There are several avenues for procuring NFL talent. There’s, the draft, free agency, college street free agents, the Canadian Football League and the United Football League. But when it comes to the draft there are two schools of thought.
First, drafting for need is where teams prioritize their holes by putting a list together. A team works extremely hard to fill that list regardless of positional order, and hope they can exit the draft with a high percentage of those needs addressed in order to make the draft a success.
The other school of thought is utilized by teams looking to select the best available player in every round regardless of their position, staying true to their board.
Several teams mix these two philosophies together, generally drafting for best available player in the early rounds (1-3) and then filling the needs list in the middle rounds. That strategy has been very successful for many franchises throughout the draft’s history.
I was confused with the Rams’ drafting philosophy and procedures and overall process on Friday and Saturday. Early in the week prior to the draft, general manager Billy Devaney made several statements to the local media. He indicated that his drafting philosophy would be “best available player.”
He mentioned again on several occasions that he would stay true to his board until the fourth round, when the board would start falling apart. With all NFL teams, they rate, stack and place players on the board with a final grade based on best available player, not by need.
After the selection of Robert Quinn, the defensive end from North Carolina, who fell down the draft board due to medical concerns (he is the first NFL player drafted with a brain tumor), the Rams held their hands out and caught what is considered to be the second-best pass rusher in the draft.
With the next several picks, I felt the Rams drafted strictly for need and ignored the best available player still remaining on the Softli Draft Board.
Below are just a few players that I coveted on the Softli Draft Board that would have fit the best available player category. The real question is where the Rams had these players rated.
52nd – Marvin Austin, DT, New York Giants
54th – Jaiquawn Jarrett, S, Philadelphia Eagles
57th – Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit Lions
62nd – Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins
64th – Randall Cobb, WR/RS (return specialist), Green Bay Packers
65th – Terrell McClain, DT, Carolina Panthers
76th – Will Rackley, OG, Jacksonville Jaguars
While I like several of the players the Rams selected and feel they fit the Josh McDaniels scheme, I still wonder “what if” they would have selected a few of the players mentioned above instead of tight end Lance Kendricks.
The Rams’ draft was not sexy and lacked big-name thunder, but they drafted players to surround quarterback Sam Bradford with some weapons; weapons that will help take the burden off running back Steven Jackson, who has carried this team on his back for the past five seasons.
Time will tell if this draft class, and those players who remained on the draft board after the Rams picked, will develop into Pro Bowlers, play-makers or difference-makers. Teams have less of a chance to bust out on a player if they select the best available player.