Every team in the NFL takes a different approach to the draft process. Some teams adhere to the so-called "best available player" strategy, or BAP. Others declare themselves to draft on the basis of needs, such as the Atlanta Falcons. Still others use other obscure ways of picking their players. The Raiders for instance used to seemingly draft on the basis of pure athleticism, and the Lions under Matt Millen seemingly went for the most over-hyped available player. With the draft just days away, what is the best strategy?
The easiest answer to that question is there is no best strategy, but that seems like something of a cop-out. By that, I mean that most draft strategies can work if they're properly executed. If, however, the strategy isn't executed well, it will almost always fail.
The fact of the matter is that the NFL draft is often a crap shoot. There's no such thing as a "safe pick." The reality of dangerous picks, however, does exist. The Raiders and the Lions, until recently, made their draft day fortunes taking dangerous picks. The Lions simply picked bust after bust while the Raiders picked on the basis of athletic ability instead of football ability.
Of the two predominant draft strategies, BAP and needs based drafting, the needs based style is the safer route. By filling needs with the draft, areas of necessity will never go un-addressed. On the other hand, best available player drafting can often result in drafting a player that plays at a position of strength. Yes, that position will get stronger, but vulnerabilities are then left to be filled in free agency by stop-gap players.
In short, needs based drafting provides more flexibility in the draft process than BAP drafting, but they have both been successful for teams around the league. Ultimately, it comes down to individual teams' abilities to identify good football players. In other words, it's all about the finished product and not the process. Whatever gets you there is good enough, so long as you actually get there.