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Playing the NFL Draft Board Game: Open Thread

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Modrak, Bills fine-tuning draft board for April 26 (BuffaloBills.com)

With the 2008 NFL Draft now just nine days away, football fans are now attempting to figure out exactly how their favorite team has set up their draft board so as to eliminate any "surprise" (read: unthinkably dumb) selections on Draft Day. (Sorry, Jets fans - not working for you.) In the case of the Buffalo Bills, however, the club has already informed the general public as to how they set up their draft board. Can we, then, leap inside the minds of the front office at One Bills Drive to figure out who the team will be selecting come Draft Day?

First, the Structure
It's no secret that the man making the decisions on draft day (in conjunction with head coach Dick Jauron) is Tom Modrak, the team's Vice President of College Scouting. At yesterday's pre-draft media session, Modrak revealed the way in which the Bills set up their board: it's a two-directional process that involves ranking players in multiple ways. The quote:

"We set the board both vertically and horizontally," he said. "That's value across the board. If there's a position strikingly open to us and we feel we've addressed a position, there'd be leaning toward that person..."

This probably isn't a groundbreaking board-setting procedure, but when you hear someone mention "the Bills stick to their board", you'll have an idea of what exactly that board looks like now. Vertically, players are likely ranked by position (rankings that you see on any draft website these days), and horizontally they're ranked by round, prospect grade, or possibly even a combination of both.

As was pointed out to us last week, however, the Bills have what was termed a "Master Board" (plotting all available players) and a "Positional Board". Anyone care to guess how this master board is set up? Or do you think that by "two boards", we're referring back to the two-directional board that Modrak himself alluded to? This is an open thread, folks, so feel free to get philosophical on us this morning.

Even with that knowledge, however, several questions remain. Where do they start ranking players? How do they devalue positions that are not "need" positions high in the draft (the few that fall under this category, anyways)? We'll likely never know. But we can speculate, right?

The Devaluing Process
The process of devaluing was pointed out to us by Matt Miller in his recent Q&A with Buffalo Rumblings. The team will knock positions of strength down the board a bit and emphasize need positions and "always positions" - those positions that can always be drafted, because depth is always a need (such as CB, DL, OL and WR).

What positions can the Bills devalue? Speaking only in terms of the top half of the draft makes this job easier; I truly believe that any position can be addressed on draft day. But I posit that the following positions will be devalued by the Bills on draft day: quarterback, running back... and that's about it. The Bills could literally draft at any other position and it could be considered a good pick, based on the player. Any other positions that y'all would devalue?

Where to Start Grading?
The other big question is how the Bills grade their prospects, and more specifically, how they're arranged on the board. There is very little chance that the Bills will trade up in this draft, and even less of a chance that names such as Chris Long, Jake Long and Vernon Gholston drop past the top five or six picks (names like Ryan and McFadden are withheld because, again, those positions have been devalued). Do the Bills even bother putting those names on the board? Did they bother putting Adrian Peterson's name on the board last year, considering they mentioned that Marshawn Lynch was their top-rated rookie prospect last year?

My guess: I don't think the Bills will have guys like the two Long prospects or Gholston on their board. Clearly, they'll have them graded. NFL teams grade everybody. But why put them on your board when the chances of them being available when you pick are miniscule, and you're already perfectly aware of your draft status as it is? Anyone care to disagree with me here?

Predicting the Top of Buffalo's Board
Here's where we come to the real aim of this open thread. I want y'all to get into the head of Tom Modrak. Put together the top of Buffalo's draft board. I prepared mine with the following criteria: I left the top three names off of the board; I completely devalued QB and RB, leaving them out of the first round entirely; I then listed the top eleven prospects in this draft (again, minus the names of those three defensive linemen). I then assigned each a pick value, rather than a round value. You may be surprised at the results; I know I was. It's seriously made me re-think my stance of taking a WR in round one (note that I said "re-think", not "change my mind").

Before I get to that, though, here's what I'd like y'all to do in this open thread:

#1 - Leave your thoughts on the draft board philosophy and the devaluing process
#2 - Decide how you'd rank the top eleven prospects in the draft
#3 - Stick to your board and tell us who your first-round draft choice is.

My top eleven after the jump. Let's hear it, Bills fans!

#1 - Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU (Top 5 pick)
#2 - Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC (Pick 4-8)
#3 - Branden Albert, OG/OT, Virginia (Pick 5-9)
#4 - Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State (Pick 6-10)
#5 - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State (Pick 8-12)
#6 - Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida (Pick 9-13)
#7 - Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy (Pick 9-13)
#8 - Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee (Pick 11-15)
#9 - Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State (Pick 13-17)
#10 - Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida (Pick 14-18)
#11 - Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona (Pick 20-24)