NFC South: best draft class
With right around 28,000 votes already cast, the New Orleans Saints are running away. Their class, highlighted by Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram, had 61 percent of the vote when I glanced. Atlanta, highlighted by the big leap up to get Julio Jones, was second at 17 percent.
Tampa Bay, which had a class highlighted by defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, was No. 3 at 14 percent. Although Carolina had the No. 1 overall pick and used it on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers are No. 4 with nine percent of the vote.
I’m going to declare Thursday at 5 p.m. ET as the official deadline for voting. If you haven’t voted, please do so before the deadline. You just might be able to tighten up this race. Or if you’re a New Orleans fan, you might be able to pad what seems to be a certain victory.
Once the polls are closed, I’ll do an analysis of your voting. Then, I’ll also reveal my vote for best draft class in the division. Big hint right now: Although I really like what the Saints did, my vote is going in a different direction. But you’ll have to wait to see which direction that is.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The 1995 Buccaneers and '91 Falcons are the only two NFC South representatives remaining in SportsNation's tournament to determine the best draft class ever.
Carolina's 2001 draft class and New Orleans' 1993 class each got bounced in the first round.
I'm guessing the '91 Falcons (highlighted by the selection of Brett Favre) will have a tough time getting past the 1983 49ers in the second round. But I think the '95 Bucs (Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks) should get by the 1989 Detroit Lions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The folks at SportsNation and ESPN Stats & Information put together a tremendous project in which they rank the best drafts in NFL history by each team.
They've taken each of those classes and put them into a 32-team tournament where readers can vote for winners. We'll leave that up to you.
The current rankings were compiled with a very complex formula and were used to seed the teams in the tournament.
I don't think there's any question about the best draft class in NFC South history. It's Tampa Bay's class of 1995 that featured Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. The rest of the class is pretty forgettable, but Sam Wyche and Rich McKay, who were running the show at that time, drafted two future Hall of Famers and laid the foundation for a tremendous turnaround by what had been one of the worst franchises in pro sports.
Tampa Bay's 1995 class has the No. 7 seed in the tournament, easily the best among NFC South clubs. New Orleans' 1993 class is the 20th seed and Atlanta's 1991 class is 21st.
Although Carolina's 2001 draft class is seeded No. 30, I'm going to disagree a bit with the seeding. I'm going to say that Carolina class was the second best draft in NFC South history because it's still playing out.
George Seifert pretty much ruined his coaching legacy in Carolina, but he did give the Panthers a parting gift in his final draft. He got Dan Morgan, Kris Jenkins and Steve Smith in the first three rounds. Smith is a potential Hall of Famer, Jenkins has been an All-Pro three times and Morgan was dynamic when healthy. In fact, if Morgan hadn't been so cursed by injuries, this might have trumped Tampa Bay's 1995 class.
It's all hypothetical, but let's say Morgan had stayed healthy his entire career and Jenkins had done a better job of controlling his weight and not missed large parts of two seasons with injuries. Seifert might have ended up drafting three potential Hall of Famers.
New Orleans' 1993 class was pretty darn good, mainly because of offensive tackle Willie Roaf, who could be on his way to the Hall of Fame. And give the Saints credit for drafting Lorenzo Neal, one of the best blocking fullbacks ever, in the fourth round, even though he spent most of his career elsewhere.
You almost have to laugh and cry when you look at Atlanta's best draft class ever. It's ranked as the best mainly because the Falcons drafted Brett Favre. They kept him for a year and then traded him to the Packers where he went on to greatness. That's always kind of haunted the Falcons. But there's good news in the future. Atlanta's 2008 draft class (Matt Ryan, Curtis Lofton, Sam Baker, Harry Douglas and Chevis Jackson, to name a few) might not take long to be established as the best in franchise history.