Many years ago I got hooked on the “Eat This Not That!” line of books. I loved exploring the different options and recommendations that I hadn’t considered before. Substituting greek yogurt for sour cream on a baked potato (skin on!) to enhance the nutritional impact is something I still practice to this day. Don’t like the vile, bitter blueberry? Make those pancakes with the sweeter, smoother-flavored starfruit instead.
Where the advice really hit home for me was in maximizing value. In food, it’s from a nutritional standpoint. In the NFL draft, it’s getting bang for your buck at a position where your roster is hungry. It’s really a form of draft analytics and application of position and value.
Need a playmaking WR? Draft Justin Jefferson instead of CeeDee Lamb
Lamb is an absolute whiz after the catch, no doubt about it. He’s the best WR in this class at transitioning instantly from receiver to runner. It’s why Lamb will be a first-round pick and perhaps the first WR drafted.
Don’t feel bad if your team misses out, however. Justin Jefferson offers roughly 98 percent of what Lamb does after the catch and should be available a round later. There are times when I would argue Jefferson is a better prospect overall, too.
Jefferson and Lamb both project best as slot receivers who can also play outside, preferably flanking a flexed TE. Lamb is a half-step quicker off the line, but Jefferson is more economical in his movement off the snap. He showed at LSU he has a bigger catch radius and is just as good against press coverage, something Lamb rarely saw in the wide-open expanses of the Big 12 in Lincoln Riley’s precision offense.
Jefferson is a little bigger and has a little more giddyup in “being chased” mode, and like Lamb he’s an alpha dog personality. He’s more experienced at running NFL routes against NFL-style defenses. Lamb’s ceiling is higher, but Jefferson is better than snow crab to Lamb’s Alaskan king. Most NFL fans--and teams--won’t be able to taste much of a difference.
Need a CB with stickiness in coverage? Draft Damon Arnette instead of C.J. Henderson
Henderson will be a top-20 draft pick, more than likely. His athletic profile and shutdown reputation from Florida have made that the expectation. Bypass that artificially sweetened calorie bomb and draft Damon Arnette some 50 picks later.
Arnette comes from Ohio State, where they know how to coach NFL-ready cornerbacks. He’s accustomed to being challenged, what with playing opposite top-10 pick Jeff Okudah and 2018 No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward (a Pro Bowler as a rookie) before Okudah.
Henderson is a much better athlete and plays with more swagger. There ends the list of attributes where Henderson bests Arnette. In terms of football IQ, reliability, ball skills, press technique and press-bail footwork, Arnette is every bit as good or better than Henderson.
Then there’s tackling. Arnette is arguably the best tackler of any CB in this class. Even Henderson’s biggest proponents will acknowledge his apathy towards even a token effort at trying to tackle. Don’t be surprised when Arnette is a good starter in 2021 and the team drafting Henderson in the teens is wondering why they wolfed down the deep-fried Twinkie in a time with a toilet paper shortage.
Need a big-play RB? Draft Darrynton Evans instead of D’Andre Swift
Georgia’s D’Andre Swift is the odds-on favorite to be the first RB selected, though I’m still sticking with my bet that none are taken in the first round. Regardless, Appalachian State's Darrynton Evans offers the same value to NFL teams that Swift does and will come 3-5 rounds later.
Both are outside-in backs who set up and react off blocks with good vision. Both have excellent balance through contact, a trait Evans excels at despite lacking the bulkier build Swift brings. Each of them can reliably catch the ball on swing passes, screens and checkdowns. Evans has better open-field speed and more shiftiness out in space. Swift is more decisive but not as elusive at that second level. Neither is someone who will make a living in short-yardage situations.
Basically, NFL teams are getting just about the same functional abilities for their offenses. Swift will come in the top 50. Evans is generally projected as a 5th or 6th rounder. The lettuce at Aldi is the same as the lettuce at Whole Foods, don’t pay the premium, folks...