NFL Draft Recap: NFC South


No division in the NFL made more of a splash in the draft than the NFC South. Each of the four teams making selections that may have a huge impact. Atlanta with a big move up in the 1st round, New Orleans trading for an additional first round pick, Tampa Bay taking a high risk/high reward pick and of course Carolina picking number one overall.

We start with Atlanta, the elite team in the NFC South. Feeling they are close to an NFC crown, the Falcons traded multiple picks to move up to number six and grab Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones will provide another big time target for quarterback Matt Ryan and might relieve the double teaming of Roddy White. Atlanta used its fifth round pick to select Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers was highly productive in college and will be a nice change of pace to bruiser Michael Turner. The Falcons addressed defense with a pair of local stars. Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent and South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews are both very capable of making the roster.

A year removed from a Super Bowl victory, the Saints were aggressive, trading multiple picks to acquire an additional first round selection. New Orleans first addressed defense with California defensive end Cameron Jordan. Jordan is stout against the run and may push for the starting job at left end. Four picks later, New Orleans took the best running back in the draft, Alabama’s Mark Ingram. Comparisons to Emmitt Smith are valid, Ingram is ideal for 1st and 2nd down between the tackles. If  Reggie Bush’s ego can be soothed, it might make for a lethal combination in the Saints backfield.

Carolina had the number one selection and to no surprise took Auburn  quarterback Cam Newton. Newton is a lightning rod for criticism, but arrives with off the chart combine measurables.  Newton’s Heisman Trophy was well deserved as his passing and rushing numbers are among the best in the history of the game. The Panthers added several late round selections which may surprise. In the 5th round, the Panthers picked Hawaii receiver Kealoha Pilares who is tough and reliable over the middle. In the seventh round, great value in Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba. Ziemba started for four seasons at left tackle, but projects at right tackle at this level.

Tampa Bay had defensive focus atop its draft board. Adrian Clayborn, the best of a great Iowa defensive line, was the Bucs first round  selection. He should start at end immediately. In the second, the Buccaneers took a gamble on Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Just a few months ago, Bowers was mentioned by some as a potential  first overall pick. A serious injury scared many, some even removing Bowers from their draft boards. A year ago Tampa hit the jackpot with defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. With 1st and 2nd round selections in successive years on the defensive line, the buccaneers feel they may now have the pass rush to excel in the Tampa Cover 2 defense. If Bowers is healthy, watch out! The Bucs addressed a need at tight end selecting Luke Stocker from Tennessee. Some have compared him to former Vol Jason Witten.

Tomorrow we look at the NFC West

Draft Impact- Julio Jones

When the Falcons took Julio Jones with the sixth pick of the 2011 NFL draft it changed the fantasy landscape dramatically.

Analysis: With Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez already on board it seems unlikely Jones can put up WR2 numbers or WR3 numbers for that matter. White was targeted a staggering 179 times last year and Gonzo 111 times. I don’t see Jones coming in as a rookie and taking away many targets from those studs but he should bump Michael Jenkins out of the number two receiving role by the start of the season. Jenkins is pretty much a 50 reception, 600 yard type of fantasy receiver and Jones will be able to put up slightly better numbers his rookie year while stretching the defense like Jenkins never could (career 12.7 yards/rec). Jones does have a history of getting banged up far too much for my liking but he has an even bigger reputation as a tough a guy. The impact Jones will have on Matt Ryan cannot be underestimated. He takes Ryan from a stream starter in the Eli, Flacco, Freeman tier to the tenth best fantasy quarterback. Jones isn’t magically going put up a 1,000 yard season and make Ryan a fantasy stud but he will contribute to the overall success of their squad.

Projection: While I’m still taking AJ Green every day of the week over Jones in dynasty/keeper leagues, Jones has the highest ceiling of any rookie wide out this year. Expect 55 receptions, 700 receiving yards and six touchdowns, not quite WR3 numbers. He’ll be long gone in the draft before you can get him at value this year.

NFL Draft: WR’s and TE’s


Need a wide receiver in a bad way? Your prayers have been answered! Only one problem, there are only two available.

Sure there are many more that will be selected, but Julio Jones and A.J. Green are far about the rest. How far you ask?  The Southeastern Conference dynamic duo are both deserving of top 10 selections in tomorrow’s opening round.  As for the others, there really is no telling how far into the draft before they are chosen.

Jones and Green were both elite high school prospects that excelled in the SEC. Both added to their aura with outstanding performances at the NFL combine. Most analysts have Green rated as the higher of the two, but Jones’ off the charts performance at the NFL combine leaves some doubt.

Both players statistics were tampered in the run happy SEC. Green brings more leaping ability and straight line speed, while Jones is as physical a wide receiver as I have seen. Either player can turn a position of weakness into an area of strength for any NFL club. Both have had off the field incidents and injury concerns, but not enough to affect draft position.

The next wide receiver off the board will likely be Maryland’s Torrey Smith. Smith. Smith has decent size, 6’1″ 204, but its his 4.4 speed that has dazzled scouts. Smith brings big play skills and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson is his only rival as a kick returner. St. Louis, Cincinnati and Baltimore have held private workouts for Smith, who figures to go late tomorrow night, or at top of second round on Friday. I feel he would be a perfect fit with the Ravens. Baltimore has aging receivers and lacked a big play threat on offense in 2010.

Jonathan Baldwin fits the prototype with measurables rivaling Green and Jones. Baldwin never took it to the next level of Pittsburgh, but that was more an indictment of the talent around him and the Panthers offense than his own shortcomings.  Baldwin turning in a sub 4.5 at the combine even with size approaching that of a tight end. Baldwin made an impact as a freshman, which drew the obvious comparisons to his predecessor Larry Fitzgerald. It wouldn’t surprise if he ends up the best of the 2011 receivers, when it’s all said and done.

If looking for a tight end in this draft, two catch my attention. Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudoph and Arkansas’ D.J.Williams appear very capable of performing in a big way at the next level. Rudolph is getting first round attention despite missing most of  the 2010 season with a serious hamstring injury. Rudolph is an every down tight end, while huge, 6’6″ 260 pounds, he also can move with a 4.8 forty. While Rudolph arrived in South Bend as a blue chipper, Williams climb has been a long one. After serious domestic problems at home, Williams and his mother randomly chose Fayetteville as his destination from his home state of Texas. DJ appears to be a perfect fit for those needing a combo athlete that can contribute at H-Back/Fullback and tight  end.

Tomorrow, FantasySP projects the first round with our very own NFL mock draft!