(Obviously I'm using my own terms here. None of this vocab should be taken too seriously. Also, if you find all this draft nerd talk boring please ignore the following.)
There's the "reach": the guy that's taken ahead of his sensible draft value.
There's the "on target": the guy that's taken right around his sensible draft value.
There's the "steal": the guy that's taken behind his sensible draft value.
And all those are given grades on success rate. That is, how does their overall career performance compare to others at their draft number: Excelling, Above Average, Average, Below Average, and the Bust. Quite obviously, we can only ascertain an accurate grade after they retire, but we can "guess" as to how they'll end up. You end up with terminology like the “excelling steal” or the “busted reach”.
So the first term describes the relative career performance and the second term describes where he was drafted in comparison to where he should have been drafted.
So an “average on target” is a guy who had an average career compared to the other guys drafted around his draft number and was drafted around where he was expected to go.
Tommie Knight is a "busted reach". The guy had a bad career and was drafted way too early. Bryant Johnson is pretty close, although he's been around long enough to consider him a "below average reach".
Levi Brown was no doubt a reach. He should have been taken in the late 1st - early 2nd. But he isn't a bust. He's had to good of a career to be considered that. But since he hasn't come close to living up to his 5th overall selection he'd have to be an "average reach". I'd say Calvin Pace was about the same.
There are excelling reaches… I think. Maybe I should say “theoretically” there are excelling reaches, because I can’t think of any. I’m guessing Bruce Irvin might get close. He was selected far too early, but should end up being a good player. I guess you could argue “if he’s so good how could you select him too early?” I’d only respond that the Hawks could have gotten him in the 2nd and still landed a great player in the 1st. (That being said, they have a massive stud on their hands with Bobby Wagner drafted in that same 2nd round. So maybe they have some master plan that defies common logic and I’m just a fool. There’s a good chance of that.)
Bobbie Massie was a steal. Right now he should be considered an “excelling steal” since he’s starting as a 4th round pick. Dan Williams was a steal only because he was expected to go in the early 1st. Right now I’d consider him an “average steal”.
I'd argue that there are steals that don't pan out. I know that sounds odd, but it is possible to get tremendous value for the draft pick only to see the guy fizzle out. Going off my limited memory, Gabe Watson and Allan Branch are pretty close to that. They slipped in the draft and the Cards took them. However Gabe busted while Allan is probably below average.
I loved Andre Wadsworth coming out of college. Injuries destroyed him. But he went right where he was expected to go. He’d be a “busted on target”. Fitz is an example of an “excelling on target”.
Of course there’s always an argument as to where a guy should go. The question we all debate is “where would he have gone if we didn’t take him?” That’s the balancing game the GMs have to play. Good ones wait for the value to come to them, whereas poor ones panic and reach. Poor scouting and limited savvy juice are usually the cause for the latter.
I will say this. There is only one time that you should reach, but all the stars have to align. (in the negative). 1) No one will sensibly trade with you. And 2) you have the next group of players (the size of the group is determined by the amount of picks between this and your next one) on your Big Board as having less Impact value than the guy you want. If both of these are true then pick the guy you want. Yes, you might get him in the next round, but maybe you have another guy that you’ll pick there so if you want both of them, you have to reach. (ala Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner?).
Other than that reaching is never good. The Cards have traditionally found themselves in the reaching department. I’m hoping Keim & Co. have the intelligence and determination to fix that.