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A thorough assessment of a team’s draft can’t truly be reached for another three years or so. That said, with tighter rosters and larger rookie contracts, a successful draft must yield at least some immediate help. With that in mind, here’s a look at how NFC South teams fared over the weekend—both from a big-picture NFL standpoint as well as a fantasy perspective—taking into account how key needs were (or weren’t) addressed and the impact potential of the players acquired.
Atlanta focused heavily on the defensive side of the ball, bookending their draft with DTs Peria Jerry and Vance Walker; the former will start immediately, while the latter adds depth and upside. S William Moore could step directly into the SS role vacated by Lawyer Milloy, third-round CB Christopher Owens might crack the nickel and dime packages, and fourth-round DE Lawrence Sidbury has a chance to contribute right away as a situational pass-rusher. CB William Middleton and LB Spencer Adkins bring speed and athleticism to the Atlanta special teams. OT Garrett Reynolds is the lone torch-carrier for the offense; the 6-8, 309-pounder is a developmental project who could eventually man the line in front of Matt Ryan and Michael Turner.
Fantasy nugget: Ummm… hey, the Falcons traded a 2010 pick for Tony Gonzalez. Atlanta signed QB John Parker Wilson as an undrafted free agent; he could unseat Chris Redman or D.J. Shockley and bcome the Falcons’s developmental quarterback.
The Panthers turned their 2009 first-round pick into Jeff Otah last year, but with DE Everette Brown sliding down the board towards them and Julius Peppers’ situation anything but stable Carolina moved up to add another pass rusher. DT Corvey Irvin will help along the interior of a defensive line that is either giving Peppers help or preparing for life after he leaves. Second-round S/CB Sherrod Martin could play in the nickel right away, while seventh-round CB Captain Munnerlyn adds depth to the secondary. RB Mike Goodson and FB Tony Fiammetta were solid values in the fourth round but don’t necessarily address any immediate needs. OG Duke Robinson was a steal in the fifth round; he could be starting and opening holes for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart before the year is out.
Fantasy nugget: Goodson has speed and versatility; were he not on a team that already has two elite-level running backs he might make an intriguing fantasy sleeper. Fiammetta will battle Brad Hoover for the right to pave the way in front of Williams and Stewart and maybe vulture the occasional goal line carry.
New Orleans Saints
After turning their second- and third-round picks in this draft into Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma via trade, the Saints didn’t have much to do over the weekend. CB Malcolm Jenkins should see work in nickel and dime packages and may even supplant Darren Sharper at FS. On Day Two the Saints added a trio of special teams contributors: S Chip Vaughn, LB Stanley Arnoux, and P Thomas Morstead. They’ll be joined by undrafted free agent LB Jonathan Casillas, who could make the team at a position of need.
Fantasy nugget: The Saints not only didn’t select Beanie Wells, they completely ignored the running back position until signing undrafted free agents P.J. Hill and Herb Donaldson following the draft. View that as a vote of confidence in Pierre Thomas, who will handle Deuce McAllister’s share of the backfield workload with Reggie Bush—though newly signed fullback Heath Evans might steal a goal line look or three.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s hardly unusual for the new sheriff in town to want a new quarterback of his own choosing. Mix in the fact that Raheem Morris is familiar with Josh Freeman from their time together at Kansas State, that despite having a bunch of warm bodies the Bucs are hardly set at the position, and that Freeman has all the measurables you’d want in an NFL quarterback—and you had a perfect storm for Tampa Bay to trade up and snag its quarterback of the future. The Bucs used their next two picks, DT Roy Williams in the third round and DE Kyle Moore in the fourth, to address needs along the defensive line, and fifth-round OT Xavier Fulton gives Tampa another of the developmental linemen they’ve had success with. Seventh-rounders CB E.J. Biggers and WR Sammie Stroughter are developmental projects.
Fantasy nugget: It’s entirely possible Freeman isn’t just the quarterback of the future but also of the present. There’s no real financial commitment to Byron Leftwich, Luke McCown has never had a real opportunity to establish himself, and Josh Johnson is still in the infancy stages of his own development. Throw Freeman, who clearly has the backing of the new regime, into the mix and it’s anybody’s guess which one emerges with the most playing time this season.