The myth of reaches and steals

Tyson AlualuWhen Tyson Alualu was drafted at 10th overall in the 2010 Draft anybody and everybody with a voice shouted from the rooftops that it was a reach. Mel Kiper gave the Jaguars a D in his draft grades, the lowest grade of 2010, because the Jaguars reached by half of a round to take Alualu. Chris Steuber of called the pick an “obvious panic move.”

A year later he hasn’t proven to be the best player out of the 2010 Draft, but most would argue that he lived up to the expectations of a rookie drafted in the top 10. For some that proved that Alualu wasn’t a reach and that he was a good decision by Gene Smith. For others, including Kiper, he is and will always be a reach even if he turns out to be a Hall of Famer.

Kiper argued that even if Alualu has a Hall of Fame career, the Jaguars still didn’t need to take him at the 10th pick and cost themselves value by doing so. To sum up his argument, even if you know a player that will be drafted in the 7th round is better every player in the 2nd round and in between, you don’t draft him in the 2nd round. You take the player as low as you can and maximize the value of your picks.

Unfortunately for Kiper there are some serious flaws in his logic. So much so that I don’t believe there is any such thing as a reach or a steal, at least there isn’t until the players see the field.

“Our intel says there were a lot of teams very close to us that would have selected him.”

That quote from Jaguars director of player personnel, Terry McDonough, tells me all I need to know about the selection of Alualu to know that it wasn’t a reach. General Manager of the 49ers, Trent Baalke, said that called the Jaguars to offer a trade but they were not interested. The only way the Jaguars would’ve turned down that opportunity is if McDonough was telling the truth and they believed Alualu would’ve been drafted 10th, 11th or 12th.

The teams in 11th and 12th were Miami and Denver, respectively. McDonough told Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union that both of those teams called to rave about the pick. Also the teams in 11th, 12th and 13th happened to all trade out of their selections following the Jaguars pick. Hmm…

So what’s more likely? Mel Kiper and the rest of the draftniks didn’t have an accurate assessment of where Tyson Alualu’s stock in the draft actually was or the Jaguars reached to take Alualu? I’m inclined to think the former.

Just take a look at some of the other pre-draft projections from 2010 and it’s obvious that these draftniks don’t always have a strong grasp of where prospects actually fit in the draft. Kiper had Jimmy Clausen ranked as his 4th best player and most believed he wouldn’t fall out of the top 10. Clausen was selected 48th overall by the Panthers.

Many felt that Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell was worthy of a 1st round selection or even a top 10 pick. even said that they would be shocked if Campbell wasn’t selected at 8th overall by the Raiders. Campbell was selected by the Raiders… 98 picks later in the 4th round.

Oops, I guess the projections weren’t exactly accurate for those guys. Why is it so impossible to believe that they weren’t accurate for players in the other direction like Alualu. If the Jaguars believed Alualu would’ve been drafted at 11th or 12th and took him at 10th that says to me that that’s exactly where his draft stock was.

So when the draft is all over in 10 days, you will likely be flooded by opinions of who found great value late in the draft and who reached for early for a player they could’ve waited for. But unless the writers of these articles have access to the actual draft boards in the war rooms of teams, which they don’t, they have no idea of what the actual value of these players is. The entire concept of labeling steals and reaches is flawed.