It's inevitable, really. After months of discussing and analyzing and creating endless mock drafts, fans are looking back at their teams draft classes to do more discussing and analyzing. It's part of the fun of the NFL and most people realize that it is all just conjecture. Ultimately, these players have to take to the field to prove themselves. For every first round bust, there is an equivalent sixth round gem. It happens every year and it is often a thrill (or huge disappointment) to watch.
Yet, there's this one word that people throw around that drives me nuts: reach.
Why does it drive me nuts? Let me explain:
Football analysts' boards are never 100% accurate
I look at the same boards and participate in the same mocks every year, and if there's one thing that's clear, outside of some of the top picks, most of these "big boards" are just not accurate. Every year, some player "slides" in the draft inexplicably while another is "overdrafted." These terms are used because the NFL scouts - who spend their entire working career analyzing players - disagree with these internet analysts.
That's not to say that the scouts are always right, or that the analysts are always wrong. However, the analysts that do endless mocks do not know the specific nuances of what each and every team is looking for. They're making their best guess - and some do better than others - but once you get outside of the first round, the specific "grade" for every single player for every single team probably gets wildly subjective.
The draft doesn't happen in a vacuum
I've seen fans complain that the Falcons should have traded back in the first, acquired a few extra picks, and then draft Neal. I get it - I said the same thing. Here's the only problem: we're assuming that 1) a good trade was available and 2) that another team wasn't going to take our player in front of us.
Where Keanu Neal is concerned, I've seen some people use the word "reach" repeatedly with him. But in order to trade back, we have to find a partner. And that partner has to be willing to give us good value, especially if we're going to take a risk on not getting the player that we really want.
Here's the other thing: you can't anticipate what the teams behind you are thinking. There were strong indications that teams like the Jets, Steelers and Packers were all in the market for a safety. Since Joseph had just gone off the board, it was entirely possible that Neal would have been scooped up by one of those teams - or none of them. There's just no way to know. So the question is: is it worth it to "reach" on a player - one that you really want on your team - or is it worth the risk of trying to trade back and possibly missing out on that player?
The draft isn't just about the one team you're working with. It's about the other 31 and the needs that those teams have, and trying to figure out how they value these different players. That makes this process far more complicated and heady than any mock simulator could ever account for.
Team needs vs. hypotheticals
I've also seen people say that if we hadn't drafted Neal, he would have been there in the 2nd round for us to grab. Really? On what basis was that determination made, other than using the "fanspeak" mock simulator? Additionally, how would you feel about the draft if you found out that the coach wanted XYZ player badly, but we passed on him because he was going to be a slight reach (drafted mid-1st, with an end of 1st grade for example)?
I get that there are real instances where teams "reach" for a player, and certainly the Falcons have done it more than once (I'm still not sure Dezmen Southward is a real person). I just think this term gets thrown around way too often. Is it really a reach to grab a guy with a late-first/early-second grade in the mid-first? Is it really a reach to grab a guy in the mid-second that had a projection of going in the 2nd or 3rd? I understand wanting to get good value out of your picks, but maybe we're all just analyzing this a bit too much. The reality is the quality of each pick won't really be determined until these guys get a few years under their belt.
What are your thoughts on the word reach?