Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Joe Smith and Greg Auman

NFC South steals the headlines in NFL Draft's first round

29

April

The first night of the NFL Draft had the usual surprises and twists, and much of the biggest headlines were concentrated in the Bucs' own division, the NFC  South.

From the Panthers picking potential franchise player Cam Newton at No. 1 overall to the Falcons' blockbuster trade to the Saints' late maneuverings and acquisition of two solid, proven players, there was a lot of jockeying among the teams in one of the NFL's most competitive divisions.

The Panthers didn't go for a safe pick, instead opting to go with Newton's tremendous upside and the chance to add a player who could be spectacular unless, of course, he becomes a bust. Knowing they must acquire dynamic playmakers to close the tremendous gap between them and the rest of the division, the Panthers went with a player who they thought might help them get on the fast track.

Not long after that, the Falcons sent shock waves through the league by dealing to the Browns the 27th pick as well as their second- and fourth-round picks this year and first- and fourth-round picks in 2012 to move 21 spots to No. 6 for Alabama receiver Julio Jones. It was a tremendous price to pay no matter what it reaps, but Atlanta's willingness to do the deal speaks to its mindset of being a potential Super Bowl team in 2011.

With the Falcons falling short last season despite finishing with the best record in the NFC, the Atlanta brass clearly thought the time had come to do whatever was necessary to add the missing pieces. Their passing game now figures to be even more formidable with Jones lining up opposite star wideout Roddy White.

And not to be outdone, the Saints got into the action late in the first round. They were fortunate to see Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan fall to them at No. 24, allowing New Orleans to give its defense a shot in the arm with a player who will add bulk alongside defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and opposite right end Will Smith.

Then the Saints made a move reminiscent to the Falcons, trading their second-round pick this year along with their 2012 first-rounder to New England for the 28th choice. That's where the Saints happily took Alabama running back Mark Ingram, a former Heisman Trophy-winning player who had fallen a bit because of an overall lack of need at running back.

The Bucs had the least notable first round of any of the NFC South clubs, although that doesn't mean Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn won't shake things up in his own rite.

In any case, it was a wild night in the NFC South, which suggests things will be just as topsy-turvy on the field this fall.

[Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 12:08pm]

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