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The NFL: Where 5th Round Picks Are Really Valuable

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I'm not an NFL draft junkie. There are too many players and too many rounds for me to actually be knowledgeable about 3rd round prospects or how a given defensive tackle is a poor fit in a 3-4 scheme because of his shuttle time at the combine.

That said I do enjoy watching the draft because of the twists and turns, baffling decisions (I'm looking at you Al Davis), numerous trades and the immediate reactions to all of this voiced by pundits, analysts, writers and fans over players many of them have only read about or watched 10 minute highlight clips of.

As great a spectacle as the draft has become, in the whole scheme of things draft picks tend to be overvalued in my estimation, specifically those later in the draft.

Now don't get me wrong, the draft is the best way to build a team, replenish talent, address needs and fill voids. I recognize that, but teams are so reluctant to trade mid-to-late round draft picks for proven NFL players which is unfathomable to me. It's even more incredulous when teams trade away solid, if disappointing players for low round draft picks.

What got me thinking about this was the Steelers' trade of Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets for a 5th round pick. I understand there are some mitigating circumstances in this situation with Holmes' questionable decision making off the field, but seriously, that's all they could get for him?

Let's give Pittsburgh the benefit of the doubt and say they felt they needed to make a move immediately to show their fans they weren't going to stand for players running wild off the field. I can respect that, but if you're the Chicago Bears and you're best receiving option is Devin Hester, how do you not trade for a guy of Holmes' quality when the Steelers are selling low on him and looking to move him ASAP? It's a risk, but when you're that desperate it's one well worth taking.

Holmes, 26, is looking at a four game suspension to start off the year, but still this is a guy that was the Super Bowl MVP a year ago. Last year Holmes played in all 16 games in which he had 79 receptions for 1,248 yards, averaging 15.7 yards per catch and along with 5 TD's.

Forget one season, how many fifth round picks ever have that kind of impact in their entire career?

Let's take a look at Holmes' Ohio State Buckeye teammate and more glaring disappointment, first round bust Ted Ginn Jr. It's undeniable that for all relative purposes Ginn was a failure in Miami after being drafted No.9 overall in the 2007 draft. He drops the ball way too much and can't really do much other than run deep routes as a receiver.

In 2008 he caught 56 passes to go with 6 drops. In 2009 he only caight 38 balls and had 10 drops. As a receiver, Ginn regressed in every aspect as his yards per catch also fell from 14.1 in 2008 to 11.9 last year. The guy has bad hands which shouldn't be much of a surprise considering he was recruited to Ohio State as a five star defensive back recruit before he was moved to the offensive side of the ball by Jim Tressel (go to hell sweater vest).

For all of his faults as a receiver, Ginn has elite speed and is dangerous in the return game. During a week 8 game against the Jets he had two kick returns of 100 and 101 yards for touchdowns that helped the Dolphins win a game in which they only gained 104 total yards on offense and were outgained by 274 yards.

You can say all you want, but if you have a guy that can take it to the house off a kickoff that's a valuable weapon. At the least he can provide your team with good starting field position, and can occasionally be the decisive factor in stealing a victory in a game you have no business winning.

Miami traded Ginn last week for a 5th round pick to the 49ers (let's not get into what kind of screwed up market marks Ginn as valuable as Holmes). This move was made soon after the Dolphins acquired Brandon Marshall (a trade in which the draft pick value matched the player's value) and made sense as Ginn had fallen behind both Davone Bess and Brian Hartline on the depth chart. I still find it ridiculous that Ginn's market value was a 5th rounder. He has flaws, but you can't teach speed and he's shown flashes of his ability.

With a 5th round pick more than not you're taking a flyer on a player based off flashes of potential as is. If that's the case, why not trade that pick for a 25 year-old player who you know can be a game-changer in the return game and could definitely be of value in the passing game with his ability to stretch the field from the slot position.

I know that teams find contributors late in the draft, but the percentages are certainly not in your favor. Proven NFL talent is a greater commodity than draft picks a belief that seemingly makes me part of the minority.

Obviously a player's salary and salary cap implications play a part in trades, but there's a problem when Randy Moss can be had for 4th round pick because teams are scared of rolling the dice on a dynamic playmaker that was clearly dogging it in Oakland for a dysfunctional team with no direction.

A proven NFL player should always be more valuable than a mid-to-late round draft pick for every team and is almost certainly more worth taking a risk on then some kid hoping to get drafted in the 4th round.