Marino's Report Card: NFC South

The Atlanta Falcons get a perfect grade from former pro scout Tom Marino for their selections in this year's draft. But the rest of the NFC South didn't trail far behind. Check out his analysis of how the four teams fared inside...

Atlanta Falcons                               A+

Rnd Overall Name Pos School
1 8 Jamaal Anderson DE Arkansas
2 39 Justin Blalock OT Texas
2 41 Chris Houston CB Arkansas
3 75 Laurent Robinson WR Illinois St
4 109 Stephen Nicholas OB South Florida
4 133 Martrez Milner TE Georgia
6 185 Trey Lewis DT Washburn
6 194 David Irons CB Auburn
6 198 Doug Datish OC Ohio State
6 203 Daren Stone DS Maine
7 244 Jason Snelling RB Virginia

The Falcons had a very impressive draft selecting talented athletes with high playing ceilings throughout the entire seven rounds. First round selection Jamaal Anderson, due to the loss of Patrick Kerney, will be called upon and tested quickly. 

Justin Blalock is a smart, versatile player with size and upper-body strength. 

Anderson's college teammate, Chris Houston, is not there yet but has a ton of upside. He really needs to work on his pedal, though. He shows far too much of his heels.

Laurent Robinson should factor quickly and in time has a chance to become a solid No. 2 receiver for the Falcons.  

Stephen Nicholas, a four-year regular at Southern Florida should make his presence known quickly on special teams. And he should eventually factor at the "Will" or "Sam" positions. 

You have got to love Martrez Milner's skills, but he's going to have to learn to dance every dance. 

David Irons is a competitive little man who could factor on special teams. 

Doug Datish, a three-year starter for the Buckeyes, could factor in the role of a swing man (center/guard). 

The Falcons hope Daren Stone, a better athlete then player, will contribute on special teams while developing at this critical need position for the Falcons. 

Jason Snelling is a big back with good feet and between-the-tackles run skills. 

Special recognition should be given to young Matt Berry, a rising star who has--with no complaints--paid his dues.  Bruce Plummer, Boyd Dowler and Bob Harrison are also solid people and scouts.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers                               A-

Rnd Overall Name Pos School
1 4 Gaines Adams DE Clemson
2 35 Arron Sears OG Tennessee
2 64 Sabby Piscitelli DS Oregon St.
3 68 Quincy Black OB New Mexico
4 106 Tanard Jackson CB Syracuse
5 142 Greg Peterson DE N. Carolina Central
6 182 Adam Hayward OB Portland St.
7 214 Chris Denman OT Fresno St.
7 245 Marcus Hamilton CB Virginia
7 246 Ken Darby RB Alabama

Gaines Adams (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Gaines Adams gives the Buccaneers a very high ceiling player with top pass rushing skills. 

Arron Sears arguably was the best offensive guard in the 2007 player draft. 

Sabatino Piscitelli (the best name in this year's draft) has outstanding playing range, toughness and foot speed. See him getting on the field quickly first as a special teams player and eventually at strong safety. 

Although Quincy Black was not a dominating force, the Chicago native does possess outstanding physical skills and play speed. Like Sabby, he too should factor on special teams quickly. 

Tanard Jackson is another tough, competitive individual who only lacks racehorse type speed and is also a good fit in Tampa's Cover 2 scheme. 

The Buccaneers are very high on the potential of North Carolina Central DE Greg Peterson and believe the Hinds JC transfer could one day develop into a top professional player. 

Seventh-round selection Chris Denman, a four-year regular who did not play to near the same level in 2006 that he did as an underclassmen, let far too many people run free on pass pro (a thing most coaches frown on in the pro ranks). 

Kenneth Darby, the University of Alabama's third all-time leading rusher, was a disappointment to me. But at No. 246 (just ten picks before the conclusion of the draft) he represented solid value.


Carolina Panthers                             B+

Rnd Overall Name Pos School
1 25 Jon Beason OB Miami
2 45 Dwayne Jarrett WR USC
2 59 Ryan Kalil OC USC
3 83 Charles Johnson DE Georgia
4 118 Ryne Robinson WR Miami (OH)
5 155 Dante Rosario TE Oregon
5 164 Tim Shaw OB Penn State
7 226 C.J. Wilson CB Baylor

Jon Beason (AP Photo/Rick Havner)
Jon Beason, another in a long list of top backers produced by the Canes, was an excellent selection in the latter stages of the first round. 

Dwayne Jarrett has his detractors, but is a game-ready player who should compliment league's best receiver, Steve Smith. 

Ryan Kalil is undersized, but is an excellent technician and athlete. 

The Panthers' third-round selection, Charles Johnson, feasted on second-level competition but overall was unproductive and/or just competitive. I believe he made a big mistake in leaving the University of Georgia as an underclassman. 

Ryne Robinson is a talented player and a mid-round steal with both returns and receiving potential as was Dante Rosario, who really impressed me in his Indy workout. 

Tim Shaw from Penn State, is a straight-line athlete with all kinds of speed who along with seventh-round pick, C.J. Wilson, should contribute immediately on special teams.


New Orleans Saints                                B+

Rnd Overall Name Pos School
1 27 Robert Meachem WR Tennessee
3 66 Usama Young CB Kent St.
3 88 Andy Alleman OG Akron
4 107 Antonio Pittman RB Ohio State
4 125 Jermon Bushrod OT Towson
5 145 David Jones CB Wingate
7 220 Marvin Mitchell MB Tennessee

Robert Meachem (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
The Saints felt the second-rated WR in the draft (Meachem), represented far better value at the 27th spot then would the 4th-rated safety. 

With no second-round selection, the Saints got solid value drafting fellow MAC standouts Usama Young and Andy Alleman. 

Antonio Pittman is a productive battle-tested, north-south runner who was not flashy, but was tough and consistent. 

Jermon Bushrod is a small-college left offensive tackle with upside. I don't think he is near ready and he will have to move to the right side--but he has a chance.

Fifth-round selection David Jones--although playing at a lower level of competition--didn't disappoint when matched against the big boys in postseason all-star games. And he was also very impressive at his personal postseason workouts. 

Marvin Mitchell is a "mass" guy in the middle who has a chance to develop into a first down "Mike" backer.


Tom Marino is a veteran of 35 years in the player personnel field, most recently with the St. Louis Rams. He has worked in three professional leagues (NFL, USFL, and WFL), and among his many accomplishments, is credited with the discovery of Eric Swann, the first non-collegiate player since 1946 to be selected in the 1st round of the NFL college draft.


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