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Saturday, April 28, 2012
Wrapping up NFL draft's fourth round

By Pat Yasinskas

The fourth round is just about over. It's down to the compensatory picks and those can't be traded, so this round will end with only three picks made by NFC South teams.

But this still was a relatively eventful round for the division. Carolina was the star in this round as the Panthers used back-to-back picks to get Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander and Arkansas receiver Joe Adams. I don’t think either is a candidate to start right away, but they give the Panthers some depth at positions where they needed depth.

Charles Johnson is Carolina’s big threat at defensive end and Greg Hardy hasn’t really produced the way the Panthers had hoped. They still have hope Hardy will emerge, but Alexander provides another option behind him.

I like the Adams pick even more. Carolina has one certainty at receiver. That’s Steve Smith. After that, the Panthers are hoping Brandon LaFell can continue to develop and David Gettis can come back strong from last year’s season-ending injury. But there are no guarantees LaFell and Gettis will become stars, so it makes sense to add another guy to this mix. Adams could end up being used as a slot receiver fairly early on. He has the potential to be explosive and, with Cam Newton’s arm, the Panthers could use someone besides Smith that can get open down the field.

Speaking of wide receivers, the Saints got one with the only other NFC South pick in the fourth round. They took Wisconsin’s Nick Toon. A lack of top end speed and questions about his durability are the main reasons Toon slid to the fourth round. But this is a polished player from a big-time program. In New Orleans’ offense, wide receivers tend to produce more than their draft status would suggest. Just look at what Marques Colston and Lance Moore have done.

The Saints did lose Robert Meachem in free agency. They still have Colston, Moore and Devery Henderson. Toon should have a chance to compete with Adrian Arrington for the fourth receiver spot.