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The Myth of Picking the Best Available Player and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Position Valuation

You always hear people talk about picking the Best Available Player. Last year the Best Available Player was supposedly Ndamukong Suh, but Sam Bradford went 1st overall ahead of him. This year several players could be the best player in the draft - Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus - but it's likely a quarterback will be the first player off the board instead. It would seem that teams are compromising their talent level to fill needs - but is that really true?


To answer that question we need to figure out how you decide who the 'Best Available Player' is? Is there an objective, universal way of doing that? There isn't - it's all about scheme fit. A press-man corner like Patrick Peterson would be the best available player for a lot of teams, but not for a team running mostly zone coverage concepts like the Bears, Colts or Steelers. Similarly, Von Miller will be at the top of the board for a lot of 3-4 teams, but he'd be a worse fit for some 4-3 teams who need bigger defensive ends. Marcell Dareus would fit with a lot of 4-3 teams, but many 3-4 teams don't value 3-4 ends that highly. Even if different teams evaluate a player exactly the same, scheme fit and position valuation will make sure those players won't be seen as equally valuable by those different teams, even if they don't take team needs into account. And team needs are always taken into account - no matter how highly the Bucs have a quarterback rated, they're not going to be picking one with the 1st overall pick in the draft. 

So what does this mean for the Bucs? The Bucs are a lot more flexible about their scheme than they used to be. Despite being nominally a Tampa 2 team, they do value cornerbacks highly. Similarly, they will have little problem taking an undersized pass rusher, or a bigger 3-4-type defensive end. There are some positions they don't seem to value that highly, though. Linebackers that can't rush the passer don't seem real high on the Bucs list of priorities. They've only drafted a linebacker in the first two rounds of the draft twice in the past 15 years: Derrick Brooks and Barrett Ruud. Similarly, they haven't drafted a safety in the first two rounds of the draft since 1986, when they took Melvin Johnson 43rd overall. And of course, fullbacks are never at the top of anyone's draft board. So if you see a player at one of those three positions and think he's the best available player when the Bucs pick, you're likely to be disappointed.