How To Draft an NFL Player: Talent vs Need


I’ll go over the draft and how to approach a scenario in which you are faced with the decision of drafting talent vs need. Let’s say that you’re team has a perceived need at quarterback (like the Panthers in 2011).

The Panthers drafted quarterback Cameron Newton out of Auburn at the first overall position this year. Let’s assume that he was the 10th best player in the draft, just for educational purposes. This would mean that the Panthers took the 10th best talent in the draft in order to fill a perceived need on their team.

What’s Great About It?

The Panthers took a guy they felt would enter the league as one of the top athletic specimens and could forever alter the future of the franchise in Carolina. Newton has much promise but has as much potential for failure, he will be one of the more enigmatic players to follow in 2011. However, we are creating a fake example here and pretending that Newton was the 10th best player. So, we’ll say that Carolina took Newton because of his position and not due to his overall ranking due to talent. They filled their need and no longer have to worry about the quarterback position. This is a tricky scenario as most franchises will up the ranking of the quarterback positions. For instance, Newton was the 10th best talent, according to our fake rankings, but due to his position and the struggle teams go to fill the position, he became their pick at #1. They may not have even felt that he was the 1st best talent, they just wanted to fill the position.

What’s Bad About It?

Cameron Newton, in our example, ranked as the 10th best player. That means that we understood 9 players to be more talented and impactful than Newton. The problem that arises when a team chooses to grab a position, namely the quarterback position, higher than the talent justifies remains that you essentially make less of your draft selection. For instance, the Panthers (again in our example) took a player that was not better than the player taken after him. If the the best player available on the draft board goes to the second-best draft selection, then you lost value. The entire point of the NFL Draft is to accumulate value for your franchise. If you allow other teams to get higher value for their picks by selecting the 10th best player at selection 1, then you lose value and they gain value. When you are in the 4th quarter of a game and you are down by 3 points with a trip to the playoffs on the line, do you want the other team to have more talent and to have taken more value with their draft picks than you did? No.

Down by 2 with 4 minutes left are you going to fill the greatest need on your team or are you going to accumulate the most players that have a chance at impacting the game? Everyone wants to have the most Pro Bowlers possible, so why pass on talent to fill a need?