OK, I'll take a stab, then I promise I'll finally shut up on the topic! Well, probably.
Real "value" takes it all into account:
- the player's skills and physical/mental attributes
- the rareness of those skills and attributes
- the player's readiness to perform in your system ("length to impact")
- the projected impact of the player on your team, given current and future roster makeup
(this includes but is not limited to "need")
- the point in the draft, including comparable players still available and salary considerations for the position
- other potential uses of your draft-pick currency, including trades for picks or players
I've bolded the 2 considerations I consider paramount, but really drafting for "value" means everything...and thus nothing. It just means you're not taking a knee-jerk approach in either direction. You won't lock in on a "need" position regardless of the talent available, AND you won't take a pure "best player available" approach that ignores the makeup of your existing team. Some folks like to claim the Pats do the latter, I don't see a shred of evidence for that. (Was Gostkowksi simply the "best player available" in the 4th round? Please.)
Here's the underappreciated key, IMO. Your draft philosophy is restricted by the way you've assembled your existing roster. If you allow yourself to enter the draft with gaping roster holes at specific positions, you have to tilt heavily toward immediate needs. The Patriots allow themselves a balanced, patient value approach by aggressively plugging holes with solid, mid-range pros before the draft
. Guys like Jabar Gaffney and Fernando Bryant are critical pieces in a successful draft strategy, which is, in the end, a team-building strategy.