2012 NFL Draft: The Concept of 'Reaching' in the Draft Is a Myth
As we hurtle headlong towards April 26th, 27th and 28th and the NFL draft, everyone from the online media to television analysts to beat writers to fans are opining on who should or shouldn't be drafted by this team or that team.
We also debate who shouldn't get drafted by teams and who, no matter what happens, should never, ever end up picked before Round 7.
There's as much time spent on what shouldn't happen as what should.
It's fine; it's a part of the process that has become a huge deal which we enjoy endlessly all year round.
We'll keep it up post-draft by rating teams' efforts despite the fact that it will be years before we know who is and isn't truly good. That's another post entirely, though.
One thing you will hear over and over again from now until forever, because we second-guess all year long, is the concept of a team reaching.
"If the Browns draft Tannehill at No. 4, it's a huge reach."
"The Lions took Doug Martin in the first? REACH."
"The Dolphins selected Brandon Weeden in the second, and boy was that ever a reach."
I could go on. I guarantee you that somewhere there is someone saying that Griffin and Luck as the first and second picks are reaches.
That person would be nuts, but hey, different strokes.
I'm here to tell you, though, that there are no reaches in the NFL draft. That's a complete and total myth which gets perpetuated every year because teams do stuff that doesn't compute to you or me.
I'm not saying there's no such thing as a bad pick. They happen equally to the so-called reaches (Ted Ginn, Jr.) as they do to the no-brainer top-10 picks (Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell).
What I am saying is that calling a pick a reach is about your value chart, not a team's.
That's not to say your value chart isn't a good one, that your big board is worthless. It can help you get your opinions down and clear your head, it's a great discussion starter, and it gives you an idea of what could happen.
It's not usually a reflection of an actual team's big board, though. Try as you might, you can never fully understand exactly what teams thinks. You can guess; you can research like hell and still be wrong.
We keep telling the Bears they need offensive line help, and they keep ignoring us.
That's because their boards, their perceived needs, are different.
Someone said to me—I wish I could credit the source for sure, but I think it was Denver 102.3's Cecil Lammey or B/R & Footballguys writer Sigmund Bloom—that a team should go for the player who best fits what they feel they need and who is the best value on their board.
More simply put: If you want someone, get them.
There is no guarantee that a player a team loves will be there in the third, much less the fourth, if a team doesn't grab them in the second or first.
We all rolled our eyes (don't lie, you did) when the Jacksonville Jaguars picked Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick of the 2010 draft.
He's worked out pretty good though, huh? We all thought they could have easily waited, but the Jags were sure another team was interested. So rather than worry about what others thought, they went with a player they really wanted who fit a need for them and was high on their board.
A team drafts who they draft. Did it seem insane that the Raiders took Darrius Heyward-Bey instead of Michael Crabtree? Yes.
However, knowing what we knew about Al Davis and the Raiders at the time, should it shock us? And all things being equal, has Crabtree been THAT much better?
If Crabtree keeps being mediocre, does he become a reach? Or is Heyward-Bey less of a reach?
All seems very arbitrary, huh?
Another example was Miami's Ginn pick, which seemed awful at the time and still makes me shudder. He was high on the Dolphins' board, though, and they weren't getting him in the second.
It was a reach to us, but not to the Dolphins.
It didn't work out, but that's besides the point. Tons of early picks don't work out; tons of late picks do. Is Tom Brady an anti-reach? A reach-reverse?
Or is he a guy who panned out?
Mark Sanchez wasn't a reach in many people's eyes when the Jets moved up to select him. He's struggling now, so does he become a reach? Can you retroactively reach?
The Jets had him higher than anyone on their board. They made a move to acquire him because they were unsure he'd even make it to them in the first otherwise.
The Atlanta Falcons moved heaven and earth to get Julio Jones last year. What if he has a bad stretch and falls apart in a year or two? Is that a reach?
No, they aren't and neither was Ginn because—and this is the point of all this—there is no 'reach'. It's like The Matrix—it's an illusion.
A team gets the guy who is most important to them when they feel the value is best, and not you, me or anyone else truly knows what that value is. All we can do is take our own values and line them up as best we can with what we think are a team's needs.
A bad pick is a bad pick. A good pick is a good pick.
You can't tell which one is which for years afterwards, so even calling something a reach is just wasting words.
The only reaching at the NFL draft that you can be sure of is those of us in the media reaching for another bottle of water and bagel in the break room.
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