Needs Addressed: After adding a quarterback and a new face for the franchise, the Falcons traded back into the first round to add an offensive lineman to keep Matt Ryan from getting killed. Three linebackers and three defensive backs will help Mike Smith’s defense immensely. Many of the other needs (running back, tight end) were addressed via free agency.
Fantasy Impact: Ryan could very easily walk into Atlanta and unseat Chris Redman as the starter, though fantasy owners know not to expect too much from rookie quarterbacks. Third-round selection Harry Douglas will fight to get into the receiver mix, while running back Thomas Brown provides depth and little else. The Falcons’ final pick was a Zinger—literally: LSU tight end Keith Zinger.
Overall Grade: B+
Needs Addressed: John Fox loves the power running game, and his first two picks—hard-running Jonathan Stewart and road-grading right tackle Jeff Otah—fit that scheme to a T. Second-day picks Geoff Schwartz and Mackenzy Bernadeau add offensive line depth. It was a bit surprising the Panthers didn’t address their defensive line earlier or find an heir fr oft-injured Jake Delhomme. Linebacker Dan Connor in round three is a more than suitable replacement for Dan Morgan.
Fantasy Impact: Otah should make it easier for the Panthers to run, while Stewart should handle a significant portion of the running—much to the dismay of those who were banking on DeAngelo Williams having the gig to himself following the departure of DeShaun Foster. It’s not too difficult to see Fox favoring Stewart much like he did Stephen Davis back in the day.
Overall Grade: A-
New Orleans Saints
Needs Addressed: The Saints went heavy on defense this time around, adding two tackles—trading up to get Sedrick Ellis in round one, then adding DMario Pressley in round three—and cornerback Tracy Porter with their first three selections. They found value on day two in tackle Carl Nicks and wide receiver Adrian Arrington in rounds five and seven, respectively; they have plenty of talent but aren’t being relied upon to contribute. After flirting with the possibility of trading their second-round pick for Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, the Saints ended up not addressing the position at all.
Fantasy Impact: An improved New Orleans defense might actually be a detriment to the Saints’ fantasy prospects, as they may not have to score 40 points per game to win. Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff, the Saints’ sixth-round pick, could be this year’s Mason Crosby or Nick Folk.
Overall Grade: B
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Needs Addressed: The Bucs rung the bell with nearly every pick, grabbing value at each step along the way. Assuming Jon Gruden did his homework on Aqib Talib’s character concerns, he’s a great fit in Tampa Bay’s secondary. Dexter Jackson can return kicks while being groomed to replace Joey Galloway, Jeremy Zuttah is a versatile addition to the offensive line, and Josh Johnson is an athletic quarterback who would do well to study under Jeff Garcia. The Bucs even found value in seventh-round selection Cory Boyd, a pass-catching back with a fifth-round grade who provides a little more Cadillac Williams insurance.
Fantasy Impact: Jackson and Boyd could find ways to contribute as rookies, but they won’t be relied upon. However, both are intriguing developmental prospects; besides, at this time last year you hadn’t heard of Earnest Graham, either.
Overall Grade: A-
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