Draft Grades  

 

Saints set up nicely after move back into first round


NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks is handing out grades for each team following the 2011 NFL Draft. Check back daily as he breaks down each team, division by division.

Falcons' draft picks
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
6
WR
Alabama
3
91
LB
Georgia
5
145
RB
Oregon State
6
192
K
Miami (Fla.)
7
210
OL
Fresno State
7
230
DL
South Carolina
» Falcons' pick-by-pick analysis

Atlanta Falcons: B

The Falcons gave up a king's ransom to have the right to select Julio Jones at No. 6, and he must become a star to justify the team's aggressiveness. The team surrendered five picks to Cleveland to get the Alabama star in a bold move orchestrated by general manager Thomas Dimitroff. The transaction will clearly define the draft, but the team also added Akeem Dent and Jacquizz Rodgers as potential playmakers. Regardless, the Jones pick will be interesting to see how it turns out in the end.

Key picks:

Round 1 (sixth overall): Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Jones gives the Falcons another big, physical receiver in the lineup with the ability to create explosive plays in a variety of ways. Though Roddy White still remains the team's No. 1 option, Jones becomes the dynamic complement that should push Atlanta's passing game to another level.

Round 3 (91st overall): Akeem Dent, LB, Georgia
Dent is a rugged defender with the instincts and awareness to quickly locate the ball. He should be an immediate contributor on special teams while vying for a role as a middle linebacker.

Round 5 (145th overall): Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
Though his size is a bit of a concern, Rodgers gives them an elusive third-down back with big-play ability.

Panthers' draft picks
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
1
QB
Auburn
3
65
DL
South Florida
3
97
DL
Stanford
4
98
DB
West Virginia
5
132
WR
Hawaii
6
166
LB
Connecticut
6
203
OL
Washington State
7
244
OL
Auburn
» Panthers' pick-by-pick analysis

Carolina Panthers: B-

Cam Newton will ultimately determine how this draft is viewed over the long haul. The No. 1 overall pick is considered a wild card at the position, but his potential is through the roof. If he lives up to his promise, the franchise will be set, but a disappointing progression would set the team back for years. Without a second-round pick, the team needed to strike gold in the third round and appeared to land some gems with the selections of Terrell McClain and Sione Fua. Brandon Hogan headlines the team's remaining picks, but the team added several intriguing developmental pieces to supplement the core talent on both sides of the ball.

Key picks:

Round 1 (first overall): Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
In a division with three legitimate quarterbacks, the Panthers had to select Newton to give them a chance to eventually become a serious player in the NFC South. Although he is far from polished as a quarterback, his pure talent and athleticism make him a worthwhile gamble as the top overall pick.

Round 3 (65th overall): Terrell McClain, DL, South Florida
McClain gives the Panthers a physical player at the point of attack and should energize the unit with his presence along the interior.

Round 3 (97th overall): Sione Fua, DL, Stanford
Fua gives Ron Rivera a stout player at the point of attack, and his ability to hold his ground will allow the team's linebackers to flow freely to the ball. The Panthers desperately needed to resolve the issue in the draft, and the addition of Fua should take care of one of their most pressing needs.

Saints' draft picks
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
24
DE
California
1
28
RB
Alabama
3
72
LB
Illinois
3
88
DB
Louisville
7
226
DL
Pittsburgh
7
243
LB
Illinois
» Saints' pick-by-pick analysis

New Orleans Saints: A

Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis cleverly manipulated the draft board to land a stellar class that is rich in talent, athleticism and versatility. Cam Jordan and Martez Wilson bring some sizzle to the defense, and the addition of Johnny Patrick in the third round is an underrated steal. Mark Ingram gives the team a rugged workhorse with the ability to anchor their ground game. The trade to get him could pay significant dividends when the Saints take a shot at the division crown this year.

Key picks:

Round 1 (24th overall): Cameron Jordan, DE, California
Jordan gives him a powerful edge player with the strength, quickness and athleticism to win with force or finesse. He could be an integral part of a subtle defensive makeover along the Saints' front line.

Round 1 (28th overall): Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Ingram gives them a physical runner with outstanding vision and toughness to direct between the tackles. While Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush could still be prominent factors in the Saints' ground attack, the addition of Ingram makes them a more physical and dynamic offense.

Round 3 (72nd overall): Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois
Wilson is a hybrid linebacker with experience on the inside and outside, and he brings rush skills to the table, as well. Although he surprisingly fell down the charts, he could outplay his draft status as a key contributor in the Saints' aggressive defense.

Buccaneers' draft picks
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
20
DE
Iowa
2
51
DE
Clemson
3
84
LB
Washington
4
104
TE
Tennessee
5
151
SS
Florida
6
187
RB
USC
7
222
DB
Florida International
7
238
TE
Idaho
» Buccaneers' pick-by-pick analysis

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+

Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris potentially made out like bandits with the depth and talent of their draft class. The duo nabbed a pair of first-round talents in Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers with their early selections. Though medical concerns surround both players, they give the Bucs long-term answers at the defensive end position. Luke Stocker and Ahmad Black were exceptional values at their selections, and they are probable contributors as first-year players. The Bucs won the "high-risk, high-reward" battle last season with Mike Williams, and they were more than willing to apply the tactic again this year.

Key picks:

Round 1 (20th overall): Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Clayborn is an athletic pass rusher with excellent first-step quickness and burst. Although his production dipped as a senior, he has the talent to become a double-digit sack artist as part of the Bucs' aggressive one-gap scheme.

Round 2 (51st overall): Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers has an outstanding combination of size, strength and athleticism for the position, and his rush skills will immediately upgrade the Bucs' pass rush. If his medical situation holds up, the biggest steal of the draft now resides in Tampa.

Round 4 (104th overall): Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
Stocker will play initially as a blocking tight end on the backside but could also give the team another big target to incorporate into the passing game.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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