NFL Draft: Lessons in Strategy

Watching the NFL Draft can be a rather fascinating process, as it was this past weekend. There’s so much excitement in the thought of grabbing that amazing talent and seeing your favorite team add to their roster, not knowing if they’re going to pan out in the end. Over the past few years, the draft has become quite a complex event, with trades up, and trades down, and trades for players, etc.

Unlike the days at the playground when two captains were picked to choose who they wanted on their kickball team, today’s NFL team management can’t simply pick the best players available. There’s a lot more to consider, and each consideration is something we as entrepreneurs must also take into account on a regular basis.

Here are some quick considerations on the draft and strategy that I hope you can easily translate into your own planning:

  1. Consider your needs. More than anything, a team’s specific needs influences the draft pick more than anything. Sure, there might be a stud quarterback waiting to get picked up, but if you’ve already got your QB of the future, then you don’t need another one. Address other needs, or support your QB by getting him a better wide receiver. Each team goes into the draft with certain positional needs they want to meet, which narrows their picks down significantly. By focusing on your area of needs, you can easily wade through the murky waters to find the types of players/opportunities that will help out the most.
  2. Consider the market. This year was not a good draft for wide receivers, so you didn’t see any picked in the first round. There are plenty of teams that need a wide receiver, but since the market for them is low, there’s no need wasting a first round pick on something you can easily get in the second or third round. Knowing the market – or better, the opportunities that the current market is providing – has significant bearing on your decisions. It doesn’t make since to invest too heavily in the best choice from a sub-par group. Either go for value (later rounds) or put it off (next year’s draft).
  3. Consider the timing. The funny thing with the NFL Draft is that no team can get everything they need to make an immediate impact. You have to choose filling certain needs and leaving other needs still empty. It becomes a question of timing: will picking up the linebacker this year have a significant impact on the team over the next three years, or will getting that cornerback? Can I put off getting the linebacker until next year and still be ok? Again, the ability to focus and plan becomes huge in the draft. The Dolphins definitely can’t fix their team in just a single year’s draft, so they picked up lots of foundational positions they know can help over the long haul. However, the Giants, having already won a Super Bowl, attached their need for secondary defense to make their team even stronger, and it will directly, positively affect their success next year. That’s just where there team is at this point.
  4. Consider your reality. Speaking of the Dolphins, you gotta know when you suck and have lots to work on, or when you are only one small fix away from making great things happen. Look at the Chiefs this year: they are clearly rebuilding, so they got rid of some of their current talent (Jared Allend) and managed to pick up additional picks in the draft. The players they picked up this year will exercise huge influence on the team for years to come, but it took admitting that you’re not winning the Super Bowl in the next couple years to make that happen. We often times hang on to our strategies for too long, not willing to define reality. The sooner you can accurately pinpoint where your business is, the sooner you can pinpoint the areas you need to address to get better.
  5. Consider your customers. Or in this case, your customers. The Atlanta Falcons picked up Matt Ryan, a quaterback from Boston College. Some people think Ryan will be great, others not so much. But the key for the Falcons has more to do with giving their fans, who’ve had a horrible year (Michael Vick, Bobby Petrino), something to hold onto. Yes, you could probably add a nice offensive lineman here, but fans don’t get excited about the offensive line. Fans like quarterbacks, and that’s what the Falcons are giving their fans. Always consider your customers – they mean too much to your business to simply overlook. Yes, they may occassionally sway you from making smart decisions, and you have to know when and where to draw the line, but often the simplest acts of good will and open communication can do wonders.

4 responses to “NFL Draft: Lessons in Strategy

  1. I love this take on the NFL draft! Too bad all we have here in Utah is Arena Football.

  2. Consider your resources, that is, what can you afford…

  3. Harris – good one. Maybe there’s a part two a’brewin’.

  4. Considering your fans – I’m a bit iffy on this one since the Houston Texans took Mario Williams #1 overall instead of Reggie Bush. Taking Bush would have been for the fans, but they weren’t concerned as they somehow knew that Mario was going to be better. Don’t you think considering the fans is posting more wins down the line? The fans will understand, football is a huge market.

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