2007 NFL Draft: Team Grades (Part III)  

Posted by Walter

NFC South

New Orleans Saints: F
Best Pick - Antonio Pittman, 4th Round
Worst Pick - Robert Meachem, 1st Round

Ugh, when your best pick plays the same position as two of your three best offensive players, well that's not a good thing. The Saints completely blew this draft, and frankly, we simply cannot figure out what the hell they were thinking. Meachem was decent value for the 27th overall pick, but he makes no sense for the Saints who already have three starting caliber young wideouts in Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Terrance Copper. It makes no sense for the Saints, who had tons of holes on defense, to spend their first round pick on a fourth WR. The Saints were the top offense in the NFC last season, and what they really needed was help on the other side of the ball. They spent 4 of their first 5 picks on offensive players. We can't even begin to try and figure that one out. They desperately need help in their defensive secondary, since they were in about a million shoot-outs last year, including the NFC Championship loss to the Bears (and when your defense is capable of getting into a scoring match with the Bears, you need help). Chris Houston was on the board. Also, their linebackers aren't a dynamic lot, and while they played tough, they weren't able to make plays when they needed them. Think a performer like Puz would have helped? Pittman makes sense if they part ways with Deuce after next season, but instead of planning their incredibly accomplished running attack two years ahead, maybe they should have taken at least one player capable to helping their porous defense in the near term. I know, it sounds crazy.

Tampa Bay Bucaneers: A
Best Pick - Gaines Adams, 1st Round
Worst Pick - Greg Peterson, 5th Round

The only knock on the Bucs draft class is the lack of offensive playmakers. However, given the available players at each of their picks, you simply cannot hold that against them. All things considered, Jon Gruden and Co. absolutely nailed the 2007 draft. Gaines Adams should be an instant starter and should vie with Pat Willis for defensive rookie of the year (10 sacks is not out of the question, he's that talented). Aaron Sears was a nice pickup in round two, but the Bucs really made their money with their next three picks, Sabby Piscatelli, Quincy Black and Tanard Jackson, all of whom should develop into pro bowl caliber starters in the Tampa 2 defense (think John Lynch, Shelton Quarles, and Ronde Barber respectively). And, frankly, it keeps going. Getting an accomplished player who was one of the best running backs in the SEC over the last several years (Darby) in the 7th is excellent value. He will be able to take some strain off Williams, and could develop into a nice player. Also, they took Marcus Hamilton who Frazier knew a little bit at UVA, and is a really good dude. If nothing else, he and Ronde can talk about the famous Gusburger and sing Good Old Song together. Go Hoos!

Carolina Panthers: A
Best Pick - Ryan Kalil, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Jon Beason, 1st Round

Easily one of the two best draft classes, the Panthers' rookie class is loaded with top talent and depth. Let's be clear on one thing, we here at the 323 don't love Jon Beason, but he definitely had a first round grade and the Panther system is actually quite favorable for him. We were debating between an A and an A+, and Beason may have cost the plus, but he'll probably be a productive player for them. Beason notwithstanding, it's impossible not to be impressed with the collection of talent the Panthers brought in. Ryan Kalil and Dwayne Jarrett in round 2 were inspired choices, and both should start (and star from day 1). Jarret is the perfect compliment to a guy like Steve Smith (and hell, he has experience playing opposite a Steve Smith at receiver, so he won't even screw up his name!) I bet you can count on one hand the number of times in NFL history that a team has drafted two all pro players in any single round other than the first. Kalil and Jarrett could make it one more. The accolades continue for the Panthers late round selections. Ryne Robinson was, statistically, the best punt returner in NCAA history, and he could be the Devin Hester of 2007. Charles Johnson was an absolute steal in rd 3 (some, including the323 gave him a late 1st-early 2nd round grade), and he should eventually replace Mike Rucker opposite Julius Peppers. Even Tim Shaw with their second to last selection has a real chance to make the team, he was very productive for the Nittany Lions. Overall, the Panthers absolutely nailed this draft. Frankly, any time you get to cut Keyshawn Johnson is a good day, and makes us here at the323 happy. Just throw him the damn pink slip!

Atlanta Falcons: A+
Best Pick - Chris Houston, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Laurent Robinson, 3rd Round

Another team that absolutely annihilated the competition. Atlanta's draft is chock full of impact players, and strong developmental players. Jamal Anderson at #8 has been compared to a young Richard Seymour, and, to tell you the truth, he may turn out to be just as good. Justin Blalock and Chris Houston were two players who the323 had given first round grades to, and they both slipped to Atlanta in round 2. Just outstanding value. Add in future starters like Stephen Nicholas (4th round), Martrez Milner (4th), and David Irons (6th) and you have arguably the best draft class in the entire league. Even Datish really stands a chance to be a solid starter on the offensive line, he went through wars in the Big Ten. Finally, they drafted Jason Snelling (another Hoo!). If Snelling can overcome a seizure problem (yeah, seriously) he could be a starting fullback in the NFL for a long time. He's one of those guys who was willing to do anything at the college level, and the Falcons will love his attitude and work ethic.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers: B
Best Pick - Pat Willis, 1st Round
Worst Pick - Joe Staley, 1st Round

Overall, the niners draft class probably deserves a higher grade from a pure talent standpoint. Pat Willis should be a slam dunk, and Joe Staley could develop into the draft's second best tackle. Still, it's impossible to ignore how much the niners gave up to get Staley, who isn't exactly a sure thing. In trading their #1 pick in 2008 to the Pats for the #28 selection, the niners are banking on a big time improvement, or else they'll have given up a top 20 pick in a loaded 2008 draft. As far as late round talent goes, the niners did pretty well. Jason Hill was a solid choice in round 3, as was Jay Moore in the 4th and Tarrell Brown in the 5th (remember Brown was considered a better prospect than Aaron Ross going into the 2006 season). This draft is a major gamble for San Francisco. They gambled on Staley, they gambled on their continued success next year, and they gambled on injury-prone Frank Gore to hold up for another season. It's Vegas by the bay!

Saint Louis Rams: C-
Best Pick - Brian Leonard, 2nd Round
Worst Pick - Dustin Fry, 5th Round

Ugh a completely uninspiring group. Carriker is a solid, if unspectacular choice in round 1, and the Rams probably could have used more of an impact player in that spot. Brian Leonard was great value in round 2, and he should help their offense, although with Steven Jackson on the roster it is unclear how he will fit it. And while it's hard to criticize any of the Rams late round picks, it's equally hard to get excited about them. John Wade in the 3rd could eventually be a decent nickel back, and Ken Shackleford in the 6th could develop into a solid backup. Other than those two, the rest of the rookie class will be lucky to make the active roster. The grade on the Rams is a little low here because not only are they uninspiring, but Frazier is completely unconvinced about the Leonard selection. He firmly believes Leonard is seen as the last hope for the white running back. That species is most likely extinct, and Frazier now sees him as an undersized fullback, which isn't the type of guy you usually target in the second round. Keep in mind, Frazier also hates New Jersey, so that is probably clouding his judgement. No matter your views on the Garden State, it's hard to get excited about this crop of picks.

Seattle Seahawks: B
Best Pick - Steve Vallos, 7th Round
Worst Pick - Deion Branch, 1st Round

The only thing holding the Seahawks back was their foolish trading away of their first round pick for Deion Branch. Imagine, if the Hawks had just stood pat, they would have been sitting there at #24 with the choice of Robert Meachem, Dwayne Jarrett, Sidney Rice, or Anthony Gonzalez, each at half the price of Branch. Still, we here at the323 love the Seahawks draft class. Walter has been touting Josh Wilson for weeks now, and even in the 2nd round he is a tremendous choice. Brandon Mebane in the 3rd was also outstanding value, as was both 4th round picks Mansfield Wrotto and Baraka Atkins. But the Hawks didn't stop there. They had three of the best late round selections in the entire draft in Will Herring (who will contribute immediately on special teams; think Larry Izzo), Courtney Taylor (an intriguing size-speed combo receiver) and Steve Vallos (the top offensive lineman in the ACC last season who fell due to size concerns). Still, we here at the323 believe in value, and the Seahawks didn't get good value for their 24 in this draft. Also, without a first rounder, you have to blow us away to get a really good grade. They drafted well, but the B was probably on the high end of their potential here.

Arizona Cardinals: B-
Best Pick - Buster Davis, 3rd Round
Worst Pick - Levi Brown, 1st Round

The Cardinals seem to do this every year. People always fall in love with their draft class because they grab up all the big name players in later rounds. Last year it was Deuce Lutui (2nd), Leonard Pope (3rd) and Gabe Watson (4th). The year before it was JJ Arrington (2nd), Daryl Blackstock (3rd) and Elton Brown (4th). And this year it was Alan Branch (2nd), Buster Davis (3rd) and Steve Breaston (5th). Well, we're not biting. The problem with bringing in all these falling big names is that you're drafting them on reputation, and not what they can do in your system. Moreover, the Cards don't seem to be learning from their mistakes. Consider Gabe Watson. He was a dominant, run plugging defensive tackle from Michigan who fell due to a lack of athleticism and concerns about his drive. The Cards took a chance on him, and two years later they're still waiting for him to produce. Sound a lot like another run plugging defensive tackle from Michigan with similar concerns doesn't it? The Cardinals are the perfect example of why it's impossible to grade these draft classes right now. In the past 3 seasons no team has drafted more NCAA All-Americans, but you can't draft on college production. You have to consider what the players will do in your NFL system. And while the Cardinals picks might be sexy, they've played this game and failed before. So yeah, it's a sexy looking bunch, and as strickly a college football junkie, Frazier is practically wetting himself. But, of course, Walter has a better handle on the differences between the college and pro games, and so is a decidedly less excited. If this was the Citrus Bowl, the Cardinals would be unstoppable. That being said, Frazier cannot let this pick pass without more praise for Buster Davis. He isn't just a big name, he's a big hitter. For all the love that Timmons got, Davis was the one who was a 3-year starter, and the defensive cornerstone, on a Florida St. defense that churns out pros. If he had sexy triangle numbers he'd be a top ten pick. But all anyone sees is a dude who is a little short, and a step slow. Of course you couldn't convince all the ballcarriers that Davis has lit up the last couple years that it was a major problem. If you watched Florida St. games you noticed that Buster made plays from sideline to sideline, and really enjoyed sticking his nose in the pile. He's a pros pro, and will make this Cardinals defense better.

4 comments

The Baron   says 3:22 PM

323,

First the disclosure; during my schooling/bartending tenure in San Francisco I had the opportunity to meet Mike Nolan a few times, couldn't have been more impressed with his vision and leadership. So with that in mind I really do believe he deserves some more love (and yes he's the final word on all drafting decisions). This year's draft was carefully coordinated and they basicly gave up top 10 pick in next year's draft (assuming they don't improve drasticly, which isn't out of the question if Smith continues to develop and the addition of Jackon at WR, especially if Staley comes through) in order to get someone who could have potentially gone in this year's top ten. If you're Nolan I just don't see how you don't pull they trigger on that one. So make this "bitching about your grade for a specific team" e-mail 1,001.

- The Baron Von Nutenstein

Baron:

It's definitely a gamble from the Niners, and we're in the camp that believes that they are likely to falter with a much tougher schedule, an injury-prone running back, and big expectations.

Also, Staley himself is a risk, since he's a project tackle prospect. So he wasn't a top ten guy, and he may never be.

One risk is tough, but taking a second is a little dangerous. It may turn out to be the right move, but there's every chance this could back-fire in a major way.

PS: We may have received slightly fewer e-mails than you think.

I won't say exactly how many, but you might want to subtract some zeroes. And possibly a one.

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