My thoughts on whether to draft for need or best player available. I've posted variants of this in occasional threads but thought it could spur some discussion over here.
Let's assume you have a player evaluation system, taking all the factors into account including scheme fit. For the sake of simplicity, let's also assume you assign a numeric value to every prospect.
1. Draft the best player available.
2. It will not always be clear who is "best." This is true after the first few picks in the typical draft and becomes increasingly true as we progress through the draft along the talent bell curve. Particularly since the comparisons are apples and oranges -- not just different positions but different skillsets, different risk/reward tradeoffs, etc. It's hard to say an 81 is definitely better than the 79, so if the 79 fills a need and the 81 doesn't, it's fine to take the 79. You can almost certainly flip the rankings by tweaking an assumption or re-weighting your factors.
3. You can position yourself in the right place on the draft board. If the BPA does not fill a need, or if there are multiple arguable BPAs who fill a need, you have the chance to move back and acquire more draft capital. Having moved back, you can take the best of what's left at a later spot.
4. On the flipside of that, you can also be proactive. If you're not yet on the clock, the current BPA fills a need and you project that he won't be there when you draft, move up and get your guy.
5. But if efforts to move up or down fail, and it is in fact clear who is "best" but he doesn't fill a need... see rule #1. Take the best player and make him fit. Things change fast in the NFL; what might seem like a non-need today might be a huge need next year. Do not draft a clearly worse player over a clearly better player.