The Falcons got rid of Matt Schaub, even though he could turn out to be a solid QB. There was a small pro-Schaub movement in Atlanta for a while, but now there’s no debate about who should start. They also acquired WR Joe Horn, who hopefully, for Michael Vick’s sake, will get down field and provide a deep threat. Arkansas DE Jamaal Anderson will have to develop to be considered a dominant player. Getting Arkansas CB Chris Houston is a good move – he’ll help when teams look to 3 and 4-wide offenses against Atlanta, and he went to school with 1st round pick Anderson. That should help, right?
The Panthers drafted extremely well. Miami LB Jon Beason should grow up to be a beast, and they picked up USC WR Dwayne Jarrett, who’s long, even though he may not be as fast as some would like. It’ll certainly be a diverse receiving core – Steve Smith is 5’9”, and Jarrett’s 6’5”. USC center Ryan Kalil is a monster most teams probably wish was on their roster. After adding former #1 pick David Carr as a (temporary) backup, the Panthers should be a favorite to come out of the NFC.
New Orleans Saints
After a season for the ages, the Saints picked up a couple potential weapons that they might not need for a while, if they’re lucky. They’ll look to replace Joe Horn with Tennessee WR Robert Meachem, and even though they’re obviously set at RB with Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister, they also picked up Ohio State RB Antonio Pittman.
Tampa Bay Bucs
There was a buzz around Clemson DE Gaines Adams in the days leading up to the draft, and Tampa Bay didn’t want him to slip past their #4 pick. He’ll plug in along with Simeon Rice to provide him with some relief: teams may have been scheming extra-hard for Rice in the last few years, and he’s not getting any younger. Tampa Bay’s defense has always been their benchmark, and they’re hoping it happens again for them with Adams leading the way.
The Cardinals are another team that drafted exceptionally well. The upward swing started last year when they signed RB Edgerrin James and drafted USC QB Matt Leinart. They’re biggest problem was the O-line, so Penn State OT Levi Brown was a solid choice. Michigan DT Alan Branch will hopefully be a good NFL-caliber run stopper for them on defense. Delaware TE Ben Patrick shows some promise and may work out for the birds in the future.
St. Louis Rams
The most underrated prospect of the draft may have been Rutgers RB Brian Leonard, who selflessly moved from halfback to fullback to accommodate phenomenal RB Ray Rice last year. Leonard can catch the ball out of the backfield, block, and run through tackles, and he’ll compliment RB Steven Jackson well. Nebraska DE Adam Carriker is a solid addition to the Rams defensive line.
The Seahawks grabbed Maryland CB Josh Wilson, who’s on the short side and isn’t quite 200 lbs, something of a benchmark for NFL athletes. They also drafted two wideouts to help lesson the blow from losing WR Darrell Jackson: Oregon’s Jordan Kent, who’s nearly 6’5,” and Auburn’s Courtney Taylor. Both were late round picks, however, and aren’t likely to develop into game-changers.
San Francisco 49ers
The Niners made a serious playoff push last year on the back of RB Frank Gore, who has far-surpassed expectations in San Francisco. They look to Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis with the 11th pick in the draft, in the hopes that he can bring back memories of Charles Haley and Ken Norton, Jr. It’s always smart to build around top-notch lineman, and Central Michigan OT Joe Staley has the size and skill to be a starter in the NFL. Look for the 49ers to compete for a playoff spot next season.