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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Best Player, Or Greatest Need?

We've heard over and over again that the Panthers are locked into their
Best Player Available philosophy.

It seems they've prepared for that, excepting offensive tackle - where
they say they could make do with existing resources, somehow. They've
picked up enough inexpensive veteran talent that they can go with,
theoretically, almost any pick.

The team and media outlets use last year's draft as an example of that
philosophy, and so far they've used the same overall ideals in free
agency. Pick up good, but maybe undervalued, bodies to fill holes. So
far, so good.

But is what they're doing really BPA, or is it a ruse? BPA is a good
way of throwing other teams off your trail, too. It would be obvious to
the average observer that the team needs an OT, and a WR, and that it'd
be easy to get directly in front of Carolina to get the one you want.
Since obviously no one has access to Carolina's board at the time of a
pick other than Carolina, you can't say they didn't pick the best

So to start off, I'd like to analyze the 2013 draft under BPA and
non-BPA filters.

1st round - Star Lotulelei, DT - in my mind, this player was both.
Clearly a massive need, Lotulelei was also the best defensive lineman in
the draft (to me, anyway). This is where Carolina got extremely lucky;
if OT Luke Joeckel fell, same thing. I think you have to take that
player (and in my mind, yes, Joeckel was the best OT in the draft; I
don't remember comparing quality between he and Lotulelei but I'd say
both are at the top of the board). But if one of the ends fell? I
don't know if I had confidence in any of the three (Dion Jordan, Ezekiel
Ansah, and Barkevious Mingo went out of order and none of them I really
had ahead of 14). I wouldn't have picked any, but traditional logic
might've made one of them the BPA.

2nd round - Kawann Short, DT - rated near our 44 pick, Short is where
Carolina started arguing BPA. Short was, in my mind (and unless I
missed something significant, traditional internet logic) a good value,
but it's not like there was a mid-first grade on Short. The fit was
good, and given some concerns about motor, adding Short to a DL that
wouldn't ask too much of him would have value. But a lot of that's not
considered in BPA.

*It's hard to argue for other picks. I really liked Larry Warford at
guard, and his 2013 performance bears that out as an ideal pick for
Carolina, where he'd have locked down RG instead of seeing the team go
through a short dozen of them. Robert Alford at CB would've made a
difference, too.

3rd round - forefeited in trade. Would've been a great data point to
add, with Keenan Allen still on the board (oof) and the team's
connections to him; Tyrann Mathieu would've been interesting, though a
fair amount of his success is owed to where he went, too. Warford
would've been ideal, but it's essentially inconceivable to hope that an
already-traded pick would have someone like that fall to it. That sort
of wishing is double-useless.

4th round - Edmund Kugbila, G - it's hard to call this BPA. It's easy
to call it a need, where the team really needed any shot at improving
its OL along with depth. I was hoping for the versatile Barrett Jones
here, though injury could've pushed him down. Warl Watford was a
similar small-school G that was a little more powerful. But, Kugbila
has yet to really show what he can do, so I won't pile on.

5th round - AJ Klein, LB - you can call this BPA, but as much because it
wasn't a need. Klein might've been rated higher than this, but it's
hard to know. I didn't pay any attention to him. Obviously the pick
worked out, but you could argue that the team had two highly paid vet LB
to go around a high first round pick, and paid three more veterans as
depth; Klein's "need" provides cap relief and a future at the position
that isn't year-to-year special teamers. This pick has obviously
worked out, undoubtedly, but it's also a space where you could argue
either BPA or need.

6th round - Kenjon Barner, RB - I don't know. Yes, maybe BPA. But, in a
way, need. Yes, Carolina has tons of RB, but not a quick one, not one
that they'd have return kicks. With Ted Ginn on a one year deal and all
the other returners in the WR logjam, you could argue the team had a
value in that. Ron Rivera valued a scatback type player and has evoked
the Darren Sproles image enough. You could argue need. You could
argue the need by 2014 or 2015 to have a younger, but experienced, RB on
staff to take over for a high contract.

You could also argue, not BPA. Barner comes from a wide open offense,
and you could argue Carolina had been that once. But you knew with Mike
Shula at the helm and a top defense, that it wouldn't be all that open -
BPA doesn't account for offensive fit, or how conservative it is, unless
all that's figured into the draft grade.

There's no doubt that Andre Ellington would've been a smarter choice in
hindsight, and possibly at the time, too. So I can't tell the Panthers
what their board looks like, but it feels like the BPA part fails
because I disagree that Barner was the BPA. Who knows, maybe they'll
switch him to receiver and that will work, but right now he doesn't look
like a player that can run strong on a team that has nothing but power
runners and runs power.

The end result is, like the "Dave Gettleman only drafts Seniors" thing,
it's a limited amount of data points. I'm certain that the Panthers
have to draft a junior or two, that there's no aversion to that ideal,
and that if they haven't already, they'll end up drafting for need at
some point.
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