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Mailbag: Choosing value vs. need in NFL Draft

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Jonathyn in Virginia: Unless there is a projected Pro Bowl player/Hall of Famer on the board when a team drafts, wouldn't it make more sense to draft a DE, WR, CB, or OT in Rounds 1-2 every year? You can get a very good guard, a TE or LB and RB or safety, etc. for the price of one good WR, CB, OT or DE. Shouldn't a team build the most expensive positions thru the draft and the rest of the team through free agency, trade, and Rounds 3-7?

John Schmeelk: This is what we mostly see in the NFL Draft. There are often years where no tight ends, safeties, or running backs are taken in the first round or not until the latter stages of the round. Players at those positions can sneak into the top 10 when teams think they are special.

The trick is that there is no way to be "certain" about whether a player will be a Pro Bowler or Hall of Famer in the draft. A team can think they are getting the next Travis Kelce or Luke Kuechly, but they may not be. There's also no way to acquire players of that level at a later date since their original teams will not let them leave. There is great value in having a great middle linebacker or tight end, which is why it must remain an option in the first round of the draft.

Interior defensive linemen who can rush the passer are also acceptable picks in the first round. Look at the contract Chris Jones just signed. Players like that do not grow on trees and are hard to acquire if a team does not draft them. In the same way, high-level interior offensive linemen get paid a lot of money these days, too. Zack Martin and Quenton Nelson can't be acquired easily once they show how good they are.

If your point is not to draft average players at non-premium positions in the first round, I think you are largely correct since - as you pointed out - they can be acquired elsewhere at a lower cost. It's likely every NFL front office would agree.

In the end, the calculation is simple. If there is a debate between two players with similar grades at one of the premium positions and a non-premium position, take the player at the premium position. But if the choice is a player with a significantly better grade at middle linebacker, tight end, or even safety versus a good player at the premium position, take the elite player and trust your scouting staff.

Fitz in Connecticut: The Giants' main needs are an edge rusher and a big, fast wideout; the team is heading in the right direction in other areas. Once they sure up those two spots, they will be unstoppable. What you think?

John Schmeelk: Unstoppable is a strong word, but those are the two of the Giants' largest needs this off-season, whether in free agency or the draft. There should be more options at wide receivers via both avenues, while the supply of edge rushers should be more scarce. Adding a playmaker at wide receiver would help the offense create more big plays, while an improved pass rush will continue to complement an improving secondary.

The Giants hold the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. View photos of notable players selected in that spot.

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