Grading the Division’s Drafts

The Falcons gave up a lot for Julio Jones.
The Falcons gave up a lot for Julio Jones. /
The Falcons gave up a lot for Julio Jones.
The Falcons gave up a lot for Julio Jones. /

We’ve spent plenty of time dissecting what the Buccaneers did in the NFL draft over the weekend and while we’re still not entirely done with the coverage, it’s also time to look around the rest of the division and take stock of what the competition was looking to do as well. The NFL is as much about what you’re doing to improve your own team as what you’re doing to compete with your division, and the Bucs division got considerably better in this year’s draft.

In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say the NFC South may be the NFL’s toughest division at this point, and if it’s not it’s top two. The Saints and Falcons were already playoff teams, in fact Super Bowl contenders. The Bucs finished last year 10-6 and just improved their biggest area of need and dramatically, and even the Panthers may not be in as bad of a position as it looks like. Let’s scout the NFC South:

Atlanta Falcons

Notable Players: Julio Jones, Akeem Dent, Jacquizz Rodgers

Grade: B, I give Thomas Dimitroff a ton of credit for making a bold move that he feels will help get the Falcons over the top. Atlanta traded a boat-load of picks to move up to 6th and get, in my opinion, the draft’s best receiver. Atlanta now has a mean tandem of receivers in Jones and Roddy White to compliment Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez, that offense is even more balanced and potent. The Falcons also picked up a solid linebacker and the very speedy Jacquizz Rodgers. They didn’t have a ton of needs entering the draft but still managed to get more dangerous. They do lose points for drafting a punter (Matt Bosher) in round six.

Carolina Panthers

Notable Players: Cam Newton, Terrell McLain

Grade: D, I hope Ron Rivera and crew have the utmost confidence in their scouting because going off of conventional grading and consensus their class was a bit ho-hum. Cam Newton may develop into an elite QB or he could bomb out, he’s a high-risk player at one. Terrell McLain is solid in the third but the team had no second round choice (traded to Patriots) and they reached on their compensatory third rounder in Sione Fua, a player CBS and ESPN both had rated the same as Atlanta’s punter (2.5/10). Carolina did find a little value in the later round but this was hardly the type of draft you like to see out of a team that is slated to pick first in each round. The Panthers may be picking up near there again next year if this draft doesn’t pan out better than it projects.

New Orleans Saints

Notable Players: Cameron Jordan, Mark Ingram, Martez Wilson

Grade: A, The Saints didn’t have many picks on day three, but did a great job the first two days. In the first round they picked up Cameron Jordan, the talented defensive end out of Cal (and a favorite of many Bucs fans before the draft). They also grabbed Mark Ingram who fell a bit further than I expected him to but should turn into a very talented back for a team that seems to need at least three of them every year. On day two the Saints grabbed Martez Wilson of Illinois in the third round (the best MLB in the draft) and then got good value in Louisville CB Johnny Patrick later in the round. Face it, the Saints were injured last season but otherwise still are a legitimate Super Bowl threat and they just added some very solid pieces to the puzzle.