Saturday, May 5, 2012

Final Draft Grades: NFC South

New Orleans Saints For a team that didn't draft till the third round, what were they supposed to do? Giving up their 2012 1st round pick a season ago to the Patriots in order to get back into the 2011 1st round and take Alabama running back Mark Ingram, and then they lost their 2012 2nd round selection as a result of BountyGate. Enter Akiem Hicks, the underrated defensive tackle who was heavily recruited by LSU coming out of high school, and now the Saints first pick but not till the third round. Hicks is a mammoth with both speed and athleticism, and should give the Saints an added boost on their defensive line. Then the Saints grabbed well-known Wisconsin receiver, Nick Toon. Toon might give the Saints back, what they lost this offseason with the departure of Robert Meachem. However, all moves are put on hold till the Saints find a way to meet in the middle with All-World quarterback holdout, Drew Brees. For a team that had limited picks, and a messy offseason, their draft only added to the mess. Final Grade: D

Tampa Bay Buccaneers The Bucs first two picks Alabama safety Mark Barron (7th Overall), and Boise State running back Doug Martin (31st Overall), were essentially reaches at both points where they were picked. Tampa desperately needed safety help on their very thin secondary and once everyone and their mother got word that this was an equally thin draft on safeties, Mark Barron's stock soared. While Barron is hyped up to be an incredibly intelligent safety and plays extremely well sideline to sideline, he's going to have to be the next Ed Reed to justify the Bucs picking him as high as seventh. As for running back Doug Martin, consensus is that Martin was the second best available running back behind Alabama's Trent Richardson, at a position Tampa Bay really wanted to fill through the NFL Draft. Martin is absolutely a good running back to give the Bucs a different look in the backfield than just the lumbering LeGarette Blount, but 1st round? The Buccaneers are making a great effort adding some pieces on their offense, but the real contest will be seeing how they are able to work things out with a new coach on the sidelines. FInal Grade: B

Atlanta Falcons The Dirty Birds had two goals heading into the draft, protect Matt Ryan, and upgrade their rushing game behind Michael Turner. 2011 Draft selection Jacquizz Rodgers can't carry the the load as the second option to Turner, while he's a solid change of speed runner, the Falcons needed to get more help. Well, they hit on one of two of their major needs. Selecting 1st round talent, Wisconsin offensive lineman Peter Konz, in the second round and following that up with 3rd round selection, offensive tackle Lamar Holmes, the Falcons got deeper up front. Defensive free-agent additions of linebacker Lofa Tatupu, defensive back Asante Samuel, should help replace some of what the Falcons lost this off season. The bottom line when it comes to Atlanta is their plan to move to a mainly passing offense and use Michael Turner when needed, a plan which they started a season ago by selling away their 2011 draft in favor of getting game changing Alabama receiver Julio Jones. Final Grade: B-

Carolina Panthers I have a dog in this fight. Former Boston College linebacker turned NFL prospect Luke Kuechly was picked up in the early going of April's NFL Draft by Carolina. He's a motor linebacker who can play every down and has a particularly good nose for the football and where to be on the field. In a division with so much offense, Kuechly is going to be as important to the Panthers defensive side of the ball as the pick of Cameron Newton was last year to the offensive side of the ball. It's possible, (with bias of course) that in back-to-back years Carolina will have selected the top offensive player and then the top defensive player in each of the last two drafts. With veteran linebacker Jon Beason and the rookie Kuechly, the Panthers have massively upgraded their line backing corps. Then you got to give Carolina smart points for picking mammoth offensive guard Amini Silatolu, any time you can add protection for the face of the franchise Cam Newton, you have to go out and do it. Kudos to Carolina, loved their draft. Final Grade: A

. . . Next up; NFC East

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