Bad Draft Strategies: Reaching

The month of April has finally arrived, which means there are only a few weeks until the NFL draft. Debates have raged for months about what the Chiefs should do with their first pick, so there's no better time than now to start analyzing the possibilities.

I'm not merely referring to the players the Chiefs will pick from. Teams have multiple options when they go on the clock, so there's plenty of suggestions about the specific strategy the Chiefs should employ once it's their turn.

But if you ask me, a lot of those suggestions have been – well, not so great.

With that in mind, each week leading up to the draft I'll attempt to tackle some of the widely-held opinions about what the Chiefs should do with the fifth selection. I'll try to explain the reasoning behind those opinions, and then tell you why going with any of those particular options would be a mistake.

We'll start off the series with an easy one - the absolute worst possible decision the Chiefs could make on draft day.

Bad Draft Strategy #1: Reaching

The idea of the Chiefs reaching with their first round pick has always been out there, lurking under the surface like a team-wrecking landmine. But it really started to take hold about a month and a half ago, when – for no discernable reason – nearly every mock draft in existence started to list Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady as KC's first-round pick.

The logic behind that selection is easy enough to follow. The Chiefs had a terrible offensive line last year and Michigan's Jake Long will probably be gone by the time Kansas City is on the clock. So with the team facing such a glaring need, why not grab Clady, who most consider to be the second best lineman in the draft?

Because it's short-sighted and foolish. It's one thing for national writers and draftniks to make that suggestion - most of them don't follow the Chiefs that closely. Saying, "Yeah, they'll reach for a lineman here," just simplifies the process of creating a mock draft.


Is Branden Albert really worth a top-five choice?
Michael Conroy - AP

What I found surprising was the number of Chiefs fans who agreed with it. A vocal minority has risen up on blogs and message boards recently, making it known that the Chiefs should take the best available lineman when they pick, regardless of who else is available.

Don't get me wrong, I want to see the offensive line improve, too. I beat the drum a few weeks ago that the Chiefs should have done more in free agency – actually, anything in free agency – to improve the unit. I felt there were available options who fit the spirit of KC's rebuilding plan.

But I can't really picture such a plan ignoring more talented players so the Chiefs can reach to fill a specific position. When a team is drafting, especially a rebuilding team, they have to look at the big picture. Just because a position isn't considered a need right now doesn't mean it'll still be that way in a season or two.

In a way, reaching on a draft pick is just another part of the "win now" philosophy. If a team reaches, they're sacrificing better players in order to add a lesser talent at a position of need. That might help in the short-term, but over the long haul a team is going to want those top-flight players.

And that, no doubt, is a major part of why some fans are endorsing this idea for the Chiefs. For some, the feeling is that if the Chiefs can just get a good offensive lineman or two, they can return to the playoffs in 2008.

Unfortunately, when a team is picking in the top five of the draft, it usually means they have more problems than any one player can solve. With the exception of running back, tight end, and punter, is there any position on the Chiefs' roster where one could honestly say, "No, they don't need any help there?"

The Chiefs finished 4-12. Almost any player they take should be able to fill a need at this point.

If anyone is in a position to reach, it's the New England Patriots, who ended up with the seventh overall pick because of a draft-day trade with San Francisco last year. The Patriots finished 18-1 and made the Super Bowl, so they're obviously a pretty complete team. They could conceivably use the good luck they had in that 49ers trade to reach and fill a need, even if that player isn't the best available on their draft board.

But you know what? I doubt they'd do it. The Patriots understand how to build a championship team, and it isn't accomplished by making that kind of move.

Clady is, at best, a borderline top 10 pick. Jeff Otah, another lineman draftniks have the Chiefs reaching for, will probably go in the middle of the first round, if then. The latest name on the list is Brandon Albert, a lineman from Virginia who was long considered to be a mid-round pick before his workouts suddenly saw him shoot up draft boards.

Reaching to take any of these players with the fifth pick would be an enormous mistake for the Chiefs. Not only would they be passing on some of the truly elite prospects in this draft class, they'd be getting no value from their pick. Any of those three linemen could be added just as easily by trading down and getting an extra draft pick or two in the process.

But trading down is different draft strategy altogether. That's next week's subject.

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