This post is more of a "thought experiment" than a serious consideration of draft scenarios. Call it the result of not enough sleep.
I'm mining through some Mock Drafts for any useful predictions and stumbled across an interesting, albeit terrifying scenario.
Oregon Running Back Johnathan Stewart falls to 26.
More specifically, what happens if Johnathan Stewart is the highest rated player on the draft board when the Jaguars select at pick 26? There's a bit of a debate happening within the fan base about the merits of Best Available Player (hereby referred to as BAP) and Position-Specific Selection (PSS). The former requires a team to pick the highest rated player when their name is called, the latter is when a team picks the player that fills the greatest need, rather than greatest value.
A couple of points:
- The New York Giants, in recent history, have accumulated quite the defensive line by staying focused on selecting the Best Available Player. For example, they drafted Osi Umenyiora in 2003 in the second round. Osi proved to be a solid starter on the other side of Michael Strahan. That didn't stop them from selecting Justin Tuck in 2005 in the 3rd round, nor did it stop them from selecting Mathias Kiwanuka in the first round of 2006. BAP gave them depth at a premium position in the NFL, a luxury the Jaguars wish they could have.
- BAP, I believe, has a problem at the Quarterback position. Jacksonville, for the record, ran like hell from Quarterback Brady Quinn because he was an exception to their BAP rule. There is no way Brady Quinn was rated at 17th or worse on their 2007 draft board, but there he was, both time the Jaguars were on the clock. Remember 2004 when the Jaguars chose Reggie Williams with the ninth pick, letting Ben Roethlisberger go to the Steelers at 11? Big Ben might have been the BAP at 11, but we spent the 7th overall pick of the previous draft on Byron Leftwich, and it's not a good way to run a franchise to draft back to back top ten draft picks. These passers throw off the BAP rule simply because they're a different beast than any other position. You can never have enough linemen, linebackers, etc, but you only have 3 (at most) quarterbacks on the roster, and only one of the field at a time.
Jacksonville NEEDS an instant starter on both lines. A perfect world would have a starting caliper Offensive Guard/Tackle or Defensive End/Tackle sitting on top of our value board when our name is called during the first round. Do we pull the trigger on the Running Back in a true BAP approach and hope to address a need later in the draft? Do we frantically work the phones and find someone to move a few spots backwards?
Of course, I'm being a little dramatic here. When you're in the top 15 or so picks it's vastly more important to maximize value. Unless a top 15 player takes a dive in the draft a la Brady Quinn, there's really nothing wrong with being a little more picky at 26.
You see, while it's critical to maximize value, the further back you go in the draft, even the first round, the closer in "value" each player gets. The difference between the 4th pick and the 14th pick is much larger than the 14th and the 24th. If we get to 26 and the BAP is a Wide Receiver, but the next player on our board is an Offensive Tackle, there's not much harm in reaching just a smidge. BAP Purists might call me out for that, but it's annoyingly short sighted to be so devoted to a draft philosophy that you can't see the merits of the other.
But, in referring back to the Johnathan Stewart example, if the Jaguars have him ranked at 15 on their Draft Board (much like NFL Draft Scout does) and he falls to 26, serious consideration must be given to adding to our Running Back Cadre. While Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew might not like it, having someone like Stewart fall to us would certainly make the eventual Fred Taylor Retirement a little less painful.
Just a little food for thought...