James’ Top Draft Bargains

I wouldn’t say that I am a skinflint, but I know a bargain when I see one, and I think I know where the line between a calculated risk and a stupid pick is. Yesterday and Thursday night we saw a few teams get absolute bargains in all 3 rounds. So below is a list of Picks by GM’s who blatantly pop in Lidl for a few bits on the quiet, and buy all their Biscuits in Poundland. Picks that, in my opinion, potentially could be the biggest steals of all…

Miami Dolphins pick Laremy Tunsil at 13.

Regardless of minor stuff that happened years ago. He is as good a Tackle prospect as we’ve seen in the last 10 years. Dominant versus all opposition, week in week out and the kind of polished sophisticated technique you don’t see a lot in college. I would be very surprised if Tunsil wasn’t a Pro-bowl player immediately, and for a long time to come. The balance of risk versus reward is too good to pass up and I am willing to bet that a few teams will rue the day they passed on him. A bona fide steal.

Jacksonville Jaguars pick Myles Jack at pick 38.

Nothing is certain about Myles’ long term future in the game. The only certainty is that by Week 1 of the NFL season it is likely he will be the same guy he was at UCLA. In that regard you end up with a top 10 calibre draft pick starting for you this season. Despite his long term future not being a certainty, his term career is certainly not the foregone conclusion that everyone thinks either.
But even if you get only 4-5 years of a productive dynamic explosive Myles Jack then the 38th pick is still a steal, he makes the Jags better immediately. And personally I hope he is hammering ball carriers in the AFC south for the next decade.

Dallas Cowboys pick Jaylon Smith.

The thing a lot of people are forgetting is that if healthy, Jaylon Smith would likely have been an early front-runner for a number one overall pick this year. People would have been trading picks for him, and the team that drafted him would have immediately enhanced their defence with a player who would have been ready to go in week 1.
Jerry Jones knows this and knows full well that Jaylon is a speedy versatile Line-backer perfectly suited to covering the modern TE and Slot receiver, whilst being strong and explosive enough to get involved rushing the passer and tracking in pursuit on run plays. A rare specimen that if 100% for next year, makes that line backing Corps a top 10 unit and upgrades his pass rush. Smith is a special talent who when healthy is the kind of player that controls whole games for you. Jerry got a bargain and he knows it.

Arizona Cardinals Pick Robert Nkemdiche, DT: Pick 29.

Nkemdiche could have gone to about 25 other teams at the same spot, and he would be considered a reach, but if you’re a stable well coached team. With a strong minded, players coach like Bruce Arians. Then he is a great pick. Certainly one of my top players on my board in the recent Gents mock draft.
Admittedly, he has made some dumb choices in college at some highly unfortunate times, but he appears to be facing the future with the kind of attitude you would want and though there is relatively little meaningful big time production yet, he is a player on the cusp of being very very special indeed.
In that context the potential for him to flourish could not be higher than in Arizona. If he lives up to his obvious potential then he makes the Defensive line into a unit that can create the kind of pressure they couldn’t last year. The kind of pressure that wins playoff games when your offense stalls….

New York Giants pick WR Sterling Shepard at pick 40.

Is this really great value? Picking a stereotypical slot guy at 40? Good question. My answer would be that if Slot receivers are often leading teams in receptions or yards and on average, catching as many passes as the league’s most productive tight ends then why shouldn’t such a good example of a player perfectly embodying the slot position be drafted in the first round? Let alone the second?. To my eyes Sterling Shepard is the perfect example of a truly versatile slot receiver. Shepard’s college career wasn’t spent exclusively playing in the slot. He has played wide on the outside also, he is a skilled blocker in the running game, but from the slot he appears to always be wide open, regardless of competition and always catching contested balls in traffic. Initially he appears to be an ideal slot receiver mostly due to his size ( 5’10, 195lbs) his small-ish frame belies good athletic qualities, elite hands and excellent route running. If people think his size, or lack thereof is any obstacle to him being a stud receiver then it’s worth noting that physically he is the same size and weight as Antonio Brown. Crucially, like Brown he played X , Y and slot in college so he is versatile enough to fill in anywhere. Personally I think Shepard is the best route runner in this draft and he is going to be very exciting in that Ben McAdoo offense.

Baltimore Ravens pick RB Kenneth Dixon at 134

Dixon is a tough dynamic player who possesses a lot of good NFL traits he is explosive, has quick feet and displays great burst through the hole. A workaholic back who is built to carry the ball and certainly, stylistically he possesses the traits you would expect in a potential NFL starter, with many of those traits are actually more polished than other backs you would see taken earlier. Perhaps the best part of his game is that he finishes runs in a way that NFL coaches salivate over. He is brutal and unforgiving when contact arrives, turning 0 yard gains into 2 yards and 3 yards into 5yards. At the next level that is what separates backs that succeed and backs that don’t. He is also probably the best pass catching back in the draft. In fact much of his game reminds me of a young Marshall Faulk. The reason Dixon is still there at the Back of round 4 is Two-fold. Louisiana Tech is a small lower division school, and Dixon has struggled in college with his consistency in pass protection and reading blitzes. However his ceiling is pretty high once he fixes this and though his physical style may shorten his career it certainly will benefit any team looking for a great value 3- down, stud runner in the making.

Cincinnati Bengals draft Andrew Billings at pick 122

Nose tackles are at a premium in the NFL. With the league having a resurgence in the popularity of the 3-4 defence, a league that for years was flooded with 4-3 tackles is suddenly all too keen to get their hands on a big presence that can occupy multiple blockers and wreak havoc by collapsing the pocket.
Billings is all that and can easily be more. A look at the tape shows his quick aggressive style creating chaos on passing downs, consistently getting penetration. He is a nightmare in the running game consistently collapsing holes and hitting ball carriers in the backfield and has surprising closing speed for such a massive guy. His main weakness is his lack of refined pass rush skills and a tendency to over pursue in the run game. But if you want a Nose Tackle who can drop into coverage or singlehandedly occupy a guard and center then Billings is a real diamond in the rough. The Bengals could have a very significant prospect that could be an anchor for that line for years to come.

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