The NFL Draft Season is well underway, which means you, gentle reader, are going to be inundated with a mountain of mock drafts, hot takes, big boards, and angry fans that know exactly what their team will or won’t do in April. Leading into this process, I came across a tweet by Daniel Jeremiah that got my brain ball all mixed up with conflicting thoughts:
Exec opinions of own team needs are often much different than opinions of their fan base. WE DONT NEED A CB!! Well, your GM says you do.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) February 9, 2017
He had a valid point. The drafting philosophy of drafting the “best player available” vs. taking what you need on the surface is a major source of contention and confusion this time of year. It’s my opinion that most people value the best player available approach, but so often the “best player” just happens to coincide with a player that fits a glaring need. That’s a constant psychological battle drafniks and fans alike struggle with each offseason.
Thus, The BANE Project was born. No, not that goofy voiced Batman villain. BANE = Best Available Need Evaluation. The Jeremiah tweet turned on a light bulb, one I couldn’t simply shut off. I wondered if I could show how often teams drafted for a consensus need. Secondly, I wanted to see if I could show a pattern with General Managers and decision makers that would aid my future mock drafts. Does General Manager X consistently avoid need in early rounds? Does General Manager Y avoid drafting certain positions repeatedly even though the need is obvious? What is the percentage of drafting need in the first round? There are a lot of questions to answer and I have a ways to go.
So far I’ve gathered raw data for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 drafts, but for today we will be focusing on the 2016 draft in simple terms. 2014 and 2015 will be released soon and will give a better overall picture.
Here’s how it works… For the first four rounds, each pick was assigned a value. That value was then weighted further by round, giving that team a total value available to spend. Each selection that filled a consensus need added to the total value used. From there I simply turned that into an easy digestible percentage. I also placed extra emphasis on 1st round selections, as I suspected the first round would address need more often than the other three rounds. To clarify further, on the following spreadsheet the “BANE %” is the total potential value a team spent on consensus needs. Here are the results:
A quick note: You probably noticed that I accounted for 32 first round picks even though the Patriots were stripped of theirs due to Deflategate. My conclusion was that the 32nd overall pick, which was the Browns first pick in the 2nd round, was essentially still a first round value.
Three teams achieved the highest possible percentage of value used: Falcons, Panthers, Vikings. The Falcons upgraded their secondary with the 17th overall by taking safety Keanu Neal, doubled down on linebacker with Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, and added a TE with Austin Hooper with the 81st overall. The Eagles on the otherhand scored the lowest BANE percentage due to trading up and drafting what they hoped would be their future franchise quarterback, but overall they still drafted all four of their needs, just with less value used. Does all of this show a definitive draft strategy? Absolutely not, there isn’t enough data to show a pattern.
It’s my theory that over time, as I continue to release these in installments for each year and take deeper dives into positional patterns, draft forecasters will be able to use BANE as resource that will lead to more accurate mocks. Don’t get me wrong, there are very intelligent individuals in this field that have a decent grasp on certain patterns. Just today I saw a tweet that cited these patterns from Ted Nguyen, whom I respect a great deal:
Using BANE to research this claim, Ted nails it. With 3 years of data collected, the Raiders drafted a consensus need in the 1st round 3 out of 3 times, and drafted a need 2 out of 3 times in the 2nd round. Wouldn’t that information be useful to have for every team the next time you’re doing your mock?