Need v. Value Drafting (Or Why you can’t take Tebow at 9)

Okay-I admit it that title is purposefully inflammatory.  I could have easily written “Williams” or “Clausen” in the title, but the drafting of Tebow very high seems to be the most easily recognizable instance of poor judgment being espoused on this blog-and I hope to do a little philosophizing as to why that can’t be a good idea.


The draft, as we all know, is something of Christmas morning for NFL teams.  We’ve spent the months since the Christmas Catalog from JCPenny (dating myself) came out in August debating and pointing and jumping up and down about what we want to get this year-and finally the day comes and we see what is under the tree.  The glaring needs of a team that need can finally be addressed with that shiny new franchise QB, or sturdy OT right out of the box and we all get at least the few months before they start playing to feel good about which way our team went.


The problem is, like children, folks can get a bit myopic about what a team needs to be better.  For most Bills fans, the last decade has featured some of the poorest O-line and QB play in the history of football and these two positions present the most pressing needs for the team.  Whether people are gunshy about shooting (and missing, again) on QB or OT in the first round, or they are so convinced that one position so far outweighs another, that they focus on the fact that they need “help” at a postion, lots of fans are are forgetting to to ask how much help a particular player can offer vs. another. 


Hence why Need vs. Value (Particularly in the frame work of Best Player Available at a Critical Position) is so important. 


To understand how this works you need a starting point-in this case the roster as it stands.  The front office rates the players and the positions and comes up with some sort of scoring mechanism to determine how good the players at each position are, and how solidly stocked the position is overall.  Let’s pretend it is out of 10, 10 being the best and 0 being you actually don’t have a player (1 being an awful player).  The Bills board might look like this at some positions:


QB:     4.2

OT:      3.9

OG:     6.0

NT:      3.7

DE:      3.7

DB:     8.2

WR:     6.2

K:        8.0

P:         9.0


(Note:  Didn’t really put much thought into these numbers, they are just for example).


The scores would probably be some sort of average of all players at that position’s skill, over the number of players you need for the year slightly weighted to give starters a bigger influence.  So the above would be our ranking for our three slightly less than average QBs over three QB slots, and since none of them are starters no real particular weighting going on.


Compare that with OT-where you have some average players, at best-but no depth at all.  If we have two OTs, even if they are average the score gets brought down because we probably need four OTs (at least) over all-so they are zeros that get put into the average-bringing the whole thing down.


DB is pretty solid as you can probably know, but some of you might scratch your head over the WR score.  It’s a mediocre corps overall-and thinner now that a few players are gone, but you do have a solid #1 or #2 receiver in Lee Evans.  He’s going to be on the field more often then the #3 or #4 guy (who is currently missing) so his score gets “weighted” a bit heavier-bringing the score up a bit.  (Just like Peyton Manning’s score would bring the Colts QB score way up, despite being backed up by a guy like Painter).


So now you know what you have-and you can look at that and decide what your biggest needs are.  QB, OT, DE, NT are our biggest needs.  Now, to address those needs you go to free agency and the draft.  These players are all going to get a score, as you might imagine, based on their skill etc. and then you plug that into the average.


The two things people forget happen right here.  First, it’s not just a question of if a player will make a position better, but by how much.  Second, it isn’t just by how much but at what cost of other positions


You could look at the above and say "well just take the best QB available" but that could really cost you.  If the two best QBs are gone by pick 9, do you take the third best QB?  Or are you better served in picking someone else. 


Take a look at my chart for players (with score) and how it would affect a particular position (again-just dummy numbers). 


OT Score

w/ Okeung (9)

w/ Buluga (7)

w/ T Williams (7.5)

w/Davis (8)







Plus 3

Plus 2.1

Plus 2.4

Plus 2.7






QB Score

w/ Bradford (9)

w/ Clausen (8)

w/ Tebow (6)

w/McCoy (6)







Plus 3

Plus 2.7

Plus 1

Plus 1






NT Score

w/ Suh (9)

w/ McCoy (8.5)

w/D Williams (7)








Plus 3.3

Plus 3

Plus 2.2



There is no doubt that these guys will all improve the position in question.  There is also no doubt that drafting based on need alone is untenable.  If you are a “we need an OT before a QB” person-what if your first two OTs are gone and Clausen is still on the board?  Well now you are making the decision between (on this board) between improving your OT by 2.3 points, or your QB by 2.7 points.  Even if Davis is on the board, and you have him rated as high as Clausen and the amount of improvement is the same-you still have to discuss whether its better to have a higher overall QB rating or not.


Similarly, if Tebow is a 6 on your board and the QBs that come later like Skelton are around a 5-you have to ask yourself (even if you are keenly aware of how desperately Buffalo needs a QB) is taking Tebow at the nine spot worth sacrificing much more dramatic improvement at other positions.  Sure he’s not as good, but is taking a slightly better rated QB in the first (or even second) round worth it? 


This is also why you might get a Dez Bryant on a list-even though Buffalo is far more set at WR then anything else discussed here.  If you think Bryant can bring your WR number from 6.2 to 7.7 and all the guys listed above at critical positions above are gone-this might be the most dramatic improvement left for your team to make.  Just because the team needs an OT or a QB doesn’t mean you have to take a QB or an OT first.  There are a lot of QBs and OTs in every draft-there is only a limited supply of good ones.  If the good ones are gone, and you start to get to the middle of the pack-over drafting is not going to fix the problem.


(And on a personal note, this is why I like a Campbell trade for a 3rd or 4th rounder-he'll have a huge impact, IMHO, on the position for very little value-as in, there isn't a 3rd/4th round pick likely to have as a large impact at any other player. Obviously, if you don't think Campbell is as good as I do-you disagree).


Now critical to this, of course, is grading the players correctly.  Many of you will say the scores above are askew-and that’s fine, they probably are.  I was just trying to demonstrate how it works.  But if you don't have them graded correctly, you won't get very far.  Keep in mind though, that this is only half the battle-the other half is really trying to figure out how much better your team will be at a particular position based on those ratings.


Others might say that while a particular player might have a score that is low for the immediate future, the potential is a lot higher-that also is a concern that my examples don’t exactly address.  The principal, however, is the same. 


However this is done, it just isn't as simple as picking a position of need, listing out all the best players available It is not simply a question of what a team needs, nor is it a question of how good a player is-but a combination of both. 

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of

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