Value For Your Money

Every team claims they found it -- with these players NFL teams would

April 24, 2007

By Rob Rang

Special to from


Draft day boils down to a basic decision: should a team choose talent based on a specific area of need, or take the best available player regardless of position?


It's the rare perfect storm when a team is able to achieve both. But there is one constant goal for every team: Find value.


No team, regardless of need, wants to "reach" to take a player earlier than necessary. And successful drafts are often determined by unearthing hidden gems or picking up great value in a player who has slipped down the board.


Entire position groups are often undervalued based on the perception that prospects with similar talent can be found later in the draft. Historically, interior offensive linemen and inside linebackers have dropped on draft day. The recent success of receivers drafted on the second day or even signed as free agents could lead teams to undervalue receivers in future drafts.


The 2007 draft is particularly strong at wide receiver, defensive end, offensive guard and center. With teams able to fill needs in early rounds, talents usually deserving of a third- to fourth-round selection may fall a round or two.


Naturally, injury history, level of competition and character concerns will also all play a significant role in whether a player might rise or fall.


The 20 players most likely to drop enough the 2007 NFL Draft that they'll be considered a supreme value:


John Beck, QB, BYU: In a league where younger often is perceived as better, Beck, 26, could fall a bit. Teams instead should look at his age as a positive, as Beck enters the league with uncommon maturity and possesses the physical and mental skills necessary to develop into an NFL starter.


Josh Beekman, G/C, Boston College: If Beekman measured two inches taller, he'd be ranked among the elite guards in the draft. At only 6-foot-2, however, some teams want to pigeon-hole him at center though he can play all three interior line positions.


Justin Blalock, G/T, Texas: Like Beekman, height is the only thing keeping Blalock from being ranked considerably higher by NFL teams who won't make him a first-round pick. Starting a school-record 51 consecutive games, Blalock's lack of quickness in drills could force him inside to guard, which reduces his value on draft day. On the field, however, Blalock didn't allow a sack in 27 consecutive games to finish his career - the first 20 of which he played at right tackle.


Eric Frampton, SS, Washington State: At 5-foot-11, 204 pounds and running a 4.64-second 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, Frampton may lack the workout numbers of other safeties, but his play on the field should carry more weight with scouts. Not only did he earn all-conference honors and lead the team with 100 tackles and five interceptions, his biggest plays seemed to be reserved for the biggest games. Consider his career-high 16 tackles in Washington State's upset of then-No. 16 Oregon and his 43-yard interception for a touchdown against rival Washington.


Doug Free, OT, Northern Illinois: A stress fracture in Free's right foot hampered his play throughout the entire 2006 season, or he might be considered a possible late first-round prospect. Still, he was recognized for the second consecutive season as a first-team All-MAC selection and was graded at 91 percent for the regular season. Free appeared fully healthy at the East-West Shrine practices, where he impressed scouts with his explosiveness and agility.


David Harris, ILB, Michigan: Harris, perhaps not a household name like other Big Ten defenders, has a combination of size (6-foot-2, 243 pounds) and strength that make him one of the draft's better pure inside linebackers. Though the media likes to credit massive defensive tackle Alan Branch with Michigan's historic 43.38 rushing yards allowed per game (the lowest since Arizona in 1993), coaches speak of Harris' physicality and sure tackling. Harris' surprising speed at the Combine (4.59) opened some eyes to his underrated athleticism.


Daymeion Hughes, CB, California: After earning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors and taking the scouting world by storm at the Senior Bowl, Hughes' stock took a huge tumble with a 4.68-second 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. Should teams pay too much attention to his clocked time and not focus on his production, Hughes could haunt them later in his career. What he may lack in pure speed, Hughes seems to make up for as the most instinctive cornerback in the draft.  


Brandon Meriweather, FS, Miami (Fla.): Off-field concerns could push Meriweather out of the first round, but his play on the field is worthy of consideration in the top 20. Meriweather continues Miami's tradition of top-flight defensive backs. Despite a lack of prototype size, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Hurricane hits like a linebacker. His agility and pure speed has some teams rating him as a cornerback.


Zach Miller, TE, Arizona State: Though Miami's Greg Olsen gets the majority of the attention, a significant number of teams rank Miller as the draft's top tight end. While Miller doesn't have Olsen's speed, he is just as reliable as a receiver and is a more polished blocker.


Michael Okwo, ILB, Stanford: With Stanford winning only one game in 2006, it is easy to see why the Cardinal's talented linebacker could fall through the cracks. The 6-foot, 232-pounder has the combination of size, athleticism and instincts to surprise at the next level.


Sam Olajubutu, OLB, Arkansas: Defensive end Jamaal Anderson and cornerback Chris Houston will be selected in the first round, but if you ask the Arkansas coaches who their most effective defender was in 2006, the answer would be the 5-foot-9 237-pound Olajubutu. Though he lacks height, Olajubutu is a terrific defender, earning first-team All-SEC accolades in 2005 and 2006. If he had the height, he'd be a first-round pick. Some team willing to overlook the tape measure is going to get a terrific steal.


Mike Otto, OT, Purdue: Joe Thomas and Levi Brown earn all of the Big Ten recognition at left tackle. It's easy to understand how some look past Otto, who needs to add strength but has the combination of quick feet, long arms and good balance to be a solid pro at the next level. In 2001, another underrated, undersized left tackle from Purdue enjoyed a steady late rise up the board. Since being drafted in the second round, Matt Light has started 79 games and helped the New England Patriots win three Super Bowls.


Quinn Pitcock, DT, Ohio State: The lack of difference-making defensive tackles in the 2007 draft could force teams to take gambles on athletic projects who might - or might not - develop into regulars. The strategy doesn't bode particularly well for overachieving blue-collar types with limited upside. One such player is Pitcock, a physical run-stuffer in the middle who lacks the agility to consistently harass the quarterback.


Samson Satele, C/G, Hawai'i: Arguably the best blocker not being talked about in most corners, Satele started every game of his career for the Warriors, shifting between left tackle, left guard and center throughout his career. While he lacks the quickness and size to play outside, Satele is more than capable of handling all three interior positions. Over the past three seasons, Satele allowed only four total sacks, and none as a senior. Pro scouts compare Satele to former 49er great Jesse Sapolu.


Tim Shaw, OLB, Penn State: Though Paul Posluszny received all of the attention, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis summarized many scouts' view of Shaw with his declaration that the versatile defender was "the Lions' most important player." Having seen time at running back, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, defensive end and on special teams, Shaw was open to putting team needs ahead of his own. Without a clear-cut position, some miss the big picture with Shaw. Not everyone sees a flawed player -- there are those who believe he'll eventually prove to be a better pro player than Posluszny.


Steve Smith, WR, USC: While on the subject of underrated players capable of enjoying better pro careers than hyped teammates, in the eyes of many scouts Smith is a better NFL prospect than Dwayne Jarrett. Smith isn't as physically imposing as Jarrett, nor does he possess the game-breaking ability of Panthers All-Pro receiver Steve Smith, but the former Trojan does possess a classic combination of size, speed, hands and route-running.


Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State: Some believe JaMarcus Russell moved into consideration for the first overall pick with his performance in one game -- the Sugar Bowl victory over Notre Dame. As ridiculous as that claim seems, there is some validity to the theory that one game can define draft stock. The abysmal performance against Florida in the BCS title game dropped Smith out of the first day of the draft. Savvy scouts look at the development Smith made throughout his college career and acknowledge his strong arm and natural leadership skills. That camp views Smith as the legitimate NFL prospect he remains, despite one terrible game on the biggest stage of his college career.


Marcus Thomas, DT, Florida: We acknowledge Thomas is a character risk whether drafted in the first round or the seventh. Having failed two drug tests and being suspended from the team speaks to the risk, especially considering the NFL's enhanced focus on character. However, his ability cannot be overlooked. Take away the off-field red flags, and there might be considerable debate as to just who would be the first defensive tackle selected in 2007. Consider that Thomas recorded 26 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks in only five games last season and left Florida with 31 career starts.


Anthony Waters, ILB, Clemson: An All-ACC selection as a junior, Waters tore the ACL in his left knee in the first game last season, ending his senior campaign before it ever really began. Waters has diligently rehabbed the injury, however, and recently worked out for scouts, running a surprisingly fast 4.69 for the position. The injury will make him a late-round pick, where he offers great value.


LaMarr Woodley, DE, Michigan: A relentless pass rusher, Woodley is the first in Michigan's storied history to ever win both the Lombardi Award (nation's top defensive lineman) and Ted Hendricks Award (nation's top defensive end) in the same season. Shorter at 6-foot-2 than scouts would like, Woodley will almost certainly fall into the middle or late second round, where the 266-pounder eventually will be considered one of the true steals of the draft. There are flashier defensive ends available, but few provide the passion and consistency that Woodley did while at Michigan.