Sunday, April 22, 2012

6 comments Yes, But How Does a Team Know They Are Reaching?

Ashley Fox has written an article titled "Reaching in the draft is always a mistake." This is absolutely true. The problem that arrives in my mind is how a team knows they are reaching? I'm not sure that question gets answered sufficiently for my taste. It's almost like telling a starting pitcher to "just start throwing strikes" or a basketball player to "just hit your free throws." I'm sure they would if they could. A team wouldn't reach, but first they have to know they are reaching. I'm don't know if team realize they are reaching, instead they fall in love with a quarterback and make the decision to draft him because they need a quarterback. I also think Ashley Fox is confusing poor drafting with "reaching." She is telling the Browns and Dolphins not to reach for a quarterback in the draft, but I'm not sure Ryan Tannehill is a reach at #8 because other NFL teams are interested in drafting him in a spot close to that pick as well.

Teams reach. It happens every April. Whether motivated by desperation or fear or ego, some general manager or team president or coach is willing to draft a player too high to fill a pressing need.

Very true. Some team is going to reach for a quarterback this year in the NFL Draft. The problem is if a team like Jacksonville wants Blaine Gabbert, they are going to have to draft him before any other team can draft him. So if Gabbert was projected to go mid-first round, the Jags have to trade up to get Gabbert at the #10 spot. That's how it works. So Gabbert probably wasn't a reach last year at the #10 spot because other teams were interested in him at that spot as well. Mostly, a team reaches for a player because other teams like that same player and that team wants to make sure they are able to draft him. This happened to my favorite team when they traded up to get Armanti Edwards. I'm not sure they reached for him in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft, but other teams wanted him and Carolina wanted him, so they had to make a move to get him.

Whoever holds the power of making the ultimate personnel decisions for a team hopes a player can pan out rather than knowing that he will, because the need is so great.

It's human nature though. A team has a glaring need and the team wants to fill that need. To use a Bill Simmons-like metaphor, it's like being at an swiftly emptying bar at 1:30am. If you want accompaniment home from a male or female, you start seeing things you want to see in that person. It's either that or drunkenly watch "Anchorman" until 4am alone like you usually do. So General Managers see a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill, see he only has 19 starts under his belt (so he has the ability to improve!), see how good his arm is, how much he looks like a quarterback and all of a sudden if Miami wants him they have to take him at the #8 spot.

If the Dolphins were the only team interested in Tannehill at #8, then they would be reaching by drafting him there. But they aren't, so based on the overall opinion of NFL teams on Tannehill, I don't know if he is a reach at #8. That doesn't mean picking him is a smart pick though. If the Browns trade up to draft Brandon Weeden in the first round, then they could very well be reaching for him since I'm not sure he's projected to go that high.

Reaching is never a good idea.

But how do you stop it? A team needs a quarterback, likes a certain quarterback and draft him before another team can get him.

In this year's draft, the clear consensus is that there are two players who are legitimate NFL starting quarterbacks. Indianapolis is going to take Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick. Washington is going to take Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick.

Is this clear though? What if Robert Griffin becomes just a good quarterback, someone like Kyle Orton, David Garrard or Matt Cassell? Were the amount of picks the Redskins gave up for him worth this type of player? There are no sure things in the NFL Draft. Yes, Andrew Luck appears to be a Matt Ryan-type of player at worst, but you never know. Robert Griffin could bust or just be average and then the Redskins gave up way too much for him. I don't think we can say he is a legitimate NFL quarterback.

Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill might develop into a starter, with time and teaching. Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden might use his age to his advantage and become a starter, too.


Yes, but let's pretend I am the GM of Miami Dolphins. I want/need a quarterback, but I don't want to spend a 1st round pick on one. Will I be happy with Kirk Cousins, if I don't like Brandon Weeden? If not, and I like Tannehill, then I am going to need to make a move to get Tannehill. If I don't move to get Tannehill, I won't get a quarterback in the draft I like. Is it worse to draft a quarterback in the 2nd round you don't really like much, rather then take a chance on a quarterback you really like in the 1st round? So yes, "might" is the key word. But if Cleveland wants to get Tannehill with the 12th pick in the first round and they have the picks to make this move (which they very well could), then Miami has to "reach" for Tannehill to get him. That's how teams reach. Miami can't decide they want Tannehill in the 2nd round and that's the only place they'll draft him. He'll be gone by then.

There is no reason for Cleveland, holding the No. 4 overall pick, or Miami, holding the No. 8, to pick either one where they currently sit. None.

I do agree with Ashley Fox in principle on this. I don't like Tannehill, so I wouldn't draft him in these spots. If I am Miami and Cleveland and I feel the way I personally feel right now about Tannehill/Weeden, then I don't draft these two quarterbacks in the 1st round. I'm not Cleveland or Miami though. If they really truly like Tannehill and want to draft him, then they should make this pick. Otherwise, they'll miss on getting him.

It is the smart, prudent way to go, because the last thing either team needs is to pick Cade McNown or Joey Harrington or, gulp, Tim Couch in the first round.

This is revisionist history. Joey Harrington did rise after a good Combine, but he was projected to go in the Top 5. So Detroit wanted a quarterback and had to draft him at #3 in 2002. Take a look at several mock drafts that had Harrington going in the Top 5, even not going to Detroit. So it wasn't just Detroit that liked him.

Unless you are the Colts or Redskins, it is a bad time to need a bona fide starting quarterback.

So even if a front office likes Ryan Tannehill, don't bother drafting him. You are wrong. Ashley Fox says so. Apparently it's a fact.

Like I said, I agree with her on Tannehill. But we have to remember teams really genuinely like Tannehill. No matter if the Dolphins are talking themselves into drafting Tannehill or they are using Mike Sherman's (he is on the Dolphins staff now and was Tannehill's coach at Texas A&M) knowledge of Tannehill to their advantage, they may like him and want to draft him. That doesn't mean they are reaching for him.

It's not like the Browns didn't try to move up. They did. Washington offered more.

It's not like the Dolphins didn't try to land Manning. They did. He chose to go elsewhere.

But just because Cleveland couldn't move up doesn't mean it should try to overcompensate by drafting a quarterback now. It won't work. It will be a wasted pick.

The premise of these statements are based on Ashley Fox's opinion. That's my issue. She tells teams not to reach, but how is she to know these will be wasted picks? The Bengals last year could have thrown in the towel if they didn't get Locker, Newton, Ponder or Gabbert last year, but they took a 2nd round chance on Andy Dalton. It has paid off so far. So yes, I am against reaching, but there is a difference in reaching for a quarterback in an earlier round then that quarterback's talent deserves and drafting a player who doesn't pan out.

If you read the tea leaves, it seems pretty clear that Browns president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert, two smart football men who know how to evaluate talent, aren't convinced Colt McCoy is the answer. He would be a solid backup, yes, but he is not a starter with whom you can win.

I also believe this to be true. So what are the Browns to do? Not draft a QB this year? That may be the best course of action, but this means they will go another season without a quarterback.

McCoy another weapon and bide time until next year, when the draft and free agency will provide a few more options.

It's not like the Browns don't have other needs. They don't have a running back. The Browns, which led the league in drops last season, have no clear No. 1 receiver. They need a right tackle.

I think Ashley Fox is getting "reaching" and "making a bad pick" confused. The Browns would not be reaching to get Ryan Tannehill if they drafted him in the early 1st round because that's where he is projected to go. They very well could be making a bad pick though...but they aren't reaching.

Back in December, after he completed his collegiate career with just one full season as a starter, Tannehill was considered a second-round pick. He is still viewed as a raw talent who will benefit from at least a year on the sideline, but he has vaulted into the top 10 of just about every mock draft out there because Miami needs a quarterback.

No, he hasn't vaulted up that high because Miami needs a quarterback. He has vaulted that high because Seattle, Miami, and Kansas City (maybe) need a quarterback. If Miami was the only team that needed a quarterback then Tannehill probably wouldn't rise in any mock drafts because it often takes more than one team wanting a player to cause that player's stock to rise. If Miami is the only team in the 1st round who wanted Tannehill they could trade back back and get him, so his stock wouldn't be really rising.

If Tannehill is available at No. 8, will Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland take him, even if he knows it would be a reach?

But it wouldn't be a reach because another team (like Cleveland) would probably consider taking him there. I hope I am making this point clear enough. Tannehill isn't a reach at #8 because there are more than one team that would consider trading up for him. My dark horse for Tannehill is Arizona.

In the last 13 drafts, 37 quarterbacks have been picked in the first round. Not counting last year's rookie class, it is fair to say that half of them have had, or are having, so-so-to-unimpressive careers.

Let's take a peek at this. I will list the draft year, the quarterbacks that came out of the draft and whether they were worth the pick (by writing "yes") or not (by writing "no").

1999: Cade McNown (no), Donovan McNabb (yes), Daunte Culpepper (yes), Akili Smith (no), Tim Couch (no)

2000: Chad Pennington (yes)

2001: Mike Vick (yes)

2002: David Carr (no), Patrick Ramsey (no), Joey Harrington (no)

2003: Kyle Boller (no), Rex Grossman (, Byron Leftwich (yes), Carson Palmer (yes)

2004: Eli Manning (yes), Ben Roethlisberger (yes), Philip Rivers (yes), J.P. Losman (no)

2005: Alex Smith (yes), Aaron Rodgers (no...just wanted to see if you were paying attention...yes), Jason Campbell (yes)

2006: Vince Young (yes), Matt Leinart (no), Jay Cutler (yes)

2007: JaMarcus Russell (no), Brady Quinn (no)

2008: Matt Ryan (yes), Joe Flacco (yes)

2009: Matthew Stafford (yes), Josh Freeman (yes), Mark Sanchez (yes)

2010: Sam Bradford (so far), Tim Tebow (so far)

2011: Cam Newton (so far), Blaine Gabbert (not yet), Christian Ponder (so far), Jake Locker (too soon to tell)

So lately teams have had pretty good luck drafting quarterbacks high in the draft. I have 21 of out 33 quarterbacks who had a serviceable or very good NFL career (I'm not counting quarterbacks drafted in 2011. It's too early to tell). Granted some of these quarterbacks may not have lived up to their draft status, but that doesn't mean teams reached to draft these guys. Again, I think if other teams were interested in these quarterbacks at the spot where they were drafted, then the team that did draft the quarterback didn't reach. Did that team draft poorly? Possibly, but there is a difference in reaching and drafting poorly.

There is Joe Flacco, but there is also Kyle Boller.

Here is the issue I have though. Flacco rose quickly to the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He wasn't a guy who was considered a first-round lock back in February prior to the draft...much like Boller was. So there is a thin line between a player rising because he is talented and a player rising because teams are quarterback desperate. It turns out Flacco was talented, while Boller was probably drafted because the Ravens needed a quarterback and he seemed to have a great skill set. We don't know this until after the draft though. If NFL teams could tell that difference in them being desperate for a quarterback and a college quarterback who actually has a great skill set, then they would never draft a quarterback who fails in the NFL.

The process is hard enough. Reaching with a pick and hoping you are right only compounds the problem.

Again, how does a team know they are reaching? I am not privy to an NFL team's draft strategy, but I would doubt a team takes a quarterback in the first round they don't believe can succeed in the NFL. Yes, teams can talk themselves into a quarterback based on desperation, but I don't think a team is reaching for a quarterback if other teams are interested in that player around the spot where that quarterback ends up being drafted. You can't say any quarterback who was an NFL bust was a "reach." So basically Ashley Fox is telling NFL teams to draft successful quarterbacks. I'm pretty sure are trying to do that anyway.


Justin Zeth said...

Reaching (defined as 'drafting a player half a round higher than anyone else was going to') is almost unheard of these days. If a team knows it likes a particular player a lot more than any other team does, and knows he won't last a full round after they pick but will almost certainly last a half round, then that team almost always will trade down.

Tim Couch gets a very undeserved bad rap. He wasn't that terrible. His career was destroyed by injuries. The same thing might happen to, say, Sam Bradford. And actually Eli Manning's career stats before 2010 were a dead ringer for Tim Couch's. Just saying.

jacktotherack said...

I admit I'm a Rex Grossman apologist, but how in the world can you list Leftwitch, Campbell, and Vince Young as "yes" and have The Sex Cannon listed as a "ugh, no"? Grossman might be exceptionally erratic, but he has demonstrated he can play on a level at or better than any of those 3 on that list. He did start in a Super Bowl and he actually played exceptionally well for much of that 2006 season, much better than any of those other 3 QB's did at any point in their careers.

Viva El Cumslinger.

Bengoodfella said...

Justin, I think she gets reaching confused with making bad picks. I called Alualu a reach for Jacksonville a few years ago and then realized it probably wasn't so. I tend to agree with you teams don't reach as much anymore.

I think the worst part a/b Couch is he from all accounts seems to be a good guy. I'm not sure how much of a shot he had in his chance in the NFL. I looked their stats up and they weren't quite as different as you would think.

Jack, I'm sorry. I missed that one. I put "ugh" there because I didn't want to make it seem like he took a team to the Super Bowl, so that's why he was put there. It was a hard decision, as signified by the "ugh," but if we put the others there, I can see an argument for Grossman. It seems as if I have a bias FOR black quarterbacks. I'll have to see what is behind that.

I don't like backing down, but I can see you argument. I didn't want to base a team achievement for putting him as a "yes" on the list so I overcompensated.

Justin Zeth said...

Sexy Rexy is and always has been bad. Entertaining, but bad.

I don't think Rexstasy really counts as a bust; I think more QBs picked in the low first/high second round flame out (don't have any real success in the NFL) than most people realize. I haven't looked it up but I would bet heavily that if you ranked every quarterback draft between picks 20 and 45 in the past 15-20 years by career value, Grossman's in the top half.

He's exactly the kind of quarterback I'd want if my team sucks and I can't get a good quarterback, because he'll be entertaining and the team's going to lose a lot anyway. He's exactly the worst kind of quarterback for an otherwise good team, because he's good enough to start (i.e., is one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the NFL at any given time) but isn't good enough to win without a great team around him (i.e., is not one of the 20 best).

Justin Zeth said...

Addendum: Jason Campbell has been way better than Grossman. He has been a perfectly average NFL quarterback for years, right there with Kyle Orton and David Garrard.

Leftwich was pretty good but was never healthy (which means he pretty much exactly hit his rap coming out of college, which was "good, but fragile"). In fact he can't even stop sustaining season-ending injuries just as a backup with the Steelers. I don't really understand why the Steelers have kept Leftwich around; you'd think when Roethlisberger is your starter you'd at least want a durable backup as insurance against looking up 'McCown' in the phone book.

I will always be convinced that you can win the NFL with Vince Young if you dropped the "we don't run gimmicky college-style offenses in the NFL because we are REAL MEN and PROFESSIONALS here" bravado all NFL coaches have and designed an offense around the things he does well. RB Jets, he ain't.

And for the record, where dreamy-eyed scouts are looking at Bobby Griffith and seeing Cam Newton, when I look at him I see Vince Young.

Bengoodfella said...

Justin, I think Rex's reputation is a bit overblown. He seems to be one of those quarterbacks who can win a game for you and then lose a game for you. You seemed to describe Rex pretty well. I don't know if I would refer to him as a bust, but I am on the fence whether he was worth his draft status. He probably was.

I have a soft spot for Jason Campbell. I can't explain it. I am not under the impression he is an elite QB, but I always have felt like he deserved a better shot than he got.

Leftwich is pretty fragile. I don't get why the Steelers have him as a backup either. I thought Dixon was the 2nd string QB, but you know better than I do. Either way, you want someone more reliable than Leftwich as your backup.

With Young, you would have to design the offense around him. His throwing motion isn't the greatest, but a smart OC can win games with him.

Griffin is smaller than Newton. I think it is a bad comparison too. They are just different guys. One of the advantages of Griffin is his speed, but even Newton is going to have to stop running so much. He gets hit hard and gets back up now, but he needs to quit subjecting himself to those hits at some point. Compare him to Griffin who is 3 inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter. I hope for his sake Griffin will be better than Young.