Sports Outside the Beltway

Draft Wisdom from Rick Gosselin

It recently occured to me that I held two, seemingly contradictory, views of NFL drafting strategy in my head.

The first, which I internalized by reading Dallas Morning News‘ NFL Hall of Fame sportswriter Rick “Goose” Gosselin, is that there are six crucial positions around which a championship team are built: Quarterback, running back, wide receiver, right offensive tackle, pass rushing defensive end/linebacker, and cover corner.

Yet there’s another truism out there, which I also believe, that teams should draft “the best available player on their boards” when it’s their turn.

There’s something of a conflict between these views. Should a team not always take one of the key six positions in the first round every year? It’s not like many teams are set at all six and don’t need a player in waiting for one of those slots.

So, I went straight to the source and e-mailed Gosselin. He responded:

When you can.

If one of those six is not there, you don’t reach for it. That’s why you see tight ends, middle linebackers, safeties, guards and centers go in the first round every year. If I’m drafting in the Top 10 and I have a choice between a safety and left tackle, I take the left tackle. If my board does not have one of the six positions in the draft range, you go with your best player.

Understand this, however. No two boards are the same. There is no “right” board or “wrong” board. And most people build their boards to recognize the needs of the team.

And that makes sense.

This year, for example, there are three supposed blue chippers at quarterback: USC’s Matt Leinart, Texas’ Vince Young, and Vandy’s Jay Cutler. If you’re looking for a quarterback and those guys are gone, you don’t draft, say, Alabama’s Brodie Croyle in the first round over a projected superstar at a less sexy position.

A great safety is a better choice than a merely good “Big 6″ player. But, all things being equal, you take one of those guys.

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