Cam Newton et al at the top of the 2011 NFL Draft received the bulk of the headlines. Assessing who made the best value picks, however, requires an altogether different calculus.
Presenting Homerism's five favorite bargains of the 2011 draft:
1. Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson - Buccaneers (2nd Round, 51st Overall)
Yeah, yeah, I know - Bowers' knee raised red flags from Atlanta to the Arena League. I don't care. The Clemson pass rusher is a top 5 talent. If you can get him outside the first 50 picks, that qualifies as a steal in my book. Throw in the Adrian Clayborn pick in the first round, and the Bucs could use Bowers more as a rotational guy than an every-down player should his health limit his snaps.
2. Aaron Williams, DB, Texas - Bills (2nd Round, 34th Overall)
I saw more of Williams the past couple years than I care to remember, and, frankly, I thought he was the second-best defensive back in the draft behind Patrick Peterson. He's fast, physical and strong in run support. Even if the Bills decide Williams isn't a lockdown cornerback and shift him to safety, he should play immediately for Buffalo.
3. Marcus Cannon, OL, TCU - Patriots (5th Round, 138th Overall)
Bill Belichick treats the draft like one of those shopping vacations the ladies love. The big difference is that New England's coach prefers to spend the long weekend hanging out at TJ Maxx digging through the bargain bins instead of browsing for designer digs. First, he snagged supposed character risk Ryan Mallett in the third round. The talented Cannon's recent cancer diagnosis obviously caused plenty of potential suitors to pass, but the Pats can know a deal when they see it.
(And, hey, maybe Darth Hoodie has a hear after all.)
4. Ahmad Black, S, Florida - Buccaneers (5th Round, 151st Overall)
5. Jeremy Beal, DE/LB, Oklahoma - Broncos (7th Round, 247th Overall)
Cue the homer chants. I get that Beal doesn't exactly fit into a specific position on the pro level, and his productivity fell this past season with all-world defensive tackle Gerald McCoy off to the NFL. Beal still managed to finish his career at Oklahoma as the Sooners' second-leading sacker ever, and he's relentless getting after the passer. That's worth a late-round flier.