The NFL Draft is just a few days away and I for one am very excited. It has always been one of my favorite sporting events of the year. Not just because our Cleveland Browns have struggled in the regular season but because of the pure excitement and expectations that lead up to and follow the draft.
The NFL has done some things to ramp up the excitement and anticipation in recent years, although not all of it is positive. Moving the 1st Round to primetime, splitting the 1st round from the 2nd and 3rd and moving the NFL Draft back a couple weeks all has increased the energy around the event. Having to wait longer for it has created far more rumors, random "reports", and such that can make it tough to stomach but, all-in-all, the NFL has done a great job with the NFL Draft.
Which is more than we can say for our Browns. Years of suspect drafting has led to constant regime changes in most fans' minds. Yet could it be the constant regime changes and lack of consistency that has kept players from developing that has caused the Browns drafts to look so poor? Most likely a little both/and instead of either/or.
When it comes to the NFL Draft, there are generally 3 draft philosophies that are subscribed to. The first two are especially true of fans while the last one, the more intricate one, is far more likely among NFL Teams. These philosophies have a great deal of impact on how a team drafts players and how the team is built.
Since our Browns have two 1st Round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, they are the perfect team to use as an example of how philosophy impacts draft selections. Let's take a look:
Need Based Philosophy
A very simple philosophy: Drafting players that fill immediate needs on your team. It is the philosophy that most casual fans use to think about the draft. Obviously teams never go overboard (drafting 3rd or 4th Round players in the 1st Round) but there are teams that place need at the top of their draft philosophy.
Most agree that the Browns have immediate needs. In no certain order, nose tackle, wide receiver, tight end and quarterback are at the top of the list. I personally would rank the needs in this order: NT, QB, WR and TE. We all have opinions though, this is more about impact.
If the Browns were a need based philosophy there are two different ways we would see the 1st Round going:
Trading 12 and 19, plus whatever else, to trade up to acquire Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. The Browns need a long term QB, if they don't believe in Johnny Manziel, and that need leads them to make a push for a top level guy.
12 - Danny Shelton - Those that have read my work all off-season know that Shelton is a player I love. If the Browns identify the needs of their team needs the same way I do, drafting Shelton makes sense. He fills a big hole in the middle of Mike Pettine's defense and is a very talented player. Some believe he could be chosen higher than 12 while others believe he could fall to 19 but likely no further.
19 - Jaelen Strong - Strong is rated by many as the 4th or 5th best receiver. He is a big receiver that can win at the point of attack. Because of the success of last year's receiver class, many expect receivers to quickly be off the board. At 19, the Browns miss out on the Top 3 guys and perhaps Breshad Perriman but because of the need the Browns have to "reach" for Strong here.
Best Player Available (BPA) Philosophy
Another very simple philosophy that some teams subscribe to but many fans do not tend to like. This philosophy dictates that a team drafts the player with the highest ranking regardless of position. There are some exceptions to the rule of course - the Colts are unlikely to draft a QB in the first three Rounds because of Andrew Luck - but the philosophy is solid.
Understanding the impact of this philosophy on the Browns is a little different given we do not know their rankings of players. BPA takes into account solely the talent of the player and very little else. That could lead the Browns to the following 1st Round selections:
12 - Randy Gregory - Gregory is considered to be the best pass rusher in this draft by many. Dante Fowler and Vic Beasley are also highly considered. Yet because of some off-the-field issues, a failed marijuana test at the Combine, Gregory could fall out of the Top 10 and even farther. If the Browns have a Top 5 grade on him, like many analysts do, BPA leads them to this selection.
19 - Todd Gurley - Two factors could lead Gurley to falling all the way to 19: ACL tear and recent RB success. Some believed that Gurley could fall into the top of the 2nd Round earlier in the process but recently Top 10 talk is following him. If he somehow makes it to 19, he would likely be the top ranked player on the Browns board and their selection. With Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell on the roster as rookies last year, the RB position would be stocked with a lot of young talent.
Best Grade Available (BGA) Philosophy
The far more complicated approach, but one used more often by NFL teams, is Best Grade Available (BGA). BGA takes into account a variety of factors about a player, the draft, the team and the other teams in the draft.
At minimum, BGA takes into account the following factors: Players ranking, depth at position in the draft, position value, other teams needs drafting near selection, team fit, free agents in the next year or two as well as team needs.
BGA creates a highly complicated way of thinking. I will use La'el Collins as an example of how BGA impacts the draft process before going into the actual picks:
Collins may grade out as a 90 for the Browns (purely speculative and a non-important number for this exercise). That would give him a mid to late 1st Round ranking. This draft is considered to have a good amount of depth at the offensive line, lowering Collins grade, however the Browns highly value the offensive line and Collins' versatility (can play all five spots) fits the team perfectly, raising his grade. Teams always need offensive linemen so the Browns will know Collins will be sought after, grade raised again. Finally the Browns like John Greco and the competition between Mitchell Schwartz and Michael Bowie, grade down, but have concerns long term with Schwartz and Alex Mack both eligible for free agency next year, grade up.
While there are other factors, the ones we listed ended up with four that improve Collins grade and two that lower it. Can you see how BGA is far more complicated than just ranking a player or drafting for need? It seems Ray Farmer is more of a BGA type of guy from last year and all the statements he has made. What could that mean for the 1st Round?
12 - Bud Dupree - The Browns want to have 3 outside linebackers and are said to be very high on Dupree, says our guy Lane Adkins. Dupree is a highly desired upside guy that can rush the passer as well as cover. He converted from tight end but many are impressed by his workouts.
19 - Cameron Erving - Much of what was written about Collins above is true about Erving as well. He isn't considered as a high upside left tackle like Collins but can play the other four positions on the line at a high level. Erving gives the Browns depth for any possible injuries, can join the competition on the right side and could replace either Mack or Schwartz should they leave in free agency.
While both Dupree and Erving are talented, they may not be the Best Player Available, they also don't fill immediate level needs either. These picks would likely upset those in the other philosophy camps but could be the way the Browns decide to go.
What Philosophy do you subscribe to? How does this impact your thoughts on the NFL Draft?
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