I think there is a misunderstanding among some fans about the best player available philosophy because IMO no GM drafts strictly using this philosophy. Not even Ted Thompson. While I do believe Thompson adheres to his draft board more than nearly every other GM, it does not mean at every pick Thompson and his staff look at every player available at every pick in a vacuum. If any team did so, we would have seen evidence of it by now. For example we would have seen a team with desperate needs at one or several positions not address any of those needs. We would have seen a team draft multiple players at a single position at which they were already strong because at each pick a player playing that position edged out others playing other positions. And it’s just common sense that teams draft for the systems they utilize. So for example, it would make no sense for a team which runs the 4-3 defense to take the best OLB prospect in a 3-4 even though he “objectively” has the highest grade and is therefore the “BPA”. Another point is made in an article I link below: If a GM is purely adhering to BPA, why would he ever trade down? By doing so, he’s bypassing the BPA for inferior players. So if he’s not adhering purely or blindly to BPA how does Thompson conduct the draft? IMO it boils down to two departures from BPA. The first is how he and his staff construct their draft board, the listing of all the players available in the draft that they are willing to draft. First, of course they take into account the systems they run. Drafting players for the 4-3 defense makes absolutely no sense and drafting OLBs prospects in Capers’ defense makes all kinds of sense, so I’ll bet that is reflected in the draft ratings. That doesn’t mean a player ideally suited to the 4-3 doesn’t appear on their board, just that his rating isn’t as high as it would be for a 4-3 team. The other departure IMO explains why Thompson trades up and mostly down in drafts as much or more than other GMs. The concept is talent tiers in the draft. We frequently read before drafts where the drop off of talent occurs, particularly early in the draft. It may be the top 10, 12, 15 or even 20 players are viewed as being clearly better prospects than the rest of the draftees. I remember reading that Ron Wolf did a study of drafts (or had one done) that determined the average top talent tier in the draft ended at about pick 17. These perceived tiers go beyond just the top tier of talent and IMO the reason Thompson trades so frequently is because if he can stay in the same tier (as determined by him and his staff of course), he’s willing to trade down to acquire more picks. The “Jordy” trade down is an obvious example. I’ll bet they had Jordy and a couple of other players in the same tier and rather than just grab Jordy with pick #30 in the first round as the BPA, Thompson traded down and still got one of the players he would have picked at #30 with pick #36 and picked up an extra fourth rounder. And when a player is available from an “upper tier”, he grabs him. Aaron Rodgers is the most obvious example. I’ll bet a lot of teams, including the Packers, had him in the top talent tier of the 2005 draft and when Thompson had the chance to grab him at pick 24 instead of another player probably in the second tier, he didn’t hesitate to take him. I also think the trade up for Matthews occurred because Thompson saw a top tier talent fall into the second tier. And in that instance because Thompson had the extra ammunition (from the Favre trade) to do the trade up without eviscerating the rest of that draft. (I also think that draft of Raji and Matthews reinforces my point about the system affecting players’ rankings on the Packers’ board.) With regard to these tiers, I think Thompson attempts to maximize picks within them and that accounts particularly for his trading down so often. IMO the idea of talent tiers accounts for another aspect of drafting and that is a recognition that drafting is more an art than a science. By that I mean when GMs say, “best player available” that does not mean they plan to take a player with a rating 0.002 higher (for example) than the next player on their board even though the “best” (highest rated by a sliver) player plays a position that is low on the priority list of their team. The article I referenced above is LINKED here. The author advances the idea that what Thompson actually is doing during a draft is drafting the best value available, BVA not BPA. IMO the evidence supports that view. No matter whether you buy the argument made in that article or the argument I advance here, I believe we all agree Thompson is at the opposite end of purely drafting for need. And that’s not a good thing. That’s a great thing.