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NFL evaluators pick the biggest draft steals in every round

The NFL draft transforms from a prime-time affair centered on the biggest talents into a blur of less-recognizable names floating across the screen without really registering. That's why it was so notable when evaluators working for different teams pointed to the same late-round players as the best values in the rounds they were taken.

It happened in the fifth round and again in the sixth when I asked four NFL personnel evaluators for their favorite steals in each of the seven rounds. Their round-by-round picks are below. Of course, variables beyond talent will determine the career trajectories for the 253 prospects drafted late last month. This is a fun, informative and inexact exercise.

"Let's pull this out over a beer in three years," one of the insiders said.


Round 1

O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (pick No. 19)

Seventeen teams combined to make 18 selections before Tampa Bay nabbed Howard, the versatile and dynamic tight end from Alabama. That came as a big surprise to those in the league who thought Howard should be a top-10 selection, including an offensive coordinator who thought Howard was the best offensive player in the draft, with no marks against him in terms of health or off-field issues.

Howard edges out the Redskins' Jonathan Allen and the Colts' Malik Hooker for best first-round value (he was chosen later than the others). However, five evaluators polled before the draft all had Allen going in the top 10, while two of the five had Howard going that early. One of the five had Allen as the No. 1 player on his board despite concerns about his shoulders.

"Hooker is one of the most talented safeties to come out in a while," one of the evaluators said.

Also receiving votes: Malik Hooker, S, Indianapolis Colts; Jonathan Allen, DL, Washington Redskins (pick No. 17); Taco Charlton, DE, Dallas Cowboys (No. 28)


Round 2