NFL Draft: Potentially great players at rock bottom prices

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Dec 29, 2012; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Rice Owls cornerback Phillip Gaines (15) celebrates making a tackle against Air Force Falcons wide receiver Ty MacArthur (27) in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Rice beat Air Force 33-14. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Stephon Tuitt, DE Notre Dame – Tuitt is an impressive athlete with 300lb size and potential.  Some still believe he could go in round 1 because of his upside as a 5-technique prospect who can also play inside.  He has not been a terribly physical player to this point, preferring to be more of a finesse player and working around blocks.  His pad level has been problematic.

Bargain: Will Clarke, DE West Virginia – Clarke has the same type of length and while he is not quite as big as Tuitt, he is still a large end who has spent much of his career at as an angled 5-tech.  He shows impressive explosion off of the edge and when he can get an angle on opponents, he can work his way around and use his long arms to sack the quarterback.

Kony Ealy, DE Missouri – Ealy has all of the length and measurables that teams love in an edge rusher that is still learning how to rush from the outside but really excels rushing inside.  He also has great speed and a nonstop motor.

Bargain: George Uko, DT USC – Uko has a similar build and also excels as an inside rusher, but he is still trying to really find a home.  He has experience at both end and tackle like Ealy does, but it is not clear where he will end up at the next level.  Uko needs to get stronger and add bulk, but he is a natural pass rusher who can beat opponents off of the snap.

Anthony Barr, DE/OLB UCLA – Barr is a supremely athlete who is still somewhat raw as he is still new to his position after initially going to UCLA so he could be a running back.

Bargain: Aaron Lynch, DE/OLB South Florida – Lynch might not quite be the same caliber of athlete that Barr is, but he is not far off either.  He has more length, a bigger frame and terrific upside.  After initially going to Notre Dame, he transferred closer to home and went from a big defensive end and tackle to a light, quick twitch outside rusher.  Like Barr, he is still learning, but the early returns are really impressive.

Dee Ford, DE/OLB Auburn – Ford had a terrific year on the stat sheet and was an impact rusher that was tailor made for the Auburn defensive scheme who carried that success over and dominated in pass protection drills at the Senior Bowl.

Bargain: Jonathan Newsome, DE/OLB Ball State – Newsome has similar athletic ability and been extremely productive playing in the MAC, but he also gave Morgan Moses fits when Ball State played Virginia.  He is a gifted speed rusher who does not give much to the running game yet, but he can also drop into coverage.

Aaron Donald, DT Pittsburgh – An impressive technician that knows how to use his hands, win with quickness and shows good functional strength allowing him to be a dominant player.

Bargain: Will Sutton, DT Arizona State – Sutton was one of the best players in the entire country as a junior and while ill-advised weight gain slowed him down, he was still a good player.  At a better weight, 295lbs now, he can back to being the penetrator that wreaked havoc against the run and the pass.

C.J. Mosley, ILB Alabama – Mosley is almost universally regarded as the top ‘pure’ linebacker in the class.  While he was the leader in the middle of the Tide’s 3-4 defense, he might actually be more suited to play in the 4-3 where he can take more advantage of his speed and range.  He is good against the run and has a lot to offer in coverage as well.

Bargain: Jordan Tripp, ILB Montana – In some ways, Tripp was the C.J. Mosley of D-II football.  Tripp has played a good amount of middle linebacker but they also moved him around, had him play outside to put him in position to make as many plays as possible.  Tripp has shown a lot of skill in coverage and just has to prove he can hold up on running downs.  Once he can, he could be a talented, full service linebacker.

Ryan Shazier, OLB Ohio State – A terrific athlete who can fly around the field, help in coverage and blitz off of the edge.  Shazier may be the premier ‘pure’ outside linebacker in this year’s class.

Bargain: Chris Kirksey, OLB Iowa – Kirksey is not quite the athlete that Shazier is, but he has been used in every way that Shazier has.  In certain respects, Kirksey may be more polished now than Shazer, but does not have the same level of upside.  Nevertheless, a team should be excited about bringing in a player like Kirksey to play weak side linebacker.

Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State – In the opinions of some analysts, Gilbert is the top corner in this year’s draft.  He has all of the measurables that a team would want and has shown a knack for making plays on the football with the ability to cause turnovers.  However, he lets a lot of opponents get far too much separation on him and struggles to recover.  He also has little to no interest in tackling anything, so he is a weak side corner in the NFL.

Bargain: Phillip Gaines, CB Rice – Much like Gilbert, Gaines has not shown any interest in hitting anything.  Gaines is not quite as big as Gilbert is, but as a pure cover corner, he seems to be better.  His style of coverage is also akin to the NFL rules in terms of being able to stay with his man without grabbing down the field.

Bradley Roby, CB Ohio State – Roby, to me, is the best corner in this year’s class in part because he is the best all-around player.  He has tremendous physical talents that allow him to excel in man or zone coverage, but he is also a willing and at times, an intimidating tackler who looks to make an impact against the running game.

Bargain: Bashaud Breeland, CB Clemson – Much like Roby, he is willing to do the dirty work and get involved with the running game, looking to set the tone.  He is a little rawer in terms of his development as a cover corner but he has good size and the skillset that suggests he can learn and contribute in man or zone.

Kyle Fuller, CB Virginia Tech – While injuries marred his senior year, Fuller has been a talented cover corner also willing to go up and play the run and tackle opponents.  He is a smart, technical player that has a good understanding of how to win matchups and beat opponents up at the same time.

Bargain: Marcus Williams, CB North Dakota State – Do not let the level of competition throw you with Williams.  He has the same type of length as Fuller that can play in man coverage and is willing to come up and fill against the run.

Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S Alabama – Second to none when it comes to range and giving the impression that the defense has extra players on the field because of how far he can make plays from, but his angles are the big area he needs to improve.

Bargain: Avery Patterson, S Oregon – Patterson is small by NFL standards, but he plays much bigger than that, not afraid to go up and deliver a hit.  A former corner, he has experience playing man in the slot, but also has a good feel for playing over the top and finds himself in position to make a lot of plays.