Value draft picks make championship teams. Yes, hitting on a quarterback is currently more important than anything in the NFL, but hitting on a fifth-rounder is damn valuable, too. Both are exceptionally difficult to do for every team. However, every year prospects fall down the board due to injuries they're still nursing during the draft.
Let's pinpoint the five best prospects who'll likely be picked later than they should be because of an injury they recently suffered. These prospects have "value pick" written all over them.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Waddle has the finest traits of any wide receiver in the 2021 class. Yes, including his teammate and Heisman winner Devonta Smith and 2019 LSU legend Ja'Marr Chase. Waddle just moves differently. He's exceptionally sudden, when running his routes and after the catch, he plays much taller than his 5-foot-10 frame because of immense leaping ability and natural ball-tracking skills, and he has elite downfield speed.
In fact -- sneak peek -- I just finalized my wide receiver rankings in my grading system, and Waddle's No. 1. While Smith, Chase, and Waddle are all phenomenal high-pointers and excel with the ball in their hands, Waddle is faster than both and runs sharper more dynamic routes.
But, there's a decent chance he's the third receiver off the board because of the broken ankle he suffered in October on a kickoff return against Tennessee. We saw Waddle make a triumphant return to the Crimson Tide in the national title game, but he limped off the field after running out of bounds following a catch on a shallow cross. By the start of the regular season, Waddle should be back to 100%, and Waddle at 100% reminds me of Tyreek Hill. No exaggeration.
Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Cisco has been a stud since the moment he stepped foot on campus at Syracuse. As a freshman, he had seven interceptions and nine pass breakups to go along with 60 tackles. In 2019, Cisco registered five more picks with five pass breakups. Before tearing his ACL two games into 2020, Cisco had an interception of North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell and 11 total tackles.
Clearly, he's a ball-hawk type, but he's unique in that he's a rocked-up striker who spent time -- and made splash plays -- from in the box during his time with the Orange. Cisco is absolutely a first-round talent, with first-round production. Some team is going to get lucky and snagged him in the second round and profit.
Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
Dickerson is a tall, road-grading center with loads of experience in the SEC and the demeanor offensive line coach's dream about at night. As a pass protector, his athletic limitations -- mostly due to how tall he is -- appear, but he's always quick to find work when he doesn't have anyone to block, and he's very aware of blitzes and stunts. That's a vital attribute for a center.
Unfortunately, Dickerson suffered ligament damage to his knee in December and was unable to play down the stretch. The injury could drop him maybe, a half of a round on draft weekend. But this is an NFL-ready starter at the center spot.
Dayo Odeyingbo, EDGE, Vanderbilt
A tall and thick, long-limbed rusher with springy athleticism and serious pop in his hands, Odeyingbo has all the makings of not only being an early draft pick but one who can immediately excel at the NFL level and have a long pro career.
At Vanderbilt, after 12 tackles for loss in 2019, Odeyingbo had 5.5 sacks and eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage in eight contests in 2020. He locked himself onto the second day of the draft, and with a strong pro day workout, the first round wasn't out of the question. But in late January, he reportedly tore his Achilles in pre-draft training, a massive bummer.
He'll still get drafted, but hearing the Vanderbilt star's name in Round 5 or Round 6 wouldn't be a shock. If he can fully recover -- and Achilles injuries can be dicey -- Odeyingbo can be the steal of the draft.
Walker Little, OT, Stanford
Little was a five-star recruit for Stanford, but we haven't seen him since the first game of the 2019 season. He was injured in the fourth quarter of the Cardinal's game against Northwestern then opted out of the 2020 campaign.
At 6-7 and 309 pounds, Little has the length teams want in their tackles and is decently strong, although he'll want to gain weight as a pro to improve his pass-protection anchor. While certainly not stiff, Little got stretched to the limit athletically against the better competition he faced.
With more power to his game, Little can be mauling type at either tackle position and because we haven't seen him for so long, there's a good chance he's available on the third day of the draft.