RB David Wilson was the highest-rated player on the board when the Giants picked in Round One according to Jerry Reese. Was it a coincidence that he played a need position?
Do the Giants Draft Based on BPA? Yes – But It's Not What You Think it is.
from Matthew Cohen / GFB Analyst
Every year during the draft, The Giants say that they draft the best player available. And some years, so-called experts call them out and say that there is no way that the Giants draft pick is consistent with a best player available philosophy. So is Reese lying or are the so-called experts wrong?
I have no particular inside knowledge of the Giants war room or draft board but, like most of you, I do read their pre-draft and post-draft comments. And their draft history is available for all to analyze. My belief is that the so-called experts are wrong based on a misunderstanding of what best player available means.
The Illusion of Precision
So why are the so-called experts wrong? I believe that a lot of this can be blamed on what I call The Illusion of Precision. Pre-draft, all of the draft nerds and journalists study the draft Boards and the 2 decimal place (e.g. 3.12) player ratings. We create lists of players with precise ratings. We are bombarded with the 1-25 lists of the Mel Kipers and his copycats every day for months. We think that when a team's choice comes up, they look at the top of the Board and say, “ok, Player A has a 3.12 rating and Player B has a 3.11 rating, hand in the slip to Roger for Player A.”
Based on how Reese describes their process, this is not how it works at all. My best guess is that players are rated in rather wide bands. Either letter grades or high first round, mid-first round, low first round, etc. There is no giant list ranking all of the players in descending order. There are no 3.12s or 3.11s. You simply can't be that precise when rating college football players. What is the difference between a 3.12 and a 3.11? How do you compare a quarterback against a linebacker? As a result, when you are on the clock, you can have many players with the same exact grade. If you look at a recreation of Bill Parcells draft Board (http://www.patspulpit.com/2012/4/25/2973544/nfl-draft-2012-bill-polians-and-bill-parcells-draft-board) this is exactly what he did.
The 2012 Draft
My guess is that there were no first round graded players when the Giants picked at 32. By first round graded, I mean the level of talent that you are accustomed to seeing in the first round in an average year. Reese noted that there were only 15-20 first round types this year. When the Giants picked at 32, there really were no no-brainer, definite starter, selections at positions that Giants view as high impact (tackle, wide receiver, defensive end, cornerback, safety).
So what do you do in the event of a tie? Here are the things that I imagine that they consider.
- What are our positions of need? This is pretty obvious. If I really need a running back (which the Giants did) I more strongly consider a running back.
- How likely am I to be able to get my need positions later and what is the talent dropoff? An NFL-ready running back will clearly be a boost to the Giants in 2012/2013. The talent dropoff for running back was rather steep after Wilson. There were a lot of second and third round graded wide receivers after Randle. So even if Randle was in the discussion for the first round pick (which Reese claims he was) he would not have been picked because the Giants felt that they could get another wideout later with a minimal dropoff in talent.
- Scheme and philosophy. Obviously the type of offense and defense that a team runs plays heavily into how effective a player can be for that team.
In round 2, they picked Randle because he was likely the only player with a high second round grade. Given that the Giants picked him at the bottom of the second round, this is not exactly a shocker.
In round 3, they picked a second round talent. Again, this was likely the highest graded player on their board at the time.
Later round picks are even more difficult to grade. These are players who either have a high degree of character risk , have upside but are significant developmental projects (the Giants' fourth and sixth round picks) or are destined to be backups. Each team will have dozens of these on their Boards in later rounds and my guess is that a team's feeling as to upside plays a lot into who to draft here.
Things are not always what they seem to us and they are generally more complex and nuanced than most people think. Simple taking 3 words, like “best player available,” and trying to apply them to a very complex process like the NFL draft is likely to going to result in more confusion than insight.
I think that it is very hard to make the case that the Giants do not draft the best player that falls to them, if that player is obviously best player. I also think that the Giants generally do not reach for players. This is not to say that need is not considered – it is, but more in the context of a tie-breaker than the first thing that the Giants consider. That is one of the big reasons why they have won 2 Super Bowls in 5 years.