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If the draft is all about value then the name of the game could be described as simply as getting the most talented prospects as late in the draft process as possible.

For any rhyme or reason draft prospects watch their stocks rise and fall constantly weeks, and even months, leading up to the draft. Despite new technological advancements used for analytical grading in combination with thousands of scouting man hours poured into each team’s final rankings every year, teams still find their success rate well below 50 percent in regards to finding starting caliber players.

The best value prospects typically share similar qualities while overcoming a recent injury or off-field incident to some degree. Join me as I break down a handful of my favorite “value prospects” that will be viewed as major steals where they are drafted in comparison to their raw on-field talent.

Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

When it comes to value, no player will give his new team more upside and talent in comparison to his draft slot than Simmons. This is in large part due to a recent ACL injury that will cause Simmons to slip well past the point his “top-10” talent would suggest.

Teams are doing their due diligence with the injury in hopes of determining just how quickly Simmons can come back and contribute. Getting a rare talent like Simmons for a fraction of the cost while he redshirts the 2019 season seems like the plan, but if he can see the playing field at all next season that will only strengthen the value of his eventual draft selection.

Simmons was downright unblockable and before his injury was regarded as one of the most dangerous defensive tackles in the entire country. Any team with multiple early selections has the luxury to steal this blue-chip talent far later than his game suggests.

I can’t see any team pulling the trigger on a non-contributor in Round 1 (besides the Patriots, duh). However, as soon as Day 2 begins a team like the Oakland Raiders with four picks in the top 35 makes a ton of sense as they continue to rebuild, putting no rush on Simmons to return to action.

Red Flags: ACL Tear (February), Assault Charge (High School)
Talent & Tape: Top-10 Prospect (2019 Class)
Draft Projection: Round 2, Picks 30-40

BEST FIT: With multiple second-round picks, teams like the Chiefs, Eagles and Patriots all make sense, filling an eventual need without mortgaging the future.

Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Think about this, after the 2017 season no player’s draft stock was higher than Love’s after rushing for 2,118 yards, winning the Doak Walker award (given to the best running back in the nation) and becoming the Heisman runner up, second to only Baker Mayfield.

However, Love struggled early on in 2018, failing to peak 100 yards more than once despite starting 10 games for the Cardinal. Even worse, Love tore his ACL on the final play of his collegiate career. Brutal.

Love not only has to battle back from season-ending injury, but in a watered down position and loaded group will find it difficult to leapfrog any of his injury-free peers. As Love now becomes an eventual Day 3 pick his draft stock turns into one of the best value plays when targeting a tailback in the later rounds. Not many running backs offer the home-run hitting ability, rare football I.Q. and collegiate resume quite like Love.

Red Flags: ACL Tear (December)
Talent & Tape: Top-3 RB (2019 Class), Top-40 Prospect
Draft Projection: Round Seven-UDFA

BEST FIT: Literally anyone

Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia

Not many offer you the power at the point of attack quite like this man. West Virginia offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste is a mammoth of a human and thrives on sheer power and brute strength, traits that will help him transition quickly into the NFL.

Like many with his size and stiffness, though, Cajuste has already seen his fair share of injuries that forced scouts and coaches alike to hesitate using their early draft pick on him. First-round picks are typically saved for as close to “sure things” as you can get, often pushing players with any red flags down to, say, Round 2, despite offering similar talent.

Cajuste tore his ACL in 2016 and most recently suffered a nasty quad injury which will keep him out a minimum of three months from surgery, which took place March 30. The fact teams have not been able to work Cajuste out during the pre-draft process because of this makes him an obvious candidate to slip further than his talent suggests. Teams will also take into account that his July return timetable will force him to miss the bulk of early rookie OTAs, starting his professional journey behind the eight-ball.

While he wasn’t a crystal clean prospect thanks to technique issues and lack of flexibility, Cajuste was always in my top-tier of offensive tackles despite injuries thanks to his NFL-ready length, strength and power.

Despite his red flags, in a league thirsty for better offensive line play I can’t see Cajuste falling past the third round. Given his late Round 1 value on paper, however, drafting Cajuste on Day 2 should offer great value for whichever team gets a bargain discount on a top player in an ultra-weak position.

Red Flags: ACL Tear (2016), Quad Injury (2018)
Talent & Tape: Top-5 OT Prospect (2019 Class)
Draft Projection: Day Two, Picks 40-80

BEST FIT: The Texans make so much sense at a position they are desperate for and could double dip early on. With two second-round picks, Cajuste should be a risk they are willing to take.

Hollywood Brown, WR, Oklahoma

If you overhear some draft “experts” talking about the most explosive prospects in the draft, and they fail to bring up Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, then they’re doing it wrong.

Brown is a player that changes the game when he’s on the field with Desean Jackson type speed and home-run hitting ability, forcing defenses to adjust their coverage just to try and keep him contained.

From Baker Mayfield to Kyler Murray, Brown helped aid his quarterbacks with speed that could kill on any area of the field, quickly developing into one of the most dangerous weapons in the country.

While he’s small and undersized, Brown’s game is largely dependent on winning against his defender with quick and shifty explosion both horizontally on crossing routes and deep down field vertically.

Between his production on tape and his game-changing speed, all 32 teams would be lucky to add this rare playmaker into their passing game, possessing speed comparable to Kansas City Chiefs superstar Tyreek Hill.  In a pass-happy league, Brown’s ability to be a mismatch weapon both on the outside boundary and inside slot increases his value as one of the best 15 players in the entire class. Yes, he’s that good.

Teams will be forced to knock him due to his undersized frame and an even more recent ankle injury that has kept him out of the majority of the pre-draft process. With so much of his game relying on speed, teams are worried as to how much this new ankle injury could and will affect his game in the NFL.

With a clean bill of health, Hollywood Brown would be a top-15 lock. However, being so undersized and having questions looming around his lack of strength and current bum ankle could push him down far later than his tape would suggest. Still wouldn’t be surprised to hear his name at the end of Round 1, where even then some front office might have just stolen a generational wide receiver.

Red Flags: Size, Durability, Lisfranc Injury (Ankle)
Talent & Tape: #1 WR (2019 Class), Top-15 Prospect
Draft Projection: Round Two (Picks 30-45)

BEST FIT: Colts, Raiders and 49ers at the top of the second round looks like a murderer’s row he won’t get past, but that’s only if he gets past the Packers at pick 30? 

Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida

Flip on the tape and holy smokes, this guy can fly off the edge and attack opposing offenses’ backfields in a flash. Polite was one of the country’s most electric pass rushers with his rare burst off the snap in combination with outstanding body flexibility, bending his way through the arc and to the quarterback.

Now, the bad news.  Many assumed Polite would show up to the combine and solidify himself as one of the best players in the draft class, but he did anything but, raising far more questions than answers.

Polite not only showed up overweight and looked sluggish during nearly every movement drill, but also apparently bombed his team interviews. From the Xs & Os to specific team questions, Polite was called out by multiple NFL personnel groups for being one of the worst interviewees.

Polite reportedly was highly unprepared for teams’ standard questioning and, even worse, admitted to multiple organizations he did not come to Indianapolis prepared both on and off the field.

Yikes. With so many assets available to college athletes helping prepare for the draft, Polite’s lack of care or passion for the process comes off as highly alarming and almost instantly took him out of first-round discussions.

Despite flunking out of the pre-draft process, Polite’s tape has some of the most potential to work with. In a loaded class of defensive lineman, though, Polite has gotten lost in the mix and is nearly a forgotten name on Day 2, just a few months after being projected in the first 12 picks.

Which team feels good enough they can maximize the playmaking skill-set he’s shown on tape while keeping him focused on the task at hand? Teams picking early on Day 2 match up well as it’s my prediction Polite lands in a similar sweet spot as last year’s stand out rusher Harold Landry, who went to the Tennessee Titans with the 41st pick.

Red Flags: Horrible Pre Draft Process/Interviews/Combine Testing
Talent & Tape: Top-20 Prospect, Top-5 EDGE Rusher (2019 Class)
Draft Projection: Round Two, Picks 35-55

BEST FIT: The Cincinnati Bengals are notorious for scooping high upside players with off-the-field question marks. However, I don’t think he gets past the Buccaneers at Pick 39, syncing up the local boy connection.

Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss

A former five-star recruit, Little has had loads of hype since coming out of high school possessing the long, strong arms and stout anchor teams drool over. Little followed in the footsteps of former top Ole Miss linemen like Laremy Tunsil, eventually becoming one of the bigger-named prospects at the position in the SEC.

Some things just can’t be taught, like length, extension and natural raw power. Little owns all three attributes in bulk and gives some lucky coaching staff the tools to work with and develop into an eventual bookend starting tackle in the NFL.

Where things start to get frustrating, however, is when you really start to break his game down snap-by-snap. Little’s effort and competitive toughness becomes highly inconsistent, never knowing what you’re about to get from him.

If you want to be taken seriously, these type of red flags are inexcusable, and it’s why Little’s name won’t even be thrown around in the top-round discussion.

Instead, his physical tools and pro-ready build will take a tumble on draft weekend, likely to the middle of Day 2 where his upside and potential outweigh the risks in a league needy for better offensive line play.

Red Flags: Effort/Passion for the Game
Talent & Tape: Top-40 Prospect,  Top-Tier OT Prospect (2019 Class)
Draft Projection: Round Three, Picks 75-100

BEST FIT: Watch the Steelers turn their third-round pick (66) from the Raiders for Antonio Brown into a new starting standout tackle. 

CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE
ZONE COVERAGE DRAFT GUIDE

TOP 40 PLAYERS
MINNESOTA VIKINGS NEEDS & TARGETS
POSITIONAL TOP 5 RANKINGS & VIDEO BREAKDOWNS
MINNESOTA VIKINGS DRAFT TRENDS
INMAN: NFC NORTH WORST CASE DRAFT SCENARIOS
SENIOR BOWL CENTRAL (PODCASTS, VIDEOS, ARTICLES)
INMAN’S MOCK DRAFT COLLECTION

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