New Orleans Saints:
Well, apparently the Saints’ “lull them into a false sense of security” defense didn’t work, so chief luller CB Jason David needed to be shipped off to Never Never Land. And if you needed a replacement for David’s anti-skills, Malcom Jenkins fits perfectly. I’m a firm believer in the tall receiver movement. What goes less heralded is the fact that I’m an even firmer believer in the tall corner movement that will be happening any day now. Jenkins has the necessary speed and agility to hang with receivers, but most importantly he won’t get pushed around by large playmakers hoping to take advantage of mismatches (watch this next offensive season…JUST WATCH IT). All I’m saying is that when you’re 23rd at pass defense, a big CB is a great move. Additionally, watch P Thomas Morstead earn this team the extra 5-10 yards in field position that will make this offense suddenly potent again. People forget that this team has the offensive juice; it’s just a matter of having the proper positioning.
Wait, maybe this whole season was the “lull them into a false sense of security” plan, because that would explain this team hoping to turn the ship around with only one draft pick in the first three rounds. CB Malcom Jenkins is a stud, but S Chip Vaughn is nowhere near speedy or big enough to play center field in the NFL, and LB Stanley Arnoux plays the exact wrong position to try to get away with being unathletic. Additionally, considering that we should have already given up on Reggie Bush being a traditional RB (mark my words, the man will be an offensive FORCE without ever having a clear position) maybe a late round RB (CEDRIC PEERMAN…ugh, I’m going to get an ulcer from this dude being passed over…) would have fit the bill. The draft can’t solve everything, but history has shown that teams that ignore it (cough…Redskins…cough) often wish they had paid attention to it when they had the chance.
The delightfully reverse-named DT Peria Jerry gives this team some interior firepower on a DL that resurrected DE John Abraham’s career. If there’s one thing that the last couple of years have shown us, it’s that strength is good, but rarely the determining factor for a defensive lineman’s worth (Kris Jenkins and Haynesworth stand out as exceptions). Quickness, on the other hand, forces offensive linemen into mistakes and breaks plays down in the backfield. Jerry is that kind of DT, and with a little added mass, he could give an already athletic Falcons defense some much needed talent in the trenches. S William Moore brings the same athleticism to the defensive backfield as well, making for an all around successful draft.
Honestly, this was a solid draft, but one has to wonder whether size in the defensive front, the safe angle for draft picks, would have been wise for this team, which was surprisingly porous against the run (25th in the league). Considering the fact that LB Curtis Lofton is already a speedy threat in the middle of the field, a big body to clog up running lanes may have gone a long way toward fixing this team and putting them in a position to contend next year. Still, it’s a nitpicky opinion in a pretty good draft.
Make no mistake about it; this team was a legitimate contender for the championship last season despite the late meltdown. With that in mind, this draft needed to be about highlighting the talent that this team already has, and DE Everette Brown, who inexplicably slipped to the second round, does just that. Think Julius Peppers, for all his whining, won’t love having an athlete of Brown’s caliber forcing blocking schemes to account for him? The same can be said for DT Corvey Irvin, who will bring the same athletic talent to the middle of the line. For this team to get deep into the playoffs, it’s going to take Peppers playing up to his potential, and these moves both represent steps in that direction.
Well, I guess that’s one way to tell the sports media where they can shove it. Seven picks, and not one quarterback that you think may have the potential to be better than Jake Delhomme? What dirt do you have on these guys that every other team missed? Is Chase Daniel a zombie? For all that I’ve said about this team being a contender, it is still woefully trapped in the Trent Dilfer mentality of keeping a quarterback who just needs to be not bad, which is made worse by the fact that Delhomme unequivocally sucks. If he starts serving up more four turnover affairs, the Panthers will be left with either Josh McCown or an unproven Matt Moore running the show. The fact that I’m sitting here thinking they might be better off for it is a testament to how shaky Delhomme has proven to be.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Considering how inept this team looked at times last season, I was pleasantly surprised by what may have been the craftiest draft strategy of any squad. First, they picked up perhaps the best pass catching TE in the league, Kellen Winslow, for a second round pick. Then they snookered (yes, I’m sticking with that word) every other team in the league to pass on QB Josh Freeman by convincing them that they’d found their quarterback in Byron Leftwich. Not to say Leftwich can’t be a solid stopgap while Freeman develops, but Freeman has perhaps the best physical tools of any quarterback in this draft other than Pat While (who is doomed to be my new Troy Smith). With WR Antonio Bryant having emerged as a vertical weapon and Winslow acting as a safety valve, Freeman will have plenty of tools for his copious physical gifts to use, ad the Bucs may have stolen the best quarterback of the draft.
Great, except he’s a loser. A loser with the best arm of any quarterback in his class and sneaky mobility, but a loser nonetheless. I’ve made no secret of my disdain for Matt Stafford’s mediocre performance in college, but at least that guy put some winning seasons together, something Freeman never managed to do once as a starter in college. Whether or not one buys into the cliché of someone being a “winner” aside from his statistics and talents, there’s certainly something to be said for quarterbacks needing to step up and throw a team on their back at some point during their college career, where we see singular talents turn teams into winners all the time. The fact that Freeman was unable to do so should have Bucs fans worried