can figure out who the best player available is from one moment to the next.
I do know this: The Steelers will likely use the 2023 NFL Draft to address needs at cornerback, offensive tackle and along the defensive line.
What position will they focus on first, though?
I guess that will depend on who’s there at 17, and if he’s the best player available for addressing one of those positions of need.