NFL Draft Review: The NFC South

As the post-Combine focus on the 2006 NFL Draft intensifies, Scout.com takes a look back at the 2005 drafts of all 32 NFL teams. In a division-by-division review, we discuss all the 2005 selections and pick the best and worst of the last three years for each team. We continue our review with the NFC South.

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ATLANTA FALCONS
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DRAFT BREAKDOWN -- Three-year breakdown:

How the Falcons have done in the draft since 2003:
Total picks: 21
2005 Starters: 9
2005 Backups: 5
Other teams: 2
Out of NFL: 4
Injured Reserve/PUP: 1

OVERALL

Distinguish the team between its two drafts under president-general manager Rich McKay and the one they endured before he left Tampa Bay and took charge of the Falcons in December 2003. Nine months before McKay's arrival, personnel chief Ron Hill and owner Arthur Blank were the point men for a disastrous effort that included little input from coach Dan Reeves. Only two of the six picks are still with Atlanta, but second-round safety Bryan Scott played his way onto the bench last season, which leaves fourth-round fullback Justin Griffith as the last man standing.

The worst move was Blank's insistence that the Falcons trade their first-round pick that year to Buffalo for restricted free agent Peerless Price. Not only was Price a tremendous bust, but Atlanta lost an important means of improving its roster. By contrast, 12 of McKay's 14 picks are still with the team. Only Quincy Wilson, a seventh-round running back in 2004, is out of the league. Etric Pruitt, a sixth-round safety that year, spent part of last season as a backup for Seattle.

Best pick -- CB DeAngelo Hall, 2004 (first round, eighth overall): Easily one of the NFL's fastest players, Hall also has swagger, smarts and an impressive vertical reach to disrupt opponents. Hall corrected a deficiency he had early last season in jumping routes prematurely and occasionally using inconsistent technique in tackling. By the end of 2005, he was easily one of the top five cornerbacks in the league.

Worst pick -- WR Jon Olinger, 2003 (fifth round, 159th overall): A year after Reeves' sudden fascination with T.J. Duckett caused the Falcons to pass on Javon Walker, who went to Green Bay, and Ashley Lelie, who wound up in Denver with the next two picks. Atlanta needed a receiver, not a running back, after Blank had committed a huge contract to Warrick Dunn. Instead, the Falcons compensated the next year with Olinger in the fifth and LaTarence Dunbar in the sixth. Olinger failed to make the team and Dunbar only made a marginal impact on special teams.

2005 TOP DRAFT PICKS:

1 (29) Roddy White, WR:
Physical, fast and willing to put in extra time, he will benefit greatly from an entire offseason of training with teammates and running routes for Michael Vick. A high ankle sprain limited his impact early last year, but once White became a starter, his confidence improved.

2 (59) Jonathan Babineaux, DT: Season-ending injuries to Brady Smith and Brandon Mitchell forced the Falcons to play Babineaux an excessive amount at right end. That position is hardly his forte. He needs to work inside and let Rod Coleman teach him how to become a fierce pass rusher.

3 (90) Jordan Beck, LB: Missed the entire season after tearing a ligament at the base of his toes. Without Beck, special teams lacked consistency in blocking for returners, but the real loss was the rookie's inability to take abundant snaps at linebacker after Ed Hartwell's season ended in Week 5. Beck has the speed and explosiveness to become a mainstay on defense.

4 (128) Chauncey Davis, DE: Started two games at left end, with Patrick Kerney moving to the right side, when Smith missed Week 2-3 visits to Seattle and Buffalo. He really struggled against the Seahawks' heavy offensive front, but once he replaced Babineaux on the right side in the last three games, Davis earned valuable experience. He has long arms to create leverage, but he needs to add upper-body strength.

5 (160) Michael Boley, LB:
Gave every indication that he was a steal this late in the draft. A misplaced reputation for taking plays off dogged Boley during the combine, but he proved detractors wrong. Has the size to play effectively on the strongside and explodes through his tackles.

5 (163) Frank Omiyale, T: Unknown commodity after spending 16 games on the inactive list. Showed a nasty streak in practice that should help him stay tenacious, but could turn the other way if he doesn't monitor his temper properly.

6 (201) DeAndra Cobb, RB:
Bounced between the practice squad, the 53-man roster and the inactive list most of the season. Stuck around only because Allen Rossum couldn't stay healthy. Had major difficulty learning the offense, and appears to have a limited ceiling.

7 (241) Darrell Shropshire, DT: Once he joined the rotation, coaches realized the mistake they made in keeping inactive the first six games. Very stocky and strong, Shropshire looks like a keeper, but he complements position coaches rotation splendidly because he can play both interior positions. Needs to improve technique in beating blocks against the run.

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CAROLINA PANTHERS
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DRAFT BREAKDOWN -- Three-year breakdown:

How the Panthers have done in the draft since 2003:
Total picks: 24
2005 Starters: 4
2005 Backups: 12
Other teams: 2
Out of NFL: 3
Injured Reserve/PUP: 3

OVERALL

After strong drafts in 2001 and 2002, the Panthers haven't gotten as much out of the draft as they'd like over the past three seasons. At least not yet. Some of these guys are still considered works in progress. But the fact remains only four players from those years were regular starters last year for the Panthers - right tackle Jordan Gross, cornerback Chris Gamble, wide receiver Keary Colbert and left tackle Travelle Wharton. However, the Panthers do expect last year's first-round draft pick Thomas Davis to step in and start this season, while 2005 second-round pick running back Eric Shelton could be an integral part of the offense after spending his rookie season on injured reserve. Also, safety Colin Branch could return to the starting lineup after spending last season on IR if the team is unable to re-sign Marlon McCree.

The Panthers also like linebacker Adam Seward, a fifth-round draft pick from last year, who likewise ended up on IR. There's a chance he could step in and start this year if Will Witherspoon winds up with another team. Wide receiver Drew Carter, a fifth-round gamble in 2004, showed great potential late last season and could displace Colbert as the starting receiver. Also, Ricky Manning, a restricted free agent, is the team's nickel back, although he may garner interest in the free agent market.

BEST PICK: OT Jordan Gross, 2003 (first round, 54th overall): It's hard to argue that Gross, a three-year starter who has yet to miss a game, hasn't been the best draft pick. Still, Gross hasn't been to the Pro Bowl and isn't talked about with the elite offensive linemen in the league, so there's still room for improvement. He also struggled giving up sacks in the second half of the 2005 season.

WORST PICK: OG Bruce Nelson, 2003 (first round, 12th overall): He only played in one game for the Panthers because of chronic hip problems and was forced to retire last summer after operations on both hips.


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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
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DRAFT BREAKDOWN -- Three-year breakdown:

How the Saints have done in the draft since 2003:
Total picks: 20
'05 Starters: 7
'05 Backups: 6
Other teams: 2
Out of NFL: 3
Injured Reserve/PUP: 2

OVERALL

The Saints followed up a disastrous 2003 draft with a couple of decent ones in 2004 and 2005 even though the jury is still out on the last two.
Only three players remain from the 2003 seven-man draft class and only one of them -- guard Montrae Holland -- has distinguished himself and been a productive player over that three-year span.

The 2004 draft has already yielded three starters -- defensive end Will Smith, middle linebacker Courtney Watson and weak-side linebacker Colby Bockwoldt -- and possibly another -- wide receiver Devery Henderson, who showed some skills last season after a wash-out of a rookie campaign.

In 2005, the Saints picked up tackle Jammal Brown and free safety Josh Bullocks in the first two rounds of the draft. They showed great potential with Brown drawing rave reviews around the league.

BEST PICK: DE Will Smith, 2004 (first round, 18th overall): Became a starter midway through his second season and eventually pushed former franchise player Darren Howard out of a job. A relentless and speedy pass rusher off the edge, he had 7 1/2 sacks as a rookie and a club-high 8 1/2 in 2005 for a team that finished with just 25 total sacks. He also finished sixth with 84 tackles.

WORST PICK: DT Johnathan Sullivan, 2003 (first round, 6th overall): The Saints traded the 17th and 18th overall picks of the draft to move up 11 spots and grab Sullivan, a standout run-stopper at Georgia. But weight and attitude issues have made Sullivan a bust even though he did play more in 2005 than he did the previous year -- when he wound up in the doghouse from the first day of training camp. Sullivan had 42 total tackles in 2005.

2005 TOP DRAFT PICKS:

1 (13) Jammal Brown, RT:
Was penciled into the starting lineup from the first day of rookie mini-camp and didn't disappoint even though he missed three games because of an ankle problem. An extremely aggressive player who stands 6 feet 6 and weighs 313 pounds, Brown simply overpowers his opponents -- especially when it comes to run-blocking.

2 (40) Josh Bullocks, FS:
Started the final 13 games after veteran Jay Bellamy was lost for the season because of a rotator cuff injury. Bullocks was a solid tackler who showed solid ball skills and the ability to make big plays at times.

3 (82) Alfred Fincher, MLB: Was brought along slowly because he came from a small school and was also slowed by a broken wrist in the preseason finale. He played mainly on special teams, but the former coaching staff was high on him for his speed.

4 (118) Chase Lyman, WR: Tore his anterior cruciate ligament on the first day of rookie mini-camp and underwent surgery. He has a history of injuries, so his future -- especially with a new coaching staff -- is in doubt.

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TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
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DRAFT BREAKDOWN -- Three-year breakdown:

How the Buccaneers have done since 2003.
Total picks: 26
'05 Starters: 7
'05 Backups: 10
Other teams: 3
Out of NFL: 6
Injured reserve/PUP: 0

OVERALL

BEST PICK:
RB Cadillac Williams (first-round, 5th overall). Williams set an NFL rookie record with 434 rushing yards in his first three games. Williams missed two games because of a foot injury but finished strong to lead all rookie rushers with 1,178 yards and six touchdowns. Six times he rushed for 100 yards in a game. He was selected NFL Rookie of the Year and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.

WORST PICK:
T Lance Nimmo (fourth-round, 130 overall). Nimmo was released in training camp at the start of the 2003. He spent a year with the Jets but was inactive for all 16 games. The Bucs brought him to camp again last season after a stint in Europe, but he failed to earn a roster spot and is out of the NFL. For a team starved for offensive linemen, this was a swing and a miss.

2005 TOP DRAFT PICKS:

1 (5) Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, RB:
The Bucs may have gotten the best of the top three running backs in the draft as Williams outdistanced former Auburn teammate Ronnie Brown (second overall to Miami) and Texas running back Cedric Benson (fourth overall to Chicago) as a rookie. Cadillac looks like he will be a Pro Bowl talent for years to come.

2 (36) Barrett Ruud, LB:
Nebraska's all-time leading tackler played behind middle linebacker Shelton Quarles and is the heir apparent at that position. Tampa Bay coaches love his instincts, but he was limited to special team duty and spot play.

3 (71) Alex Smith, TE:
One of the real steals of the draft, Smith finished third on the team with 41 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns. A real downfield threat who needs to improve his blocking.

4 (91) Chris Colmer, T: Spent the entire season as a backup right tackle to Kenyatta Walker. Underwent shoulder surgery in the off-season but is expected to challenge for a starting spot since Walker is a free agent.

5 (107) Dan Buenning, G: One of five Bucs offensive linemen to start all 16 games. An All-rookie selection at left guard who excelled in the running game.

5 (141) Donte Nicholson, S: Backup at the free safety position. Nicholson didn't see much playing time and was inactive for much of the '05 season but did play on special teams.

5 (155) Larry Brackins, WR:
Raw, JUCO player drafted as a project who spent the year on the practice squad and was re-signed in the off-season.

6 (178) Anthony Bryant, DT: The 6-foot-3, 336-pound defensive tackle saw action as a backup. Bryant was especially impressive against the run and finished with three tackles and a sack.

7 (221) Rick Razzano, FB: Was suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL's policy on steroids. Razzano was up and down on the practice squad all season.

7 (231) Paris Warren, WR: Former Utah star spent most of the season on the practice squad.


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