Buccaneers

Draft Grades: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This was a potential franchise changing draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They made the wise decision to move back in the 1st round, which allowed them to acquire the picks necessary to move back up in the late 1st and come away with a huge haul on day one of the draft.

The Bucs passed up the opportunity to land Morris Claiborne, but still upgraded their secondary with the addition of Mark Barron. The Bucs should still be worried about their cornerbacks, but Barron will be a fun weapon for defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan to use. He’s a versatile player who can be effective when lining up all over the field.

Doug Martin was arguably the most underrated player in this draft class and the Bucs got an absolute steal in the late 1st round. He’s the next star undersized running back, following in the footsteps of Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew.

I wasn’t as high on Lavonte David as most, but he’s a perfect fit in Tampa. They’re one of the few teams that doesn’t mind using smaller, more athletic linebackers and David fits the mold perfectly. He’ll start at weak-side linebacker from day one.

Najee Goode will add some depth, and can play strong-side or inside linebacker, but he real value may be on special teams.

Keith Tandy adds some depth at cornerback, but I’m a little surprised they waited this long to address the position. They’re putting a lot of faith in Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib, and that’s a risky decision.

Michael Smith could prove to be a steal in the 7th round. I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith takes over the backup job from LeGarrette Blount before the season is over.

Drake Dunsmore can play tight end or fullback. He’ll have to battle for a job in training camp with a number of players at both positions.

The Bucs didn’t get much help on the third day of the draft and failed to upgrade their situation at cornerback, but that’s the only think holding them back from an A+. This was a phenomenal haul for a franchise that was in need of a boost. Considering the fact that the Falcons and Saints did very little to help themselves this offseason, the Bucs closed the gap in the NFC South in a big way.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Buccaneers, Draft Grades - 2012 1 Comment

Draft Grades: New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints had nothing to work with, but I’ll grade them strictly based on the picks which they did have to use. Unfortunately, the Saints took a bad situation and made it worse by consistently reaching and not coming away with any immediate help.

Akiem Hicks has the size to play the nose tackle role, which the Saints hoped Shaun Rogers could fill last year. However, Hicks is extremely raw and will likely only play a minor role in 2012.

Nick Toon had some value in the 4th round, but I don’t think he’s a great fit for the Saints. His lack of athleticism limits his upside and he’ll have to fight just to earn a spot as the 4th or 5th receiver in New Orleans.

Corey White is another developmental prospect who can play corner or safety. He’ll provide some much needed depth in the secondary.

Andrew Tiller and Marcel Jones may be handed backup jobs by default. The Saints are severely lacking depth on the offensive line, which should allow both prospects to make the final roster. However, neither has much upside and are unlikely to ever develop beyond the backup role.

Even taking the lack of picks into account, it’s tough to give the Saints high marks for this class. It’s unlikely that any of these selections will be playing a meaningful role in New Orleans three years from now and they offer almost no immediate value.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Saints Leave a comment

Draft Grades: Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers needed to upgrade the talent around Cam Newton, and while they didn’t immediately address their offensive needs, they ended up with a solid group which should help Newton develop in his sophomore season.

The selection of Luke Kuechly came as a surprised, but it was a welcomed one. Kuechly was the best player on the board and will immediately step into a starting role. He is expected to move into the middle linebacker position, with Jon Beason shifting to weak-side linebacker.

I was surprised by the selection of Amini Silatolu, and thought it was a reach, but I do understand their desire to address the interior offensive line. The main issue I have with the selection, however, is the fact that Cordy Glenn was still on the board.

Frank Alexander was a reach in the 4th round. He fits the mold of the type of well-rounded end the Panthers were looking for, but he has an uphill to earn playing time in Carolina. He’ll battle Thomas Keiser and Eric Norwood for playing time.

I love the selection of Joe Adams. At this stage of his career he’s nothing more than a vertical threat, but he’ll have the opportunity to work with Steve Smith in Carolina, one of the game’s elite undersized receivers.

Josh Norman could prove to be a steal in the 5th round, but does come with some character concerns. Having Norman and Brandon Hogan in the same secondary is scary thought. Clearly the Panthers are becoming one of the teams that isn’t concerned with character.

Selecting Brad Nortman in the 6th round was almost as bad as the Jaguars selection of Bryan Anger in the 3rd round. While Anger was a reach, at least he was the elite punter in this year’s class. Nortman was barely on the radar screen. There’s just no reason to waste a pick on a guy like Nortman. A handful of punters of his caliber can be found in the free agency process after each draft.

D.J. Campbell was a solid 7th-round pick. He’s best suited to play free safety, but will enhance his chances of making the final roster if he can demonstrate some versatility in training camp.

Overall, this wasn’t the most exciting draft class, but I like the Panthers approach – especially in the 1st round. Kuechly may not change the direction of this franchise on his own, when rebuilding teams can’t afford to pass up sure things in the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Panthers Leave a comment

Draft Grades: Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons had very little to work with as a result of their trade for Julio Jones in last year’s draft. As a result, I’ll evaluate this class based solely on the picks with which they had to work. That said, the Falcons did absolutely nothing to help them in 2012 and added very little by the way of developmental prospects.

Peter Konz was the best center in this year’s class by a wide margin, and he will eventually start for the Falcons. However, I was surprised that they failed to add an instant impact player. The Falcons made last year’s draft all about the present, so what changed about their draft philosophy in one year?

Lamar Holmes was a reach in the 3rd round. He’s a developmental prospect at right tackle and may eventually be shifted inside to guard. He may eventually compete for a starting job, but he likely won’t see the field much in 2012.

Bradie Ewing was the top fullback on my board and I gave him a 5th-round grade. But how does he fit in Atlanta? Ovie Mughelli is the starter and no one keeps two fullbacks these days. He may end up getting cut in training camp.

Jonathan Massaquoi was overrated by the media, likely due to the perception that Troy churns out sleeper prospects. He’s limited athletically, but does have some value in the 5th round. He’ll compete for a backup job at defensive end, but it’s a crowded position on the Falcons depth chart.

Charles Mitchell will compete for the backup strong safety job and should contribute on special teams. He has a good chance to survive the final roster cuts due the lack of depth at safety in Atlanta.

Travian Robertson is a physical lineman who could prove to be a steal if he can stay on the field. He’s suffered a long list of injuries, including two torn ACLs, which may limit his ability to every play a meaningful role in the NFL.

Even taking into account the Falcons limited picks, this was a disappointing draft class. None of their picks will play a significant role in 2012 unless forced into action due to injuries. And in terms of long-term value, only Peter Konz projects as a future starter.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Falcons Leave a comment

Draft Grades: Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans are stuck in limbo. They’re not in full rebuilding mode, but they aren’t legitimate contenders. As a result, they had a tough decision to make in this draft: address immediate holes, or draft for the future. Based on their early selections it seems as though they chose the latter, which was probably the right decision.

The Titans shocked a lot of people with the selection of Kendall Wright. Receiver was not viewed as an immediate need, but the Titans apparently viewed him as one of the best values on the board. Wright is a perfect compliment to Kenny Britt, and the Titans now have two legitimate weapons in place which will ease Jake Locker’s transition whenever he takes over for Matt Hasselbeck.

Zach Brown is an elite athlete who fell down draft boards due to a lack of production in 2011 at North Carolina. He’s undersized and not very physical, but the Titans defense is one of the few units that tends to favor athleticism over size and Brown should fit right in.

Mike Martin could be a steal in the 3rd round. He’s limited athletically, but is a tough, physical player who can anchor a defensive line. He’ll have to fight for playing time on the Titans crowded defensive line, but he’ll force the coaching staff to find a role for him as part of the rotation.

If the Titans were drafting purely for need, cornerback is an area that should have been addressed earlier. Coty Sensabaugh adds depth, but he doesn’t even begin to replace Courtland Finnegan.

I love the selection of Taylor Thompson in the 5th round. He played defensive end at SMU, so we have no idea what lies ahead for him as a tight end, but he has all the physical attributes necessary to play the position at an elite level. He’s obviously a project, but his upside makes him well worth a 5th round selection.

Markelle Martin should provide some much needed depth in the secondary. He’ll likely backup Michael Griffin at free safety and play on special teams.

Scott Solomon will compete for a backup job at defensive end. While the starters are locked in, there’s very little depth at the position which should allow him to earn a spot on the roster.

This was a solid draft haul for the Titans, but don’t expect it to allow much improvement on their 9-7 record in 2011. This class was about putting the pieces in place to ensure a smooth transition from Hasselbeck to Locker. With the added weapons and offense and the depth added on the defensive side of the ball, the Titans should be able to avoid the typical dip in production when ushering in a new franchise quarterback.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Titans Leave a comment