Let's break down the highlights in a memorable draft for the division:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers doubling up on defensive tackles and wide receivers. The Bucs used their first two picks on defensive tackles, taking Gerald McCoy in the first round and Brian Price early in the second. They are instant starters and the Bucs picture second-year pro Roy Miller joining them in the rotation. That probably means the end for last year’s starters Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims, but that’s a good thing. The Bucs ranked last in the league in run defense last season and they got no pass rush from the interior. McCoy and Price can stuff the run and create a surge in the middle. That’s going to free up middle linebacker Barrett Ruud to make plays and help the defensive ends generate a better pass rush.
The Bucs also followed a similar theme at wide receiver, taking Arrelious Benn in the second round and Mike Williams in the fourth. It may be a lot to expect two rookies to instantly start at wide receiver, but it could happen here. That’s mainly because the Bucs have very little other talent at the position. At worst, Benn’s an instant starter. Williams is a bit of a gamble because he’s had some off-field issues, but Tampa Bay was willing to take a chance because of his physical skills. There’s risk involved, but Williams has better upside than any of Tampa Bay’s receivers, including Benn. Quarterback Josh Freeman needed some new targets and the Bucs went out and got them.
The Carolina Panthers traded away their second-round pick in 2011 to take Armanti Edwards in the third round. This is a curious move by a regime that has to win this year because Edwards is a project. He was a quarterback at Appalachian State, but the Panthers plan to use him as a receiver and a return man. Edwards might be able to make a quick impact as a return man.
But he’s going to need time to develop as a receiver. That’s time coach John Fox and Marty Hurney might not have.
Most surprising move
It’s not all that surprising the Panthers took a quarterback because we all knew that was coming somewhere in this draft. But it’s a huge surprise that they got Jimmy Clausen in the middle of the second round. He’s a guy that many thought would go in the first round or very early in the second. Clausen tumbled in part because some view him as a “me-first" guy and a passer who takes too many chances.
Those are traits the Panthers generally stay away from, but Carolina is desperate. Besides, the Panthers have a locker room filled with strong leaders (Jon Beason, Jordan Gross, etc.) and there’s no room for “me-first" guys, except for receiver Steve Smith. Clausen will have to conform to have a chance. Carolina’s offensive system also will limit Clausen’s opportunities to take chances. Fox and coordinator Jeff Davidson want a guy who is mainly a game manager, but who also can make a play here and there.
File it away
Technically, Kerry Meier was drafted as a wide receiver by the Atlanta Falcons with a compensatory pick at the end of the first round. Realistically, Meier is a flat-out football player. He started off his career as a quarterback at Kansas and had some early success. But an injury cost him his starting job and he moved to wide receiver in 2007. All Meier did was go out and set a school record for career receptions. He played all three receiver positions, got some work as a fullback and H-back, served as the holder on place kicks and even still got some time as a backup quarterback. If Meier sounds a bit like Brian Finneran, he should. Finneran’s done a little bit of everything for the Falcons throughout his career. With Finneran getting older, Meier has the potential to help the Falcons in a lot of different areas.