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Reach/Value In The First Round Of The 2011 NFL Draft

Tyron Smith turns out to be good value for the Cowboys with the No. 9 pick.
Tyron Smith turns out to be good value for the Cowboys with the No. 9 pick.

Last year, when Roger Goodell announced that the Jacksonville Jaguars had picked Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick, a collective shout of "REACH!!!" swept the nation, including 99% of the Jaguars fans. Whether Aluala really is a reach remains to be seen, but that pick did remind me of another perceived reach at almost the exact same pick a couple of years earlier: when the Colts picked Dwight Freeney with the 11th pick in 2002, the same collective shout of "REACH!!!" erupted across the country. Nobody today is calling Freeney a reach.

Whether a given first round pick is a reach or a value pick often doesn't become clear until long after the draft, often years later. Earlier this week, the DMN released Rick Gosselin's much-anticipated list of the top 100 players in this year's draft, which is generally considered to be the closest thing to an NFL Big Board as there is.

After the break, we look at how teams performed in the first round relative to Gosselin's big board, which teams reached and which teams got value.

The table below looks at Value/Reach for each pick by comparing actual draft position ("Pick") with where the player was ranked on Gosselin's top 100 list ("Rank"). Where a player was drafted higher than where the player was ranked on Gosselins list, the Value/Reach number is negative and marked in red, indicating that the pick was a reach. Where a player was drafted lower than where he was ranked, the number is positive and marked in green, indicating that pick was a value pick.

Pick Team Player Rank Reach/
1 CAR Newton 6 -5
2 DEN Miller 2 0
3 BUF Dareus 4 -1
4 CIN AJ Green 1 +3
5 ARI Peterson 3 +2
6 ATL Jones 5 +1
7 SF Smith, A 14 -7
8 TEN Locker 23 -15
9 DAL Smith, T. 7 +2
10 JAC Gabbert 10 0
11 HOU Watt 11 0
Pick Team Player Rank Reach/
12 MIN Ponder 27 -15
13 DET Fairley 8 +5
14 STL Quinn 9 +5
15 MIA Pouncey 20 -5
16 WAS Kerrigan 17 -1
17 NE Solder 13 +4
18 SD Liguet 19 -1
19 NYG Amukamara 15 +4
20 TB Clayborn 29 -9
21 CLE Taylor 24 -3
22 IND Castonzo 16 +6
Pick Team Player Rank Reach/
23 PHI Watkins 28 -5
24 NO Jordan 12 +12
25 SEA Carpenter 41 -16
26 KC Baldwin 37 -11
27 BAL Smith, J 25 +2
28 NO Ingram 18 +10
29 CHI Carimi 21 +8
30 NYJ Wilkerson 33 -3
31 PIT Heyward 30 1
32 GB Sherrod 32 0

Some quick observations:

  • It's not a surprise that most QBs were a reach yesterday. Like most other observers, Don Banks comes to the same conclusion: "It's not breaking news to say the NFL is a quarterbacks league, but it's now true more than ever. Teams reached Thursday night for passers. I'm certain of that. We just don't know yet which ones, and how far their overextension entailed."
  • The Saints arguably made out like thieves yesterday, getting excellent value on both their picks. However, New Orleans paid a very high price in giving up its first-round pick in 2012 to get New England's No. 28 selection with which they selected RB Mark Ingram.
  • Outside of the QBs, the biggest headscratcher in the top 11 picks is the 49ers picking Aldon Smith. While reports had surfaced that the Cowboys also liked him, hardly anybody expected him to go this high. Least of all the 49ers fans, who voted Aldon Smith the most schocking pick behind Locker and Ponder. Already there is speculation that Smith was drafted by the 49ers for the Eagles in anticipation of a Kevin Kolb trade to San Francisco. Unlikely, but who knows?
  • Based on Gosselin's table, the Cowboys got good value out of their pick relative to the other top 11 teams.
  • The biggest early value are the Fairley and Quinn picks. Both had question marks that saw them dropping out of the top ten, but both could be huge picks for their teams if everything goes right.
  • Picks 25 and 26 proved to be the biggest head-turners in the draft. While Carpenter certainly fills a need for the Seahawks, hardly anybody had him rated as a first round pick, and the same can be said for Jon Baldwin, picked by the Chiefs at 26.
  • Look at the teams who are traditionally thought of as good drafters like the Colts, Patriots, Ravens and Steelers: they all have a green number behind their picks.

The Cowboys are on the clock tonight with the 40th pick. Here are the ten highest ranked players left on Gosselin's top 100 list, as well as the up-to-date projection for the top of the second round by Who's your pet cat for the 2nd round tonight?

Rick Gosselin
Rank Player Pos College
22 Da'Quan Bowers DE Clemson
26 Marvin Austin DT North Carolina
31 Aaron Williams CB Texas
34 Andy Dalton QB TCU
35 Marcus Cannon OG TCU
36 Ryan Williams RB Virginia Tech
38 Akeem Ayers OLB UCLA
39 Kyle Rudolph TE Notre Dame
40 Ryan Mallett QB Arkansas
42 Daniel Thomas RB Kansas State
Pick Player Pos College
33 Mikel LeShoure RB Illinois
34 Brandon Harris CB Florida
35 Da'Quan Bowers DE Clemson
36 Stephen Paea DT Oregon State
37 Brooks Reed OLB Arizona
38 Ryan Mallett QB Arkansas
39 Aaron Williams CB Texas
40 Christian Ballard DE Iowa
41 Andy Dalton QB TCU
42 Justin Houston OLB Georgia


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