Draft: what strategy to succeed?


Each year, NFL franchises have the opportunity to add young talent to their rosters. For this, the strategies differ from one staff to another or from one choice to another.

Choose the best player available

There always emerges a kind of consensus that brings together 3-4 players at some point in the draft. The goal is to improve your team so you might as well choose the best possible player, regardless of his position.

Example: Kyle Hamilton (Ravens) in 2022

A month before the 2022 draft, the Ravens signed coveted safety Marcus Williams during the free agency. And also with the reliable Chuck Clark (80 tackles and 2 interceptions in 2021), the need for this position was non-existent.

But the presence of Kyle Hamilton in pick 14 was unexpected: he was the best player available, all positions combined.

Consider position value

If this sport is collective with players interacting together, certain positions have a greater direct impact in matches. The quarterback position being the one with the greatest impact. That of those responsible for putting them down comes just after.

Example: Defensive End

Every year, the young talents of this position are coveted from the first 32 choices. Five were chosen in the 1st round in 2022, four in 2021, five in 2019 and six in 2017: when provided in talent, this position is highly considered during the 1st round of the Draft, due to its strong impact on the games.

In 2023, the number of edge rushers chosen in the 1st round could break all records!

fill a weakness

Signing professional players during the free agency or college players during the draft answers the same question: what do we need this off-season to be better at recovery?

Example: Aidan Hutchinson (Lions) in 2022

With only 30 sacks in 2021 (30th), Detroit had a crying need for the position of defensive end when approaching the 2022 Draft. From choice number 2, they then selected Aidan Hutchinson to occupy this role. And if the Jaguars had taken him just before, it is very likely that the Lions would have then turned to other players from this position, like Travon Walker or Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Payroll management

NFL franchises, subject to a salary cap, are sometimes forced to let go of a major player. The draft can then be used to replace the starter at a lower cost.

Example: the 49ers in 2020

With Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner out of contract, the 49ers had to make a choice as extending both was impossible. In 2020, the first obtained a new contract of 85 million dollars!

San Francisco then traded the second for the number 13 choice of the Indianapolis Colts and during the 2020 draft, they selected a player with similar characteristics: Javon Kinlaw, a high-profile defensive tackle.

And while Buckner was signing an $84 million contract with the Colts, Kinlaw was costing them six times as much. Same logic the following year with the Baltimore Ravens letting Matt Judon sign a big contract (Patriots), to draft his replacement Odafe Oweh at a lower cost.

Recruit experienced players

Draft picks have value: especially those in the 1st round. And some managers do not hesitate to use it to obtain players who are already performing well in the NFL: All-In (betting everything on the present).

Example: Les Snead, manager of the Los Angeles Rams

Already in 2019, Les Snead traded two 1st round picks (2019 and 2020) to acquire cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He did it again in 2021 to bring in quarterback Matthew Stafford (choice of the 1st round 2022 and 2023). This strategy paid off as the Rams won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2021 season.

Sometimes certain franchises trade draft picks for a player during the Draft. This was the case for the Eagles in 2022: pick 10 and pick 101 against receiver AJ Brown (Titans). In 2023, other players could also be traded on Draft night: Dalvin Cook (Vikings), DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals), Derrick Henry (Titans) or Devin White (Buccs) for example.

Preparing for the future

An NFL manager must think about the present but also the next two years. Which major player will start to drop in level? Which player will become too expensive for our finances? Anticipation remains essential in professional sport.

Example: Daxton Hill (Bengals) in 2022

A year ago, Cincinnati seemed to have other priorities with their first-round pick. They did, however, use their 31st overall pick on the Daxton Hill safety. Surprising if you consider that they had under contract one of the best duo in this position with Jessie Bates and Von Bell.

But they knew that these two players would come to the end of the contract after the 2022 season. And in view of their discussions with the first named, they suspected that they would have difficulty meeting his salary expectations. A year later, the two players are gone!

Anticipating, the Bengals do not find themselves so deprived in this position, with a young and talented safety available (and with a learning season in his luggage).


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