Question Of The Week: Draft For Need?
Last night’s article about my opinion that the Vikings would be a great fit for running back prospect Marcus Lattimore sparked one of the better reader conversations, or debate perhaps, that we have had so far this offseason.
Naturally, I want to give my opinion.
In the discussion, there are two basic schools of thought at play, with one thinking a team should draft for need and the other saying to take the best player available. Some good arguments have been made, but I think my perspective is a touch different.
In a world where all the stars align, a team’s draft board would align perfectly with their roster needs. If you desperately need a running back, then you would love to see a running back be the highest ranked player available to you when you are on the clock.
It is the General Manager’s job to try and create that perfect world by moving around during the Draft. A perfect example of such a move could be from just last year when Rick Spielman, who needed to get his team some safety help, pulled the trigger on a trade that bounced the Vikings back into the first round where they were able to grab Harrison Smith.
It is also possible, last year, that the Vikings had a higher grade on running back Trent Richardson than they did on Matt Kalil which allowed Spielman to move back a spot and let Richardson get picked up by Cleveland, while retaining the ability to still get Kalil.
Sometimes these trades don’t always work out, however, and a team is forced to choose between their best rated player or making a slight reach in the name of filling an immediate need. I am sure that those decisions are the hardest ones to make when the pressure is on.
If I were in charge of making such decisions (which, of course, I am not) I would see no shame in taking either approach, really, but would have a philosophy that revolves around my roster’s identity.
Let me explain.
There is something to be said for a team that uses free agency and the first round of the Draft to fill immediate needs, while using day two and day three of the Draft to reinforce an already strong part of the roster. Drafting to get deeper and stronger at an area of your roster that already is a strength, if you will.
For example, the New York Giants in recent history have not been shy about spending early picks on defensive linemen because that was their identity, their pass rush essentially won them a Super Bowl against an undefeated Patriots team, and they didn’t want to take on any risk of losing that identity through injuries. Their defensive line also played a big part in last year’s Super Bowl run, their second in five years.
The Minnesota Vikings have openly admitted that their offense is “built to win” by running the football. It is their identity.
Of course, having Adrian Peterson is a huge part of that, and a lot of their future success hinges on his ability to stay healthy and stay productive. Heck, they even have a decent backup plan in Toby Gerhart, who is a lot better as an every down back than as a player pulling spot duty.
Still, I see absolutely no problem with the Vikings using the NFL Draft to ensure that their identity, being a hard running offense, is maintained and preserved long into the future despite what unpleasant surprises may end up surfacing.
So, to finally get around to the point, that is why I would have absolutely no problem with the Vikings spending a fourth or fifth rounder on a running back. Or a guard. Or a center. It may not immediately improve the running offense, but if it ensures that running game will last for an entire season and well into the postseason then I think it is a pick well spent.
Besides, if we are banking on filling our needs in round four of the NFL Draft, then Rick Spielman has already messed things up pretty bad.
I am a big fan of the Best Player Available approach to the NFL Draft because I just don’t see the downside. There is no shame in using that player to fill a need or provide depth in an area on your roster that already has a solid starter.
Besides, if the Vikings had always drafted for need, then I don’t think Adrian Peterson ever would have worn a Vikings uniform in the first place.