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Swampland's NFL Draft Impressions

Posted: Apr 27, 2009

How did your team do? That’s the question that NFL fans are trying to answer following this weekend’s annual NFL Draft. We will take an in-depth look at each team in our Swampland Footprint over the next couple of weeks but wanted to give our initial reaction to the event that shapes each club’s future.

Atlanta – This was a solid draft that will complement their impressive set of skill guys in Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez (key to their weekend), and Roddy White. Under Thomas Dimitroff, this is a franchise headed in the right direction

Carolina – They did not have a first-round pick because of last year’s deal for tackle Jeff Otah (a trade that worked well). Not much excitement here, but the Panthers rediscovered their physical running game-and-defense identity last season. Getting some defensive reinforcements will help.

Cincinnati – Was this the Bengals? Cincy had an awesome draft, full of big time playmakers that they got for great value. The first three picks (Andre Smith, Rey Maualuga, and Michael Johnson) all have first-round talent, and their next two (Coffman and Luigs) could start as well. Did Marvin Lewis have more influence over this year’s selections? If so, he should have had it a long time ago.

Dallas – With no picks on the first day, the Cowboys have to hope that receiver Roy Williams was worth the price. Jerry Jones is banking on the fact that the departures of T.O., Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson will be addition by subtraction. 2009 will be a defining season for Wade Phillips and the direction of the ‘Boys.

Houston – They had a few solid picks (Barwin, Caldwell), but you have to wonder if Brian Cushing can cover the weapons of the AFC South. They were dead set on an outside linebacker so Cushing will have a lot to prove. Is this the season the Texans finally go above 8-8?

Indianapolis – There were two main messages sent by Bill Polian on Draft day. He wants the Colts to get back to their duel running back (Donald Brown and incumbent Joe Addai) attack that worked so well in their Super Bowl year. The other theme was that the Colts finally felt the need to beef up in the middle (two 300-pound defensive tackles in the first four rounds) of the defensive line. It is very apparent that Tony Dungy and Ron Meeks are not running the defense anymore.

Jacksonville – The Jags were obviously bothered by last year’s offensive line injuries which caused them to fall from 2nd in the league in rushing in 2007 to 18th in 2008. Consequently, they selected tackles with both of their first day picks to clear the way for Maurice Jones-Drew. New GM Gene Smith signed an aging Torry Holt in free agency and played it safe in the Draft.

Miami – Bill Parcells’ crew obviously wanted to get more physical in the secondary and chose two big corners in their first three picks to combat Randy Moss and T.O. in their division. The intriguing pick came early in the second round when the Fins chose quarterback Pat White from West Virginia. How Miami uses White (“Wildcat” QB/receiver?) will become a very interesting facet of their offense in 2009 and beyond.

New Orleans – The Saints selected defense in the first round with Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins instead of offense and his Buckeye teammate Beanie Wells. They reportedly tried to trade up later for Wells but could not do so without their full complement of picks. You have to wonder if they had targeted Knowshon Moreno, who went two picks earlier to Denver. The question now becomes can Pierre Thomas carry the load in the backfield next year.

St. Louis – The Rams went with the safe pick at #2, selecting Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith to replace Orlando Pace. New coach Steve Spagnuolo inherits a team with a lack of playmakers, but the team went to the defense for their next three picks. St. Louis has a ton of holes, but it looks like they want to start by improving their defense (something the new boss should be able to achieve).

Tampa Bay – Does this team have an identity? The team that said goodbye to Jon Gruden, Monte Kiffin, Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, and Joey Galloway will now hope that their fan base recognizes Raheem Morris’ new-look squad. I believe they reached mightily for Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman at #17, but they believe he can be a Ben Roethlisberger-type playmaker. He will need to be just that to keep the non-descript Bucs from a 4th place finish in the NFC South.

Tennessee – The Titans had a solid, non-flashy draft, much like the successful way they play football. They have great position coaches that will help new receiver Kenny Britt and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks contribute early. They also made a bold move to gain an extra 3rd round pick to draft the extremely athletic South Carolina tight end, Jared Cook. This is a well-run franchise that knows their identity and drafts accordingly.

Washington – The ‘Skins were rumored to be looking into trading up for Mark Sanchez, but they stayed put and took Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo. The former Longhorn will be helped immensely by playing next to All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Once again, Washington only had two choices in the first four rounds which continued their pattern of too much free agency, and not enough draft. Additionally, the question of Jason Campbell’s future with the club will become a huge theme in the nation’s capital all season.

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