Merlin’s Magic: Draft Tek Priority Codes Edition

MerlinAs I have mentioned in the past, in addition to writing on Arrowhead Addict, I also serve as the Chiefs Analyst for Drafttek.com. Draft Tek is a fun site. It has a different approach to doing mock drafts. Draft Tek has analysts who set team needs for one or two teams. A computer program actually runs a mock draft based on those needs and a big board of players. This has several advantages, the most obvious being removing the homer bias. It’s so tempting for a fan of a team to construct a mock assuming some convenient falls for players that fan covets. Draft Tek removes that.

For two years now, I have served as the Chiefs Analyst. What I do is set priority codes for all the positions. This year, I want to open up my thought process and invite comments. This is a work in flux. I have changed the priority codes every week or so.

 The Priority Codes are as follows:

Team Needs Code Descriptions

1 (or P1) – This is the absolutely highest priority team positional need. If a player position (PP) is assigned a P1 code, the program will reach to fill the need. For example if a team is selecting 15th, the program will search to the 25th player (as an example) to fill the P1 need. A team can have only one P1 need. However it is acceptable to have no P1 needs.
2 (or P2) – PP’s designated with P2 indicate that the that the team is in great need of starting calliber talent and will reach to fill the need. The reach isn’t quite as great as P1. There can be multiple P2′s identified per team.
Regarding Reach, the reach limit changes as the selection number increases.
3 (P3) – PP’s (Player Positions) designated with P3 indicate that the team is in need of starting caliber talent, but will not reach for it. Some teams use a “best available player” draft discipline, this fits the P3 code well. Two notes on P3: a) even though we say “will not reach”, there is a little bit of reach. Selection #25 could reach to the #30 rated player to fill a P3 need. b) If the program cycles through all the P1, P2, P3 and P4 needs without finding a player, the program will add more reach to the P3 PP’s and seach again for a P3 player.
4 (P4) – PP’s tagged with a P4 code are depth needs. P4 is purely a value oriented selection, so there is no reach.
5 (P5) – The P5 code is used to identify positional needs that the team absolutely wants to fill (within reason), but does not want to invest a high draft pick. P5 PP’s start the simulation as an equivalent to P4 (depth needs), but in the 4th round all P5 PP’s are promoted to P3. Thus the chances of the PP’s getting a player fill increase dramatically in the 4th round.
6(P6) – The P6 code is used to identify late round fill needs – like a kicker, fullback, or backup QB. P6′s have very low priority in rounds 1-5 and will only fill a player under the most unlucky of circumstances for the team. In the 5th round, a conversion takes place and all P6 PP’s convert to P4.
P7 and P8 – do not exist. They did once but were replicative and never seemed to fill.
9 (P9) - PP’s tagged with a P9 code are positions where the team is absolutely set. But there are occurrences where the program simply cannot find any player to fill the P1-P6 designations within a reasonable reach. In these cases the P9′s will be sifted through and the best available selected.

In this article, I am going to go through the how I have set the priority codes at the moment. However, I do want to mention some base assumptions I am making. Until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, I am acting as if there will be no agreement in place. Also, all current Chief free agents will be retained. I grant anyone that is a bit of an assumption, but I can’t pick and choose. The hardest part of an outside analyst’s evaluation is evaluating the growth of players that do not play much. For example, will Donald Washington claim the nickel job? Unless I get credible information, I can’t assume that any player is going to step up. So, I am assuming they will not. Let’s go through the positions, defense first, of course.

Defensive Ends: This is one of the deepest positions on the Chiefs. Dorsey played well last year. Jackson and Magee were unspectacular in their rookie seasons, but that’s fairly common. Gilberry flashed as a situational pass rusher. I am not looking to bring in more young players here. I coded this position as a P9.

Nose Tackle: Ron Edwards is a nice rotational player, but he shouldn’t be starting. The Chiefs have a serious need for starting caliber talent here. It is very reasonable to code this as a P2, but I have it as a P3. There is a method to my madness, but I will get to that later.

Outside Linebacker: Hali has done well here. Vrabel is slowing down, but the Chiefs like Studebaker. We could use another outside linebacker, but it’s more for depth and development. So, I assigned a P6 code here.

Inside Linebacker. This group played their hearts out. However, they generally did not get the job done. I am not sure Corey Mays should be a starting player in the NFL. Demorrio Williams played well, but he may not be suited to starting either. Derrick Johnson remains an enigma, but I do like Jovan Belcher as a developing player. This position was assigned a P3 code and I was sorely tempted to ask for more than one pick here. Currently, I have not because we have so many needs at so many other positions.

Cornerback: Flowers is a developing stud and Carr has been pretty good. We could use a nickel back here, but that’s not as important as other spots. P6 is the code here.

Strong Safety: I have seen enough of Mike Brown as a starter and Morgan seems to have been buried, P3.

Free Safety: McGraw should not be a starting player. I still like Page, so I gave this a P6. I debated this position quite a bit. I did have it coded P4 for a while. In the end, it comes down to so many needs and a limited number of picks.

Placekicker: Mr. Irrelevant made this need irrelevant. P9

Quarterback: Matt Cassel has been OK and Brodie Croyle looked good as a backup. P9

Running Back: Draft Tek distinguishes between two type of running backs, feature backs and change of pace backs. Charles is a great speed back, but he needs to be paired with a between the tackles kind of runner. That back needs to be more of a thumper, thunder to Charles’ lightning. That’s more of a feature back. I like Kolby Smith, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. I assigned a P4 to feature back and P9 to change of pace back.

Fullback: I am OK with Cox and Castille here. It could be upgraded, but we have bigger fish to fry: P9.

Wide Receiver: Draft Tek has three types of wide receivers: feature, possession and speed receivers. With Chambers and Bowe, we have feature and possession set, but we need a speed receiver to play the slot. Also, we could use a player to groom as a replacement for Chambers. Speed receiver is coded as a P4 while possession and feature were coded P6. Due to so many other needs and the presence of Lawrence and Long on the roster limits the amount of receivers I want to draft. I only want to draft one receiver. This introduces another Draft Tek concept: Pairs. Pairs are when you have needs at two or three positions but only want to draft one player for those positions combined. So, I set the WRF/WRP/WRS ‘pair’ to YES. That way, we will only get one receiver. It will probably be a speed receiver, unless a feature or possession receiver has a very high value. The pairs function gives us the flexibility to grab a high value without overloading a position with multiple picks.

Tight End: It’s a fairly undistinguished group, but not as important as other needs. A P4 was coded here. I am fine with taking a tight end if the value is high.

Offensive line: We have two holes on the offensive line: center and right guard. The line play did improve towards the end of the year. I am not seduced by that. Most of the improvement was due to Jamaal Charles. Charles is the kind of back who can make defenders miss and take advantage of small creases. Better offensive line play is crucial to the development of the Chiefs offense. It’s easy to just code for center and guard and call it a day. However, the flexibility of Branden Albert and Brian Waters creates some opportunities. Albert can play left tackle and either guard spot. I don’t think he is enough of a mauler to play right tackle. O’Callaghan is serviceable there. Waters can play either guard spot and center. Since he is slowing down a bit, but is still a smart player, he may be better served by a move to center. Essentially, we need two lineman. One can be a tackle, guard or center, the other one needs to be a guard. Fortunately, Draft Tek has a ‘pair’ for OT/G/C. Also, it allows multiple picks at a position. The code for that is M (for multiple) and the priority number of the second pick. So, what I did was coded OT as a P3, OG as a P3 with a M3 (multiple guard picks, the second guard pick would have a P3 code as well) and center as a P3. Then I went ahead and set the OT/G/C pair to ‘YES”. This allows the Draft Tek program to draft a tackle, guard or center with one pick. Then another guard could be selected, as early as the next pick. We could end up with a tackle and guard, two guards or a guard and a center.

Overall impressions. The Chiefs have so many needs, I don’t use a P1 code. P1 is used when you have one glaring need you have to get filled. You will also notice that there are no P2 needs. There is a method to my madness. It’s best seen by looking at the Chief needs grouped by priority code:

P3: NT, ILB, SS, OT/G/C, OG

P4: TE, RBF, WRS (paired with the other WR designations)

P6: OLB, CB, FS, WRF, WRP

P9: DE, PK, QB, FB

There is no difference within a priority code level. All needs at a given level are treated as equals. The draft strategy that I am setting the Chiefs up for is best player available at a position of need. This is done to maximize the useful talent infusion. While folks could argue for elevating a need or two out of the P3 group, that could result in some large reaches. For example, if the NT need was coded P2, the simulation could end up grabbing a 3rd round talent in round two and passing up a big value at SS. I do consider the NT need to be perhaps the most critical need on the Chiefs. However, I don’t want to reach for that need. The draft class also plays a role in this strategy. The NT crop is very thin. Essentially, there are two mid-late first round prospects and then nothing until you hit third and fourth round talents. If, for example, we were drafting #17 and there were four early to mid-first round talents at NT, I might have the NT need as the only P2 or even a P1. The priority codes are not set in a vacuum.

These codes do change, weekly in most cases. I am very open to a well-reasoned case for a change. I value that input. Keep in mind, we only have so many bullets in our draft gun. Hard choices need to be made.

So, fire away. Thoughts, critiques, comments?