The Art (and Science) of Drafting: IIb. The Walsh II Era (1999-2001)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Happy belated Easter everyone. Sorry for the delay on getting this one posted, but there's just a ridiculous amount of info to sift through. Hopefully the article's worth the wait. Also, just wanted to let you know that I'll be posting my review of the Donahue Era drafts later today.

In Part 2a of my 49er draft history review, I broke down the Policy regime's picks from 1994-1998 by round, position, and conference. Just to refresh everyone's memory, here was my description of the Policy regime's draft strategy:

  1. Draft picks are commodities best used for moving up in the draft.
  2. Once you've addressed positional needs in free agency, there's no need to focus on them in the draft.
  3. Dominate the neighborhood (i.e., take Pac-10 players and those near Youngstown, OH).
  4. There's plenty of talent outside the BCS conferences, but wait until Day 2 to acquire it.

As I said at the end of Part 2a, the Policy regime's use of draft picks can be considered a form of negligence. Despite having glaring needs at RB, OL, and DB that were brought on by aging starters, retirements, and free agent defections, they chose to trade away a lot of picks and use the remaining ones on "wants" rather than "needs." To me, this was an insanity that didn't end until Bill Walsh returned to the organization in time to run the 1999 draft.

To say that draft strategy changed under Walsh would be an understatement. Today, I'll detail why.

After the jump, I'll put the Walsh drafts in context; break the results down by position, draft day, and conference; and provide the idiot's guide to Walsh draft strategy...

Here again is the link to my Excel spreadsheet of 49er draft picks in the Salary Cap Era:

49er Draft Picks 1994-2008


IN CONTEXT

On this Easter holiday, I think it's fitting to be discussing the Walsh II Era (1999-2001), which can accurately be called "The Resurrection." The dynasty died in 1998, and three days (ok, years) later it was born again thanks to the second coming of Bill Walsh: the Niners went from 4 wins in 1999 to 6 wins in 2000 to 12 wins in 2001. To fans, this seemed like a familiar tale, what with the similar progression that took place during Walsh's previous 49er messiah incarnation (2 wins in 1979; 6 wins in 1980; 13 wins in 1981). Put in that context, the 49er drafts from 1999-2001 have to be labeled a success, right? Well, stay tuned. First, here's more contextual detail:

  • 1999 Draft - Key Losses: RB Garrison Hearst (career-threatening injury), FB Marc Edwards (trade), OL Kevin Gogan (trade), OL Kirk Scrafford (retirement), DL Roy Barker (trade), DL Chris Doleman (retirement), DB Merton Hanks (free agency). Weak 1998 Stats: Dropped from 1st to 15th in DEF DVOA; 26th in ST DVOA.1Lingering Issues: Still hadn't found a worthy replacement for TE Brent Jones or CB Rod Woodson; major injury to DL Bryant Young; starting QB Steve Young, WR Jerry Rice, and OL Ray Brown all over 35 years old. Needs: RB, FB, TE, OL, DL, DB, ST, QB depth, WR depth, OL depth.
  • 2000 Draft - Key Losses: Steve Young (retirement), OL Chris Dalman (retirement), DL Gabe Wilkins (released), LB Lee Woodall (free agency), DB Darnell Walker (free agency), DB Mark McMillan (free agency), DB Tim McDonald (retirement). Weak 1999Stats: 18th in OFF DVOA; 31st in DEF DVOA; 31st in ST DVOA. Lingering Issues: Still hadn't found a worthy replacement for Jones, Barker, Doleman, Woodson or CB Marquez Pope; Rice and Brown were now 37 years old. Needs: TE, DL, LB, DB, ST, QB depth, WR depth, OL depth.
  • 2001 Draft - Key Losses: RB Charlie Garner (free agency), Rice (free agency), TE Greg Clark (released), DL Anthony Pleasant (free agency), DL Brenston Buckner (free agency), DL Junior Bryant (career-threatening injury); LB Jeff Posey (free agency), LB Ken Norton (retirement), LB Winfred Tubbs (released), and K Wade Richey (free agency). Weak 2000 Stats: 28th in DEF DVOA; 22nd in ST DVOA. Lingering Issues: Still hadn't found a worthy replacement for Jones and Barker; Brown was now 38 years old. Needs: RB, TE, DL, LB, K, ST, WR depth, OL depth.

In terms of specific needs, DEF and ST were definitely the priority given the stats and player departures. However, taking a broader perspective on these draft needs, you notice that, as compared to the Policy Era, there were a lot more of them. Beginning with Policy's last draft and continuing through the Walsh regime, the 49ers needed players at every position. Indeed, in comparison with the 19 key offseason losses from 1994-1998 - or about 4 per offseason - there were 24 key offseason losses from 1999-2001 - or 8 per season. Essentially, Walsh was tasked with cleaning up after Policy's free agent extravaganza and draft neglect, and therefore spent most of his 2nd stay in SF separating the wheat from the chaff on the 49ers' roster, whether through cutting players, letting them walk in free agency, "gently" forcing them into retirement, or trading them for draft picks.

Another thing you notice from 1999-2001 is the return of Walsh's signature move: unceremoniously showing old-timers the door at their first sign of performance deterioration. What Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, and others experienced during Walsh's first go-round in SF, Steve Young and Rice experienced during his second. Remember, both Young and Rice wanted to continue playing even though everyone (except them) knew that they were a shadow of their former self (in Rice's case) or couldn't stay healthy anymore (in Young's case).

OK, so we know that Walsh II (correctly) got rid of a lot of players. But how did he acquire their replacements? Well, of the departed players I listed above (and there were a lot of them), here's how they were replaced via traditional free agency:

  • Garner replaced Hearst
  • Wilkins replaced Doleman
  • OL Scott Gragg replaced Dalman (after moving OL Jeremy Newberry permanently to C)
  • DL Dana Stubblefield replaced Buckner
  • LB Derek Smith replaced Norton
  • K Jose Cortez replaced Richey

Now, before you assume that the other 18 were all replaced with Walsh II draft picks, here are 4 other starters who were replaced during Walsh II's tenure with free agents originally signed by Policy:

  • OL Dave Fiore (undrafted free agent) replaced Scrafford
  • Posey (undrafted free agent) replaced Barker and Woodall (after being moved to LB)
  • DB Zack Bronson (undrafted free agent) replaced Hanks
  • Buckner replaced Bryant

And finally, here is 1 replacement that Walsh II made by signing an undrafted free agent:

  • QB Jeff Garcia replaced Young

Let's digest that for a moment. Out of 24 starters that left the team during the offseason of each draft, Walsh II only replaced 6 of them with free agents from other teams. How's that for doing a 180 from the Policy regime's ...um...policy?

So there's the context. In preparation for his drafts, Walsh II had to deal with a ton of holes on both sides of the ball - but especially on DEF and ST - not a lot of help from Policy Era free agent holdovers, and no room under the salary cap to sign his own free agents. Solution? The draft of course.

PICKS, PICKS, AND MORE PICKS

From 1999-2001, the 49ers made 27 selections in the NFL draft, which works out to 9 picks per season. In comparison to the previous regime, Walsh II had nearly as many picks in 3 drafts as the Policy regime did in 5. Given that each team is allotted 1 pick for each of the draft's 7 rounds, this difference means that Walsh II had 6 more picks than he was supposed to, whereas Policy had 6 less. Why? The aforementioned context.

With respect to Walsh II's and the Policy regime's starter and Pro Bowl rate, conclusions again require context. Specifically, Walsh's starter rate was 48.1%, whereas the Policy regime's was 41.4%. Taking into account the fact that it was just a tad bit tougher for a player to start on those stellar teams from 1994-1998 than it has been since 1999, it's more accurate of a comparison if we count only those Policy regime picks that initially became starters during the Policy regime (i.e., when the team was good). Making this adjustment, the Policy regime's starter rate drops to 31.0%. So the question becomes, "Is the difference between 48.1% (Walsh II's starter rate) and 31.0% (the Policy regime's adjusted starter rate) bigger than or smaller than the difference in how good the teams were?" In other words, "How much of that 17.1% difference in starter rates is due to Walsh being a better drafter, and how much is due simply to the fact that it was easier to start after 1998?"

Well, one unbelievable crude way to answer this is by comparing the Niners' winning percentage from 1994-1998 to that of the 5 seasons afterwards as a measure of the difference between how good the teams were during those eras. From 1994-1998, the 49ers had a 76.3% winning percentage, whereas they've had a 40.0% winning percentage since 1998. Therefore, using this crude measurement, the Niners were 36.3% better from 1994-1998. Applying this to our question (and again, this is unbelievably unsophisticated statistically speaking) it was something like 36.3% easier for a draft pick to start after 1998 than it was from 1994-1998. Based on this difference, you might conclude that the 17.1% difference in starter rates for Walsh II and the Policy regime is more than made up for by the fact that it was harder for players to start during the Policy years. Nevertheless, as I don't by any means think we're using top-notch statistical methodology here, I'd just conservatively say that Walsh II wasn't necessarily better at drafting starters even though his starter rate was higher.

The same analysis can be done with Pro Bowl rate. 20.7% of the Policy regime's picks became 49er Pro Bowlers, and that adjusts down to 10.4% when you consider only those draft picks that made the Pro Bowl from 1994-1998. Walsh's Pro Bowl rate, in contrast, was 7.4%. Given that better teams get more players chosen to the Pro Bowl, we can crudely applying the winning percentage stats above as measure of "how easy it was to make the Pro Bowl." Doing so, you might conclude that the 3.0% or so difference in Pro Bowl rate was more than made up for by the fact that it was harder to make the Pro Bowl after 1998. Again, though, I'd just conclude that Policy wasn't necessarily better at drafting Pro Bowlers even though his Pro Bowl rate was higher.

Bottom line - Here's what I think are the main things to take away from this section:

  • Walsh had 27 picks in 3 drafts, an amount nearly equal to what the Policy regime had in 5 drafts.
  • After you account for differences in context, Walsh II and the Policy regime were pretty much equals when it came to drafting 49er starters and Pro Bowlers.

DAY ‘N' NIGHT

Based on what I said in the last section, one might be tempted to guess that Policy subtracted picks by trading up in the draft, whereas Walsh II added picks by trading down.  Surprisingly, though, this wasn't actually the case. Of the Policy regime's 29 picks, 51.9% of them were on Day 1, whereas a nearly identical 51.7% of Walsh II's picks were on Day 1.

Looking at the relative success of their Day 1 and Day 2 picks, we find that Walsh II (64.3%) and the Policy regime (60.0%) were pretty much equally effective at finding starters on Day 1, whereas Walsh II (30.8%) was slightly better than the Policy regime (21.4%) on Day 2. With respect to Pro Bowlers, Walsh II (Day 1 = 9.1%; Day 2 = 6.3%) was considerably worse than the Policy regime (Day 1 = 20.0%; Day 2 = 21.4%). However, once again, we run into that pesky context problem here: Walsh's acumen for finding starters on Day 2 might have been because it was easier for a Day 2 pick to crack the starting lineup after 1998, and the Policy regime's acumen for finding Pro Bowlers on both draft days might have been because it was easier for any 49er in general to make the Pro Bowl before 1999.

However, all is not lost. One way we can avoid the above-applied statistical gymnastics is by examining differences within each regime in starter and Pro Bowl draft picks. In other words, instead of comparing, for instance, Day 1 success of Walsh drafts to Day 1 success of Policy regime drafts, we can compare, for instance, Day 1 success of Walsh drafts to Day 2 success of Walsh drafts, because, if one regime was better than the other, that superiority is likely to cut across draft days regardless of the "team goodness" context in which the picks were made.

Doing this within regime comparison, the stats say, once and for all, that the two regimes didn't differ that much: the Policy regime picked 75.0% of their drafted starters on Day 1 and 25.0% on Day 2, whereas Walsh II picked 69.2% on Day 1 and 30.8% on Day 2. In terms of Pro Bowlers, the stats say the same: both regimes had a 50/50 split of Pro Bowlers between draft days. In other words, keeping the pick context constant (i.e., looking at success within regimes), both regimes picked 3 times as many starters, and an equal percentage of Pro Bowlers, on Day 1 as they did on Day 2. If either regime were objectively better at drafting, whether overall or by round, the difference would have shown up in this within-regime comparison (e.g., if Walsh had a 5-to-1 Day 1/Day 2 ratio for starters, whereas the Policy regime only had a 2-to-1 Day 1/Day 2 starter ratio, then Walsh would be an objectively better Day 1 drafter). So, any way we look at it, we can't really conclude that one draft regime was more successful than the other with respect to starters and Pro Bowlers.

Bottom line - Here's what I think are the main things to take away from this section:

  • Although Walsh II made a lot of trades to acquire draft picks, he still ended up with an even spread between Day 1 and Day 2.
  • When you control for context, Walsh II and the Policy regime drafted similar percentages of their total number of starters and Pro Bowlers on a given draft day, aka they're equals.

ASSUME THE POSITION

One conclusion we can make about differences between the two draft regimes has to do with the positions on which they focused their Day 1 and Day 2 picks. On Day 1, Walsh II used 81.8% of his picks on DEF, whereas the Policy regime used 60.0% of their picks on OFF. In raw terms, Walsh II used only 2 of his Day 1 picks on OFF. Can you name them? If you said QB Giovanni Carmazzi and RB Kevan Barlow, you win the no-prize. The point of this, though, is not to give a pop quiz or remind you of an epic draft fail like Gio. Rather, it's to show that Walsh II actually made picks according to need. The Niners' needs were predominately on DEF, and he spent practically all of Day 1 for 3 consecutive drafts picking DEF players. Contrast this with the Policy regime, who basically gave the Italian salute to their positional needs.

Yeah, about those positional needs. Here's what Walsh II did with his 27 picks from 1999-2001: he used 17 on DEF, 10 on OFF, and 0 on ST. By position, he took 6 DLs, 6 DBs, 5 LBs, 3 RBs, 2 QBs, 2 WRs, and 1 OL. Relating these numbers back to team needs, TE Eric Johnson replaced Clark, DL John Engelberger replaced Doleman, DL Andre Carter replaced Pleasant, LB Julian Peterson replaced Posey, LB Jeff Ulbrich replaced Tubbs, DB Ahmed Plummer replaced Walker, and DB Jason Webster replaced McMillan. The obvious thing to notice here is that Walsh II drafted over half of the starting defense that went 12-4 in 2001, but only 1 starter on offense. Again, context is everything here: if you need to rebuild a defense, then actually rebuild it; don't instead go taking players at "want" positions ala the Policy regime.

Speaking of success, here's how Walsh II and the Policy regime compared with respect to drafting starters at "need" positions:

Policy

Starter?

RB

OL

DB

Total

Yes

0

1

2

3

No

1

3

1

5

Total

1

4

3

8

 

Walsh II

Starter?

DL

LB

DB

Total

Yes

3

3

2

8

No

3

2

4

9

Total

6

5

6

17

 

On the surface, these tables again suggest that Walsh II (47.1%) and the Policy regime (37.5%) were equals when it came to drafting starters. However, what's important here are not the percentages, but the totals. Walsh drafted over twice as many players at need positions, and, low and behold, drafted over twice as many starters at those positions. This is another example of that "bites of the apple" argument I've made previously.

And just to drive the point home, here's a look at Day 1 of Walsh II's 2000 draft:

Rd

Player

Pos

Starter?

Pro Bowl?

1

Julian Peterson

LB

Yes

Yes

1

Ahmed Plummer

DB

Yes

No

2

John Engelberger

DL

Yes

No

2

Jason Webster

DB

Yes

No

3

Giovanni Carmazzi

QB

No

No

3

Jeff Ulbrich

LB

Yes

No

How's that for addressing positional needs on Day 1? Out of 5 DEF picks, Walsh II batted 1.000, picking 5 starters: 2 at LB, 2 at DB, and 1 at DL. That's practically half of the starting DEF on the 12-4 2001 team right there. Sure, he screwed up his lone OFF Day 1 pick, but he had Garcia entrenched as the QB starter at that time. Therefore, Gio was more of a "want" pick (i.e., for depth) in the grand scheme of things. Besides, when you hit on 5 players at need positions, who cares that you missed on 1 player at a "want" position? After all, no one (not even Walsh) is perfect.

Herein lies the main lesson when comparing Walsh II's drafts with those of the Policy regime: focus your Day 1 picks on need positions. Taking more bites at the apple softens the blow when you miss. I mean, who can look at that Day 1 in 2000 and say, "Taking Gio set the franchise back for years?" In contrast, focusing your Day 1 on players at "want" positions (ala the Policy regime) sets the franchise back doubly when you miss. Not only did you pick a bust; you failed to fill needs in the process. That's why people look back at the Policy regime's 1995 and 1997 drafts and say, "With so few picks to work with, taking JJ Stokes and Jim Druckenmiller set the franchise back for years!"

Bottom line - Here's what I think are the main things to take away from this section:

  • Unlike the Policy regime, Walsh II focused his Day 1 picks on the most glaring positional needs.
  • Walsh drafted twice as many starters, Pro Bowlers, and players overall at need positions as the Policy regime.

CONFERENCE ROOM

Another clear way that Walsh II differed from the Policy regime was related to the conferences from which they drafted their players. Here's how Walsh II's 27 picks shake out by conference: 5 SEC picks, 4 Big 10 picks, 3 Big East picks, 3 WAC picks, 2 Pac-10 picks, 2 Division I Independent picks, 1 Big 12 pick, 1 Atlantic 10 pick, 1 Big Sky pick, 1 Conference USA pick, 1 Ivy League pick, 1 OVC pick, 1 SAC pick, and 1 Southern pick.

A couple of things jump out from this list. First, unlike those of the Policy regime (and the 49ers overall), Walsh II's picks were not, shall we say, homegrown. The Pac-10 was represented by less than 10% of Walsh II's picks, as opposed to the 17% or so of Policy's (and the 49ers' overall) picks. Also, 2 of the top 3 conferences represented in Walsh II picks did not play a majority of their games a hop, skip, and a jump from DeBartolo country (i.e., Youngstown, OH). The second thing that jumps out is actually nothing, literally: the ACC is absent. That's right, Walsh II took 0 players from ACC schools.

Now, where things get really interesting is in the BCS breakdown. As compared to the 75.9% BCS rate of the Policy regime and the 79.7% BCS rate of the 49ers overall, Walsh II used only 59.3% of his picks on players from BCS conferences. In other words, he didn't shy away from taking players from smaller schools. On the contrary, he embraced it.

Walsh II's fondness for taking non-BCS players might suggest that he was particularly adept at it from a results perspective. Interestingly enough, though, the opposite was actually the case. Of his 11 non-BCS picks, only 27.3% became Niner starters, and none made the Pro Bowl. In contrast, 62.5% of his BCS picks became Niner starters, and 12.5% made the Pro Bowl. So Walsh II was actually better at picking BCS players than non-BCS players. Furthermore, when you compare his starter and Pro Bowl rates for BCS and non-BCS players, you find that Walsh II was more successful than the BCS-heavy Policy regime when it came to picking BCS players, but less successful than the non-BCS-phobic Policy regime in terms of picking non-BCS players. So it turns out that, whereas the Policy regime probably should have drafted more non-BCS players, Walsh II probably should have drafted more BCS players.

Walsh II didn't follow the 80% rule of overall 49er draft strategy when it came to positions, which isn't surprising given his overall BCS rate of 59.3%. His preference for non-BCS players was especially evident in his QB and OL picks, positions at which he didn't select a single BCS player. The lone position at which he reached an 80% BCS rate was LB. When combining positional BCS rates by team unit, we find that Walsh II preferred BCS players on DEF (64.7%) more than he did on OFF (50.0%). Of course, this is to be expected given that he took more DEF players overall.

The next question to address is, "When did Walsh II make his non-BCS picks?" Here's a table showing the number of BCS and non-BCS players that he selected on each day of the draft:

BCS?

Day 1

Day 2

Total

Yes

9

7

16

No

2

9

11

Total

11

16

27

 

Converting these numbers into percentages, 18.2% of Walsh II's Day 1 picks came from non-BCS conferences, whereas 56.3% of his Day 2 picks came from non-BCS conferences. In one sense, this is expected given that a tripling of the non-BCS rate from Day 1 to Day 2 is standard for the 49ers overall in the Salary Cap Era. However, what's most interesting here is that, on Day 2, Walsh actually picked more non-BCS players than BCS players.

So given that Walsh II wasn't that good at picking starters from non-BCS conferences, and that he picked an inordinate amount of non-BCS players on Day 2, you'd expect that his starter rate for Day 2 non-BCS picks was atrocious. The tables below provide the evidence:

BCS Picks

Starter?

Day 1

Day 2

Total

Yes

8

2

10

No

1

5

6

Total

9

7

16

 

Non-BCS Picks

Starter?

Day 1

Day 2

Total

Yes

1

2

3

No

1

7

8

Total

2

9

11

 

Based on the second table, we'd conclude that, yes, Walsh II was horrible at taking Day 2 non-BCS players. But, then again, he was almost as bad taking Day 2 BCS players. What's important to recognize, though, is the discrepancy between these Day 2 non-BCS results and his Day 1 BCS results. Namely, he was nearly perfect at picking players from BCS conferences on Day 1, and nearly imperfect (or whatever the polar opposite of perfect is) at picking players from non-BCS conferences on Day 2. Going back to my earlier discussion, the moral here is that we as 49er fans don't care (or even remember) that Walsh II sucked so bad on small-school fliers because (a) he waited until Day 2 to take them, and (b) he hit on so many Day 1 BCS picks.

Bottom line - Here's what I think are the main things to take away from this section:

  • Walsh II did not have a preference for players from conferences that were close to home.
  • Walsh II was less inclined than the Policy regime (and the 49ers overall) towards players from BCS conferences.
  • Walsh II waited until Day 2 to take non-BCS players, and he actually took more non-BCS players than BCS players on Day 2.
  • Despite having a higher non-BCS rate than the Policy regime, Walsh II was actually less successful with his non-BCS picks.
  • Despite having a lower BCS rate than the Policy regime, Walsh II was actually more successful with his BCS picks.
  • Walsh was highly successful on Day 1 BCS picks, and highly unsuccessful with Day 2 non-BCS picks. But, then again, no one cares or even remembers.

GENERAL ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION

In this article, I've identified a few stark contrasts between the philosophies of Walsh II and the Policy regime as they relate to the draft. First, Walsh II was far more inclined than the Policy regime to take advantage of the draft. It's obviously up for debate whether this was borne out of free will (i.e., because he preferred the draft to free agency) or determinism (i.e., because he was handcuffed by the salary cap). Whatever the reason, it's clear that the context of the situation (i.e., needing to rebuild the roster from scratch) and Walsh's previous experience (i.e., rebuilding the roster through the draft during Walsh I) made the draft more likely than free agency as an organizational focus.

Second, Walsh II's approach to the draft was not bound by geographical proximity or bias toward "big time" college football. Perhaps this was due to previous experiences like the one that resulted in an unheralded, yet highly successful, G.O.A.T. from Mississippi Valley State University. Or perhaps Walsh's approach was based on his desire to always be one step ahead of the competition, even with respect to the mundane details of college scouting. In short, Walsh thought outside the box. When he arrived in 1979, he thought outside the box and revolutionized offensive football. In his second incarnation as 49er savior, he focused on the draft while most other GMs - including his predecessor - were smitten with the advent of free agency.

If I had to come up with one criticism of Walsh II's drafts, it's that - like me in my fantasy football drafts -he was almost too much in love with finding "diamonds in the rough." Even though it might be contrary to the previous paragraph, I think - like my affinity for young, backup RBs behind an old NFL starter (ala Chris Perry ca. 2005) - he might have gone overboard with his affinity for non-BCS players. Given his success with BCS picks, he might have had an even better draft record from 1999-2001 had he chosen a few more of them on Day 2. But, even here, the negatives of a poor success rate with Day 2 non-BCS picks are mitigated by the fact that they were taken on Day 2, because, generally speaking, fans remember the Druckenmillers and Stokes of 49er draft history (i.e., Day 1 carriages that turned into pumpkins) more than we remember the Tyrone Hopsons and Menson Holloways (i.e., Day 2 lumps of coal that never became diamonds).

The final distinction between Walsh II and the Policy regime is also related to draft days, and also plays a major role in how fans look back at their respective drafts. Namely, Walsh II used Day 1 on glaring positional needs (of which there were many), whereas the Policy regime did not. There's a longstanding debate about draft strategy that is basically framed as "need vs. best player available." Some have even entered a third dog into the fight named "best player available at a position of need." Really, though, if you're drafting for need, aren't you going to take the best player available at that position?  It kind of renders your draft board useless if not. Anyway, based on the long-term draft results of Walsh II and the Policy regime, I'm thinking that the evidence supports drafting for need. I'm going to get into this more with respect to the McNolan regime vis-à-vis DL Kentwan Balmer, but suffice it to say that Walsh's success on Day 1 of his drafts provides a pretty strong argument in favor of drafting for need, especially in the context of a talent-starved roster.

So, based on everything I've said in this article, here's the idiot's guide to Walsh II regime's draft strategy:

  1. Stockpile picks when your team sucks.
  2. Draft for need on Day 1, especially when your team sucks.
  3. This is the pros, not college. There's no need to dominate your neighborhood.
  4. Focus Day 2 on non-BCS players because even one diamond in the rough more than makes up for several lumps of coal.

That's it for now. Later today, I'll break down the vomit-inducing Donahue drafts (2002-2004). TO BE CONTINUED...

 

1 DVOA statistics used to produce this article were obtained from Football Outsiders.

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