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Fairley's 2011 selection by the Lions was a case of BPA.
Best player available (or BPA as it is commonly referred to) is probably the agreed upon draft strategy as the most superior approach to the exercise. And amongst some of my fellow NFL draft Twitter community, I was surprised recently at the intellectual snobbery that accompanies this assertion.
I find it both romantic and arrogant, not to mention a complete disregard for the historical lessons to be drawn from past drafts, to subscribe to the BPA approach. This article is a recent take that elaborates on the sentiments I have just put forth.
The proposition that, out of hundreds of diverse and variously qualified prospects, a single team is going to identify correctly which one will become the best player in the NFL from amongst the available remaining is as daunting and laughable as it reads.
To look at any, ANY, draft ledger beginning with 2011 and wind back to its infancy in the 1930s, or even from the advent of the digital age in the 1980s that is more identifiable with our current process today, is to realize the complete and utter futility in this.
Every year when undrafted free agents and Day 3 selections outperform and outlast their first-round counterparts, we are reminded of this. Even when comparing the order of players drafted at the same position, we are shown another example that predicting which single player is the best available is ridiculous. Moreover, it is impossible.
Choosing the best candidate for each draft selection is difficult enough when it can be narrowed down by some context of value or roster-specific significance.
This is why you work and trust your scouting departments and embark on the painstaking task of creating a big board and positional rankings. It is so your team's evaluation of each player against the overall market is clear.
Even successful turnouts of going with the best player available (Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants, 2010 and Nick Fairley, Detroit Lions, 2011) open the team up to precarious roster shortages in their wake. Both teams' respective general managers are notorious BPA-subscribers.
The Giants are defending Super Bowl champions and the Lions are in better shape than they have been in decades, which brings up the question of the fallacy in those selections. My issue is with sustainability and it being the general managers' primary focus to oversee a roster that has the best chance of being playoff-competitive every season.
In part due to selections like the aforementioned, both clubs have serious deficiencies along the offensive line and, in Detroit's case, in the secondary.
Having a great defensive line is a crucial priority to building an NFL roster, I agree, but both of these teams' units were already strong. These selections, though both players appear on their way to excellence, come off as greedy and short-sighted to me.
Which player makes more of a discernible impact on the Giants' and Lions' respective rosters, in the least during the life of their rookie contracts, Pierre-Paul or one of Mike Iupati, Maurkice Pouncey or Bryan Bulaga?
A clearer way to ask this may be: where lies the bigger drop-off, JPP to to Tuck, Umenyiora or Kiwanuka or from one of the previously listed offensive linemen vs. whom the Giants had to use in 2011 and likely the next two seasons also? I think it is pretty clearly the latter.
The same construction of questions applies to the Lions, Fairley, and any one of Mike Pouncey, Nate Solder, Prince Amukamara or Jimmy Smith from the 2011 draft class.