We need to have a very frank conversation about the NFL and the myth of the reach. This, if you cannot already guess, is the perpetuated myth that has long plagued the NFL that is if a person is taken above your personal rating of that player, then he is a reach. I have a problem with this idea and the stigma that comes with it. So a player goes earlier than the value we place on him, to a team who have fallen in love with him. Does this make him a reach? Not at all, we pick the player not the position.
We know that during the draft period the whole world analyses every prospect that could possibly be drafted, over and over again. The microscope is on, especially potential first round picks, and opinion is in a constant state of flux. The problem is, we all forget, each team is looking for players in a specific mould. Take for example the wide receivers in the NFL draft, each team will be ranking them based on their ability and based on need. A team who needs an outside receiver like Terrace Marshall Jr, will be ranking him higher, whereas a team looking for a player to play in the slot will have Rondale Moore atop their list.
As fans we fall into the trap of forgetting all this on draft night and assuming we know best, when actually teams have spent months watching every piece of film these players have ever produced in order to find the perfect player for what their organisation is trying to do. The point is there is no such thing as a reach.
Missing the Mark
Now, calling a player a reach, I do not believe is right, but missing on a player happens all the time. Problem is, if I miss on the 4th overall pick, more people see it as opposed to missing on a 7th rounder no one knows was taken. It is all based on how players are valued by the fans, if you are taken 1st overall or 32nd overall you are still the first round pick for that team, and if the team has 7 picks, you are one of 7 men meant to help that team win it all. The pressure on these players is already insurmountable before they are even given the tag of a reach.
Many players called a reach have been player who were excellent in college, but that did not always translate to the NFL. If a player is great at the level below where you are though, it is natural to believe that level will translate. Players like Tim Tebow, taken 25th overall were called a reach, however he was truly excellent in college. The pick overall can be called a miss, but when a team needs an exciting young Quarterback who is a proven winner, you can do a lot worse than pulling the trigger on Tebow.
Value at your position
Many players end up with the tag of being a reach based on their position, with the most routinely mocked position being Wide Receiver and Running back. This is because while teams need players to excel at these positions, most will have around 3-4 Running Backs and somewhere between 5-7 Wide Receivers. This means as a collective they can still produce without one person being the best at their position. Quarterbacks are routine picked ahead of where anybody predicts they should go and are not often labelled a reach.
Bryan Anger, drafted in the 3rd round and Roberto Aguayo, drafted in the 2nd were both seen as a reach when they were drafted. While neither have redefined their position like they were supposed to, coming out of college both were touted as incredible, so their picks makes sense. Sebastian Janikowski, however, is the poster child for being called a reach as he was taken 17th overall in the first round in 2000.
For context here, the Raiders went 8-8 the year they drafted him with their Kicker going 20/31, therefore Kicker was a huge need for them. At 6ft 1 and 260lbs, you could forgive the Raiders for drafting someone built like a Linebacker, but the man affectionately known as Sea Bass wasn’t called the Polish Cannon for nothing. Janikowski spent all but one year of his 18-year career with the Raiders making 80.4% of his kicks, his longest being 63 yards and is well within his right to be in the argument for best Kicker to ever play in the NFL.
In the first round that year, the 14 men ended up making the Pro Bowl during their career, Janikowski being one of them. Already that means he was less of a reach than 17 of the players based on his career Pro Bowl record. Janikowski was only ever called a reach due to the value that we put on the position each player plays, but I guarantee that he hit more winners than he missed.
Stop the Reach
Thing is, for the majority of us, we will need see the inside of a draft war room, we will never be privy to the quiet meetings and we will never lay our eyes on the big boards. Speculation is one of the best parts of the offseason and if anything, I want more every year. The one I do ask is that we stop calling players a reach, we embrace them for what they are, incredible athletes whose values is individual to the teams that pick them.
Calling a player a miss is fine, not everyone will have success at the highest level of the sport. When a team drafts a player because they see something no one else has, that does not make them a reach, it makes them perfect.
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