NFC South: Atiyyah Ellison

When choosing the best draft class in the history of the NFC South (history starts in 2002, when the NFC South started), it was easy to pick the 2006 group brought in by the New Orleans Saints. Guys like Reggie Bush, Jahri Evans, Marques Colston and Roman Harper were big reasons why the Saints won the Super Bowl last season.

But 2007 also was a memorable draft for the Buccaneers and Falcons -- for all the wrong reasons. In fact, I had to have a lengthy debate with myself on if Atlanta or Tampa Bay had the worst class in division history that year.

1. 2007 by Tampa Bay. As I debated the demerits of what Atlanta and Tampa Bay did in this draft, it really came down to the fact that the Bucs hit the trifecta with their first three picks. They took Gaines Adams, Arron Sears and Sabby Piscitelli. You can’t really argue with that. Adams was a non-factor before the Bucs traded him to Chicago, Sears couldn’t play last year because of personal issues and Piscitelli showed last year that he can’t play. Safety Tanard Jackson, a fourth-round pick, has been a bright spot, but not enough to pull the Bucs out of the top spot.

2. 2007 by Atlanta. When the Bucs took Adams, they passed over Jamaal Anderson and the Falcons pounced on him with the No. 8 overall pick. If you don’t hit on a top-10 pick, you’ve got a problem. The Falcons have gotten nothing out of Anderson. They did get a solid starter in guard Justin Blalock in the second round and fourth-round pick Stephen Nicholas became a starter at linebacker last year. But Bobby Petrino and Rich McKay also gave the Falcons cornerback Chris Houston in the second round and receiver Laurent Robinson in the third. Houston started a lot of games for the Falcons, but the current Atlanta regime was thrilled to trade him to Detroit this year. Robinson never came close to being a factor.

3. 2003 by Tampa Bay. Speaking of Petrino, he played a major role in building what almost was the third-worst draft class in NFC South history. I gave very strong consideration to Carolina’s class of 2005. Louisville products Eric Shelton and Stefan LeFors were tremendous busts. Atiyyah Ellison and Jovan Haye showed they can play in the league, but only after they left the Panthers. But I couldn’t quite put Carolina in this slot because first-round pick Thomas Davis has worked out. If you want to see a class that truly flopped from top to bottom look back at the 2003 Bucs. They were without a first-round pick because it was used to help get coach Jon Gruden out of Oakland. But the Bucs jumped in after that and gave you this collection of draft picks -- Dewayne White, Chris Simms, Lance Nimmo, Austin King, Sean Mahan and Torrie Cox. Sad part is Cox, the last pick of the bunch, probably did the most of this group.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

My AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky and I were chatting earlier this week as he prepared to write a column on defensive tackles who have wandered the league a bit before finally finding a home.

He threw out a few names -- Tony Brown, Jovan Haye and Atiyyah Ellison -- and I had one quick reaction: At one time or another, each of those guys spent time with the Carolina Panthers.

That's more than a little ironic because, as Kuharsky writes, all three of those guys are thriving now at a time when the Panthers are desperate for help at defensive tackle. Since Maake Kemoeatu went down with a season-ending injury on the first day of camp, the Panthers have been using some young tackles next to Damione Lewis. But it's almost certain they'll add a tackle with some experience either through a trade or picking up someone who's been released elsewhere.

Should you point the finger at Carolina's coaching staff or front office for letting Brown, Haye and Ellison slip through the cracks? Not really, even though I'm sure the Panthers would be glad to have any one of them right now.

Brown was a guy the Panthers really liked, but he was with the Panthers at a time when they were loaded at defensive tackle. Haye's stint with the Panthers was as a defensive end and he didn't slide inside until he joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You can throw some blame at Carolina's scouting department for Ellison.

He was a third-round pick in 2005, but firmly qualified as a bust in his first training camp. He got cut that preseason and spent much of that year on the practice squad. Carolina might have been able to develop Ellison as a project, but the Panthers expected a quicker payout from a third-round pick.

SPONSORED HEADLINES