There are a plethora (look it up) of different draft strategies that teams employ for the Annual Player Selection Meeting. None of them are the "right" way to do things, and most teams combine various strategies or change their preferred method based on draft talent, need, and the overall talent level of their current players. As fans, we rarely get a glimpse into these strategies, as most information filtered to us during the draft season is intentionally misleading or completely useless, but sometimes you can determine a team's preferred strategy after the fact, figuring out their pre-draft needs, evaluating their roster, and then observing how the team drafted. That is how we know that Ted Thompson in Green Bay loves to draft the best player on his board, and that Al Davis sleeps right up until it's his turn, then takes the best combine performer.
After the jump, I'll cover some of the Draft Strategies that I know of, how they work, how each would affect our Dolphins' draft this season, and then I'll try to blend them into 3 or 4 "ideal" mocks based on one overriding strategy. The philosophies I'm going to cover are BPA, or best player available; Positional Value; Need-Based Drafting; Stockpiling; Target and Attack; and Drafting for the Future. I'm sure many of you are familiar with these, but I'm going to go into a little bit of depth into how they work and why teams choose to follow these strategies.
For length purposes, I'll break this up into 3 parts, with 2 philosophies in each part. Part 1 (this one) will cover BPA and Positional Value.
BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE
Drafting for the Best Player Available doesn't always mean what fans and experts think, because most of us set a draft board based only for our team, and the experts usually set a generic Big Board based on overall rankings. Each team has a customized board for their team, so while they may not have drafted the top guy on "Mel Kiper's Best Available" sidebar, they took the top guy on THEIR draft board. This is the strategy used mostly by rebuilding teams trying to add as much talent to a depleted roster, and worry about need later. This is because just about every position is a need, so it makes sense. But there are also teams like Green Bay that tend to go BPA more often than not, based on the belief that you should never pass up superior talent and reach for a "need." I tend to agree with this strategy based on that same principle.
We saw this with Detroit last season, taking the top-rated prospect in the draft, Matt Stafford, first overall. Then, picking again at #20, they passed up on a LT (perceived to be their second-greatest need and a position of high importance and value) for who I believe was their highest-rated remaining player, TE Brandon Pettigrew. The new GM of the Lions, Martin Mayhew, felt that they needed to add to his teams' talent pool regardless of position.
~IF MIAMI USES THIS STRATEGY~
Eric Berry would be the BPA if he's there at 12, since I believe he's the top prospect in this draft. CJ Spiller, in my opinion, will most likely be the top player on the board at our pick, so going BPA would land him in South Beach come April.
Many teams use this strategy in the top 5 mainly because of the huge contracts given to these players. The GM's determine that certain positions (QB, LT, DE) are cornerstones of a team, and those positions are really the only ones worth the cost of a top 5 pick. This is smart drafting, most of the time, because you end up with a reasonable contract if the player becomes elite at his position, while if you take a less-important position (say, WR), the cost is still high even if the player reaches All-Pro status. So using this philosophy may lead to some reaches, but it can also keep you in a good salary cap situation, as well as landing you a highly ranked player at a highly valuable position.
This strategy was on full display with the Kansas City Chiefs (and GM Scott Pioli) in 2009. With LB Aaron Curry (most experts' top rated player) and WR Michael Crabtree (other experts' top rated player) available at the 3rd selection, Pioli reached slightly for Tyson Jackson, a defensive end (KC had a young LT in Branden Albert and had just signed QB Matt Cassel to a nice contract, so DE was the next highest-value position). Pioli determined that, if he was going to pay that huge contract (Jackson ended up signing for 5 years, $57 million with $31 million guaranteed), he was going to pay it to one of the 3 most important positions in the sport.
~IF MIAMI USES THIS STRATEGY~
We already have a young QB (Henne) that is on the verge of "Franchise" status, and a true anchor at LT in Jake Long, so we would look to the next most important position, which is either NT or Strong OLB (equivalent of 4-3 DE) for our 3-4 defense. While the contract isn't nearly as big at 12 (last year's 12th pick, RB Knowshon Moreno, signed for 5 years $16.7 million with just over $13 million guaranteed) as it is at 3, it's still a decent-sized contract, and if you follow the positional value philosophy, you want that money to be well-spent. Our pick would either be NT Dan Williams or Terrence Cody, or DE/OLB Derrick Morgan or Jason Pierre-Paul.