Over the last week, more than 10,000 visitors to the Scout.com NFL Portal offered their opinions on the recent NFL draft.
Specifically, visitors were asked which team had the best draft. We narrowed (for right or wrong) the list down to eight teams: Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, and St. Louis Rams. Strong arguments could be made for the inclusion of a number of other clubs as well.
Of those teams, three separated themselves from the pack in the eyes of our visitors as having had outstanding draft, with an overwhelming majority saying that the Eagles did the best of any NFL club on draft weekend.
1. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Eagles draft class created a torrent of praise from media pundits, and Scout.com visitors agreed: The Eagles had a heck of a draft. Over half of poll voters selected the Eagles as having the top draft class.
We don't know if fans were including LT Jason Peters (obtained from Buffalo for a first and fourth-round pick) when voting, but even without Peters, the team landed itself a number of weapons guaranteed to make QB Donovan McNabb smile.
With their first pick, #21 overall, the Eagles managed to land exciting WR Jeremy Maclin, a player many felt would go higher in the draft. Maclin will join WR Desean Jackson and provide McNabb with multiple targets he can use to riddle opposing defenses.
Putting their new offensive weapons together with some canny selections in the later rounds of the draft and an exchange of picks for CB Ellis Hobbs (Patriots), the Eagles managed to come out of draft weekends with roster holes filled and a rookie class that will make an immediate impact.
For this reason, more than half of all voters taking the poll gave a thumbs-up to the Eagles. It may take three years to evaluate a draft class, but two weeks later, the Eagles already look like sure winners.
2. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Did the perennially struggling Bengals get a talent injection capable of changing the franchise's fortunes? Scout.com visitors seem to think it's possible, as over 20% of respondents selected Marvin Lewis' club as having the top draft class.
There's certainly no questioning the physical ability of the Bengals top picks. The question will be whether the club can get the athletes to live up their potential.
With their first selection, the Bengals grabbed mammoth Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith, who should help to start rebuilding an offensive line that has declined a bit in recent years. Smith can play either left or right tackle and is a powerful run blocker, but his behavior and focus are open to question.
With their second round pick, the Bengals were delighted to be able to acquire USC linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was surprisingly available. It took the Bengals little time to pounce on the powerful inside backer when their turn came up. The question is whether Maualuga can be a three-down player in the NFL, but he appears to be a tremendous value pick for the Bengals. Selecting DE Michael Johnson and TE Chase Coffman in round three appear to be excellent values as well.
3. NEW YORK GIANTS
The rich get richer? The New York Giants clearly went into draft weekend with a shopping list, and came back with a full shopping cart of talent that meets their needs. They did so well that about 10% of Scout.com poll voters named them the best draft class.
The Giants had to add an offensive weapon to compensate for the probable loss of Plaxico Burress, and were happy that Hakeem Nicks was available. They needed a pass-rushing strongside linebacker, and got exactly that in Virginia's Clint Sintim in round two. They even picked up an offensive tackle to develop in William Beatty, who fell to them with pick #60. Intriguing 6'6" wide receiver Ramses Barden from Cal Poly just adds to the potential impact from the draft class.
When a team picking near the bottom of the draft is able to put together a rookie group with that much impact, it's hard to argue with voters who claim they topped the league.
The remainder of teams in the poll: Carolina, Cleveland, Jacksonville, New York Jets, and St. Louis Rams split the remaining 10% of votes.