Oakland Raiders Draft Review: Beauty in the Eyes of the Beholder

Matthew LaChiusaContributor IApril 28, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 29:  Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey #8 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates his touchdown catch in the second quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers in the Champs Sports Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl December 29, 2006 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Webster's Dictionary defines "reach" as a noun that is "the extent something can reach."

During the 2009 NFL Draft, the word "reach" was judiciously used to describe some picks, while the word "potential" was bestowed on other selections with prejudice.

Draft experts, such as Mel Kiper, Jr., Mike Mayock, or most of the assembled teams of draft analysts, would have us believing they clearly know the difference between a player who is a "reach" or has "potential."

When a team sets their mind upon a player they feel will fit the club's system best, there is rarely no hesitation in moving around the draft to obtain him. In some instances, a team may mortgage their future picks, a la Ricky Williams, to get this player.

The draft experts then gauge this move as either a reach or a great opportunity to grab a player with potential.

So what is the fine line between the two?

Stacks and stacks of data and scouting reports citing a player's athletic abilities, 40 speed, and off-field record?

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It comes down to players picked by teams beloved by the media and players selected by Al Davis.

The NY Jets jumped from the 17th pick to the fifth pick to obtain USC QB Mark Sanchez. It was a bold move for a player they coveted, and according to many draft experts, it was a great one.

A great move for a college prospect that has only played 16 collegiate games? This is where the lines between reach and potential get blurry.

The Denver Broncos sacrificed their first-round pick in the 2010 draft to obtain Wake Forest CB Alphonso Smith and got a player they rated as one of the best CBs in the draft.

Draft experts applauded this gutsy move and ordained the Broncos as being clever in manipulating the draft to get the guy they wanted.

An unproven commodity, and the Broncos are willing to throw away their 2010 pick to get this player?

The line gets blurrier.

Throughout the entire 2009 NFL Draft there are numerous examples of this dichotomy of reach or potential, but when it comes to the Oakland Raiders, draft experts did not hesitate in using the word reach to describe every pick or claim these same players could have been obtained in later rounds.  

I need help in connecting the dots here, folks. Are the draft experts blessed with the gift of prognostication in believing a coveted player would be there waiting for them in later rounds?

When reports of the Chicago Bears wanting to draft Ohio safety Mike Mitchell with the 49th selection surfaced, the label of reach was quickly shifted to potential based upon a good pro day and draft buzz, as provided by Mike Mayock.

Raider hater Mike Lombardi then issued a statement indicating that the Bears were interested in Mitchell, but "not until the third or fourth round."

So what we should determine, by guidance of draft experts, is that the Raiders "reached" when they got Mitchell in the second, but the Bears would have gotten a player with "potential" in the third (or fourth round).

Then there is the first round debate.

Maryland WR Darrius Heyward-Bey was projected to go in the late first round. Al Davis shocked everyone, with the exception of Mayock, by selecting Heyward-Bey. Shouts of "Reach" shook the rafters of Radio City as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the pick.

What is lost in this is the fact the NY Giants were looking to move up to either draft Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin or Heyward-Bey after the 49ers selected Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree.

Would the draft experts claim reach if the Raiders chose Maclin, the 49ers chose Crabtree, and the Giants moved to 14th and selected Heyward-Bey?

It would be determined to be another bold move by an organization to get a player they wanted with potential to be great in the NFL. All the low-light clips of Heyward-Bey, as seen on ESPN's NFL Live, would then be switched in favor of showing the talented kid from Maryland the Giants selected with the 14th pick.

Perhaps the Raiders could have traded down and gotten the players they felt fit their system best and have gotten better value and spend less for the pick. One could argue they did get the better value and will spend less for a pick with more character and less attitude than Crabtree.

Ultimately, NFL fans have to see through the media hype, the draft buzz generated by people who are trying to justify employment, and look at the NFL draft as being a way for their teams to add depth with college players who have the potential to play in the NFL.

Or take the Webster's dictionary use of the verb "reach" as being "To amount to: achieve" and apply it all the draft choices in the next three years.

Who needs Mel Kiper, Jr. and ESPN for that?