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2011 NFL Draft Recap - NFC South
John Tuvey
May 17, 2011
 

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CAROLINA PANTHERS

NEEDS FILLED — New coach Ron Rivera used the first overall pick to put a face on his franchise and address the team’s quarterback need and lack of playmakers with the selection of Cam Newton. Carolina also beefed up the defensive line with bookend selections Terrell McClain and Sione Fua in the third round.

NEEDS IGNORED — Yes, the Panthers added Newton but with the potential departure of DeAngelo Williams via free agency—and Steve Smith cleaning out his locker—they’re still woefully thin at guys who scare a defense.

BEST PICK — Lawrence Wilson wasn’t just a solid value at the top of Round 6; he could also walk directly into a starting role as both players ahead of him on the current depth chart are potential free agents.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY — Taking McClain at the top of Round 3 cost Carolina a shot at receivers like Austin Pettis, Leonard Hankerson, Vincent Brown, and Jerrel Jernigan. That’s not as bad as leaving Edmond Gates, Greg Salas, Cecil Shorts, and Tandon Doss on the board in favor of Fua and Brandon Hogan with picks 3.33 and 4.1.

FANTASY RAMIFICATIONS — Newton enters the Panthers’ quarterback mix, and you have to expect he’ll be on the field sooner rather than later. His penchant for running at the stripe could cost Jonathan Stewart touchdown opportunities, and if his accuracy issues persist Steve Smith might just punch somebody. Again.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

NEEDS FILLED — Last year the Bucs rebuilt the interior of their defensive line; this time around they added a pair of pass rushers, Adrian Clayborn and DaQuan Bowers. Both have injury questions but also tremendous upside. Tampa Bay also picked up insurance for Kellen Winslow’s balky knees with tight ends Luke Stocker and Daniel Hardy and stocked the back end of their defense with linebacker Mason Foster, cornerback Anthony Gaitor, and safety Ahmad Black.

NEEDS IGNORED — The only two needs Tampa failed to significantly address were at guard—where they’ll likely re-sign Davin Joseph anyway—and running back, where they did take Allen Bradford at 6.22 but also hope to get Kareem Huggins back from his knee injury.

BEST PICK — Both Clayborn and Bowers could significantly outperform their draft positions if they’re able to stay healthy, but the real value pick may be Foster at 3.20; with Barrett Ruud possibly on his way out of Tampa via free agency, Foster may move immediately into the Bucs’ starting lineup.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY — Hard to find a spot where the Bucs didn’t get good value or address a need—or both. If you want to quibble, Tampa Bay could have dressed a potential need at cornerback (depending on what Ronde Barber has left in the tank and whether Aqib Talib can stay out trouble) with Jimmy Smith in Round 1, Brandon Harris in Round 2, or Davon House in Round 4

FANTASY RAMIFICATIONS — Stocker may see the field in two-tight end situations, and if Winslow’s knees don’t hold up he’ll fill a key role in the Tampa Bay offense. Bradford’s potential value is also tied to an injury; if Huggins isn’t ready to go as a change-of-pace alternative to LeGarrette Blount, the job could very well go to Bradford.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

NEEDS FILLED — The Saints beefed up their defensive line with the versatile Cameron Jordan, then traded back into the first round to snag Mark Ingram, who could take over the lead role in Sean Payton’s backfield by committee. As an added bonus, New Orleans picked up a nice value at linebacker in Martez Wilson at 3.8.

NEEDS IGNORED — New Orleans could have major issues at safety, with Darren Sharper a UFA and Roman Harper, Usama Young, and Chris Reis potential RFAs. However, they only drafted one defensive back over the weekend and Johnny Patrick projects better as an NFL cornerback.

BEST PICK — The Saints found extremely good value with their first three picks, but if defensive end Greg Romeus can get and stay healthy he should dramatically outperform his position as the 226th player taken in this draft.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY — This draft class was hardly loaded with talent at safety, particularly at strong safety. But in the 138 picks between the Saints’ selections of Patrick at 3.24 and Romeus at 7.23 they missed their shot at all six natural strong safeties in this draft as well as Robert Sands (5.3), who also projects better as a strong safety.

FANTASY RAMIFICATIONS — Ingram was the only offensive player in the Saints’ 2011 draft class, but the fact that New Orleans traded up to get him suggests he’ll elbow aside Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, and Chris Ivory for valuable touches in Sean Payton’s offense.

ATLANTA FALCONS

NEEDS FILLED — The biggest move of the 2011 Draft saw Atlanta trade five picks to the Browns to move into position to snare wide receiver Julio Jones. He should move immediately into the lineup to draw coverage away from Roddy White.

NEEDS IGNORED — Atlanta remains thin on pass rushers to complement John Abraham, unless seventh-round selection Cliff Matthews is a serious overachiever. And parting with their second and fourth-round picks meant the Falcons were unable to address the potential loss of three offensive linemen to free agency until their selection of Andrew Jackson in Round 7.

BEST PICK — It cost them—three picks this year plus next year’s first- and fourth-rounders—but the Falcons were able to get one of the two elite wideouts in this draft class.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY — Jackson was a solid value pick in Round 7, but both guards are free agents and he can’t fill two spots. In taking punter Matt Bosher at 6.27 the Falcons missed out on Keith Williams and Stephen Schilling, who could have teamed with Jackson to compensate for the possible losses of Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl.

FANTASY RAMIFICATIONS — If Jones has cured his problem with drops he’ll not only have fantasy value of his own as a cog in a talent-laden offense, he’ll also free up White from constant double coverage and give Matt Ryan another talented downfield target. Don’t overlook the potential contributions of fifth-round pick Jacquizz Rodgers, who could wind up with the change-of-pace role to Michael Turner if potential RFAs Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling both leave via free agency.

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