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When Need Matters

This FanPost by diehard82 inspires an interesting argument. When does need cut into a player's maximum value? diehard82 proposes Seattle take Malcolm Jenkins with the fourth overall pick. Jenkins is an excellent prospect. He has a broad base of skills and really no single weakness. He's produced for four seasons at a top program, starting three. He's impressively toolsy and deceptively young, turning 21 this last December. He has the size, build and man up strength to play in a Tampa 2, and the zone and run support skills to excel.

But there's a flaw in Seattle signing Jenkins.

Seattle ran its base 4-3 on 53.6% of all plays. It ran some kind of nickel on 22.7% of all plays. It ran some kind of dime on 20% of all plays. For the sake of ease, and to account for an upswing should Seattle win more next season, we'll slice that 50/25/25.

Here's what that means:

Seattle's starting cornerbacks played in 100% of all plays.

Seattle's nickelback played in 50% of all plays.

Seattle's dime back played in 25% of all plays.

If we were to create a simple system, not account for position scarcity or leverage, we could say a starting cornerback's max value is 100, nickel 50 and dime 25. If Seattle adds Jenkins and Jenkins starts, his potential value is 100, but Josh Wilson's ceiling drops to 50 and Kelly Jennings ceiling drops to 25. Let's say for the 2008 season, Marcus Trufant was worth 80, Wilson was worth 50 and Jennings was worth 10. Let's say, assuming each continues to start at their current position, Trufant's value is steady--he's worth 80. Let's say Wilson's value is as much as 80 and as low as 40 and Jennings value is as much 40 and as little as 20. Jennings replaced Wilson in nickel formations allowing Wilson to play nickel and Jennings to play right cornerback. In this capacity, he played pretty well. We'll be conservative with Hobbs, say he's worth 5 to 15.

So, Seattle's 2009 secondary is worth as much 215 and as little as 145. The low end is a virtual repeat of 2008. The average would be 180.

But what if Seattle drafts Malcolm Jenkins? Let's say Jenkins is sensational. He's straight out 60 to 80. Bear in mind, that means Jenkins could be in his rookie season as good as Trufant at his peak. It also assumes that Jenkins plays at least above average as a rookie. But Wilson is shoved down to nickel so his value is capped at 50. Let's say his value is 30 to 50, and that's aggressive, meaning Wilson would either be above average or the best nickelback imaginable. Finally, Jennings, assuming he even wins the spot over Hobbs, which I doubt he would, would be worth 5 to 15. Jennings is not designed to play dime.

Seattle's new 2009 secondary could be worth as much 225 and as little as 185. You're certainly reducing some risk. The average would be 200.

You can see that while you're removing some risk and slightly increasing the upside, the expected returns are not that great. Some of the improvement from Wilson to Jenkins is eaten up by Wilson's lost playing time, Jennings' lost playing time and Jennings moving to position he's not well suited for. These are theoretical units of value, but the logic holds. At some point, a player's individual value is eaten up by the team's lack of need for his talent.