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What's The Deal With Best Player Available?

Is Von Miller the Best Player Available? How about Patrick Peterson? Marcell Dareus? Nick Fairley? I have absolutely no idea.
Is Von Miller the Best Player Available? How about Patrick Peterson? Marcell Dareus? Nick Fairley? I have absolutely no idea.

Leading up to this year's draft, we've heard a lot of talk about taking the "best player available", especially on the defensive side of the ball, but what do we really mean when we say that? In 2008, many would have argued that Vernon Gholston was the best player available. He had 14.5 sacks, then a school record, and was one of two players to record a sack off of the number one pick, Jake Long. I think we all know how that turned out, Gholston ended up on the free agent scrap heap and has shown such a minuscule amount of production in his NFL career that no one is willing to take a chance on a former top 10 pick entering the prime of his career. In 2009, you could've argued that the BPA was Aaron Curry, yet he was picked just fourth overall. In fact, he wasn't even the first defensive player off the board, LSU's Tyson Jackson took those honors. Last year, Ndamukong Suh was almost definitely college football's most dominant player on either side of the ball, yet Sam Bradford was taken before he was. 

As a result, one could easily argue that compromising talent with the addition of a top-tier player at a position of need is advantageous in some cases, especially when a quarterback is involved, but I'm not one of those people. I think that the best player on the board is the player you have to take, particularly when this year's quarterback class is especially suspect. 

So we've determined that the strategy is to draft the best defensive player available. Awesome, we have our draft strategy, right? Well, to answer that question, I think you have to decide who the best player available is. The problem with that is that it's almost completely subjective. It all depends on what team is on the clock. If you're the Steelers, you're probably looking for a big, physical cornerback who can jam receivers at the line, like Prince Amukamara, because you run a multiple zone defense. If you're the Buccaneers, perhaps Von Miller isn't quite the right fit for your team because you run a 4-3 Tampa 2 defense and are in search of a bigger defensive end. Conversely, Miller is a perfect fit for San Fransisco and Buffalo who both run the 3-4. So in that case, doesn't best player available just mean the best fit for a certain team? 

The conclusion I'm coming to is that best player available is a myth. There simply isn't an objective way to classify if one player is better than another, it all comes down to how they'll fit in a scheme. You certainly will have some picks that are made that show little or no regard to how a player would theoretically fit in a given system, and some will work out just fine, there are players who have enough talent to transcend certain schemes, but I think that's a very fine line you're walking between risky and far too reckless.