Saints, Raiders, others find good value with late draft picks

Oscar Wilde once said, "What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

This applies perfectly to the NFL draft. There's no need to be cynical when assessing how teams drafted. Some teams did great, some did decently and others need to be judged over time. No one be said to have done poorly yet; determining that takes more than 24 hours.

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However, I do know the value of finding championship-caliber starting players, and the 2012 NFL Draft was full of 'em. In trying to determine the best value picks, I have excluded the first round, because the price of picking there makes it impossible to get a bargain. There are no discount stores on Rodeo Drive.

So here are my top 12 value picks in the 2012 NFL Draft:

1. Jeff Allen, OT/OG, Kansas City (44th pick overall).The ex-Illinois grinder can play multiple positions along the offensive line. He is tough, smart and will be a starter soon.

2. Mike Adams, OT, Pittsburgh (56th). Besides Matt Kalil, Adams was the best left tackle prospect in the draft. The Ohio State Buckeye's off-field issues caused concern for many teams, but Pittsburgh seems to think it can work through these problems. And when the Steelers do, they will have a quality left tackle for an incredible value.

3. Demario Davis, LB, N.Y. Jets (77th). Out of Arkansas State, Davis is a fast linebacker with great rush ability who can play all three downs. He will bring much-needed speed to the Jets' slow linebacking corps.

4. Akiem Hicks, DE, New Orleans (89th). With their first pick in the draft, the Saints found a defensive lineman with great size and even greater upside, which is normally hard to do in the third round. The Canadian college star epitomizes great value.

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5. Omar Bolden, CB, Denver (101st). The Arizona State product would have been picked late in the first or early in the second round, had he not injured his knee last spring. Though it might take some time for him to get healthy, once he is, I fully expect him to regain his talent level and become a starter for the Broncos.

6. Frank Alexander, DE, Carolina (103rd). Alexander has great arm length and inside quickness, and he seems to have a knack for making plays. The ex-Sooner should be able to contribute to the Panthers defense right away.

7. Tank Carder, LB, Buffalo (147th). Carder, of TCU, is an instinctive three-down player who can become a starter for the Bills, giving them a linebacker with much-needed speed and athletic skills.

8. Jack Crawford, DE, Oakland (158th). Like the Saints, the Raiders did not have many picks, but they got a nice value by finding Crawford in the fifth round. The Penn State product is big, raw and willing to learn. In 2013, the Raiders could have a starting defensive lineman.

9. Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis (170th). Ballard is a productive back with burst acceleration and the ability to play on all three downs. The ex-Mississippi State star might not be the fastest back on the Colts' roster, but he will be the best very soon.

10. Billy Winn, DT, Cleveland (205th). Winn was a medical concern coming out of Boise State, which is why he slipped to the sixth round. But if his health checks out, he is capable of being a good rotational inside defensive lineman.

11. Caleb McSurdy, LB, Dallas (222nd). McSurdy might never start for Dallas, but he is capable of being a core special-teams member and playing a role in the Cowboys' sub defense. He is smart, tough and willing, which makes him a real value in the seventh round.

12. Cam Johnson, DE, San Francisco (237th). Johnson's great athletic skills often didn't translate into production. He will be playing for a competitive coach in Jim Harbaugh who is capable of finding a way to bring that skill level to the football field.

Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi

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