Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: NFC South

by Doug Farrar

Atlanta Falcons

Lost in the Supermarket

There's been one major arrival in Atlanta this off-season, and there's now one big departure.

Despite the fact that they have needs everywhere, a long-standing two-back system, one piece of the puzzle in place with Jerious Norwood, and a class of running back draft prospects as good as any in recent memory, the Falcons made their big free-agency splash (six years, $34.5 million, $15 million guaranteed) on former Chargers backup Michael Turner.

In relief of LaDainian Tomlinson over the last four years, Turner has been the star of Sample SizeTheater -- his 6.5 yards per carry average and six touchdowns in 228 career carries speaks to a great deal of potential. What we don't know is whether Turner can thrive as a feature back over a full season. The outlook is positive in theory, but concerns about Atlanta's offensive line and the possibility that Turner's success is due to what Marshall Faulk once called the "breather effect" -- a phenomenon that occurs when elite backs are taken out of a game and defenses relax for backups -- leave the move as less than a slam-dunk.

If the Turner deal displayed questionable financial acumen, the deal the Raiders made for ex-Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall borders on outright lunacy. Oakland will give the talented, but overrated and oft-disgruntled, Hall a seven-year, $70 million contract, and Atlanta will get Oakland's second-round pick this year and fifth-round pick next year for the privilege. The Falcons will find it somewhat difficult to match Hall's raw potential on their roster, but they won't miss a guy who's proven to be a pain in the butt when his team isn't on the upside.

Free Agency Recap

The five stages of grief (of any severe loss -- job, income, freedom), based on the Kubler-Ross model, are as follows: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

The Falcons have gone through an endless loop of these emotions since the Vick disaster melted into the Petrino Debacle, which merged into the Blank Embarrassments, which finally became Some Sort of New Beginning. What that New Beginning will become is still in doubt, but the most recent round of bargaining began on February 15, when new general manager Thomas Dimitroff started a roster purge by releasing seven players, including tight end Alge Crumpler, the team's most consistent offensive weapon over the last few seasons. Tackles went by the wayside on both offense (Wayne Gandy) and defense (Rod Coleman), as did quarterback Byron Leftwich and his sundial-timed release point.

Quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Chris Redman hung on, though many think they'll play backup sooner rather than later to whichever quarterback the Falcons take early in the draft. Don't be surprised, however, if Dimitroff follows the New England model and gets his lines in shape before anything else. Franchise cornerstone Warrick Dunn, who has rushed for more yards than any Falcon not named Gerald Riggs, was released as most suspected he would be, and returned to Tampa Bay.

Dimitroff and new head coach Mike Smith thus had a clean slate of sorts, and the financial wherewithal to move forward. And with grievous needs at so many positions, and a nearly complete rebuild still ahead, the Falcons' 2008 draft is more crucial than most for future success.

Draft Needs

The Hall trade gives Atlanta a total of four draft picks in the first 48 selections, according to Gandy's release gives the team little to go on at left tackle, and though Atlanta's league-lowest ranking in Adjusted Line Yards had a lot to do with injuries and schematic misfits under Petrino, the rebuild probably starts here. Michigan's Jake Long would be the perfect pointman for the new power offense. If they don't pick the nasty drive-blocker, the Falcons could define the defensive line with one of two explosive defensive tackles, LSU's Glenn Dorsey or USC's Sedrick Ellis. Perhaps Chad Henne or Joe Flacco gets the nod at future franchise quarterback with that extra early second-round pick.

Later picks could find the team filling a huge need at middle linebacker -- they've got to get Keith Brooking back outside -- with someone like Oklahoma tackling machine Curtis Lofton. Replacing Hall finds the Falcons in a bit of a numbers game. There isn't a cornerback in this draft worthy of the third overall selection, but there's a lot of depth in the second round and early second day. Indiana's Tracy Porter is a speedy, man-on-man corner with suspect tackling ability. USC's Terrell Thomas is a Marcus Trufant-esque player with a physical style, decent speed, and questionable short-area burst. You might see one of these names among those four early picks. At tight end, Tennessee's Brad Cottam recently impressed at his Pro Day, and he'd be a nice target for whoever's throwing the ball in the ATL.

Carolina Panthers

The Right Profile

Steve Smith's long national nightmare may finally be over. After four years of double-teams from opposing defenses and below-average production from other receivers on the roster, there's help on the way. After cutting ties with Drew Carter and Keary Colbert, two receivers who never lived up to their potential, the Panthers took a solid look at the situation around Smith and made some serious moves.

The first step was to re-sign Mushin Muhammad, Smith's last real production partner in the air when he finished third in DPAR in 2004. Muhammad has spent three years in Chicago; now he comes back to his original NFL home at age 34, and as a third receiver behind Smith and Carolina's second step -- former Seahawks receiver D.J. Hackett. Hackett is a great player when healthy, but that's a major caveat. He missed 10 games in 2007 with various injuries, and it's that concern that left him with substandard offers from the Redskins and Buccaneers when he headed east on a free agency tour.'s Adam Caplan first reported that the Seahawks, who told Hackett and his agent to head back to the Pacific Northwest so that they could ostensibly match whatever was on the table, said "Feh!" to Carolina's two-year, $3.5 million offer and let Hackett walk. If Hackett stays healthy all year, the Panthers will have a steal, and Seattle general manager Tim Ruskell will have a lot of 'splainin' to do.

How bad was it for Smith after Muhammad left? He finished first in DPAR for receivers in 2005; Ricky Proehl was next for the Panthers at 53rd. In 2006, Smith ranked 14th, and Keyshawn Johnson was next for the team at 55th. 2007 saw all Carolina receivers hit the pavement (which is what happens when four different quarterbacks throw the ball to you, and one of them is David Carr). Smith finished 73rd in DPAR, Carter was 66th, and Colbert received the dubious honor of Low Man among NFL receivers with 50 passes or more thrown in their general direction. His -10.6 DPAR was worst in the NFL. Muhammad finished 60th in DPAR with the Bears, and when that's an improvement, you know your offense is in some serious trouble. Hackett is the wild card. If he stays on his feet and can reproduce his best efforts with the Seahawks, it'll make Smith very happy. And quite a bit less covered.

Free Agency Recap

The Panthers will have as many as nine new starters in 2008. In addition to the redefinition of the receiver corps, Carolina's offensive line -- the one strength of the offense last year -- will see a lot of change. Guard Mike Wahle was released as a cap casualty and signed by Seattle. Center Justin Hartwig was signed by the Steelers after Carolina tried to trade him and found no takers. Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins was traded to the Jets for a pair of draft picks. Part of his five-year, $30 million contract with New York provides $25,000 bonuses when Jenkins, who reportedly finished 2007 at 390 pounds, makes weight during scheduled times. Middle linebacker Dan Morgan ran into the excellence of rookie Jon Beason and his own formidable concussion history and signed with the Saints. Even some who are staying around are changing places -- tackle Travelle Wharton, who signed a six-year, $36 million contract, will most likely move inside to Wahle's old spot at left guard. Defensive end Julius Peppers, whose 2008 cap hit of over $14 million stands in very sharp contrast to his three sacks last season, has been the subject of several trade rumors.

Draft Needs

Carolina needs an elite left tackle above all. They have a good shot at Boise State's Ryan Clady with the 13th overall pick. Clady has a great mixture of run- and pass-blocking moves, and he'd form a pretty special left side with Wharton. At running back, DeShaun Foster was another name on the long list of Carolina releases. He took his subpar production to San Francisco and left the starting job with DeAngelo Williams where it belongs. However, the Panthers would be wise to take advantage of this running back class in later rounds. Bigger backs like Tulane's Matt Forte or Central Florida's Kevin Smith would provide a solid contrast to Williams' elusive style. Look for some secondary help to be selected later on, as well. Terrence Holt, known mostly in NFL circles for being Torry Holt's younger brother, was signed to fill space at free safety.

New Orleans Saints

Train in Vain

In 2007, Saints running back Reggie Bush suffered through a losing season for the first time in his life as his team went 7-9 in the NFL's worst division. A knee injury stole his last four games. New Orleans bounced through several different complementary running backs who would play thunder to Bush's lightning -- Deuce McAllister, who suffered another serious knee injury; then veteran Aaron Stecker; then undrafted rookie Pierre Thomas, whose late-season efforts caused the kind of excitement that Bush himself is used to producing. Bush caught 73 balls in 2007 -- his second NFL season with at least this many catches -- but his yards per reception dropped from 8.4 to 5.7, and he ended the year with the worst rushing DPAR for any running with at least 75 carries. The aforementioned Thomas had the NFL's best DPAR among backs with 74 or fewer carries, which is as good a metaphor as any for the footsteps Bush must hear behind him.

This spring and summer will find Bush in the team's off-season conditioning program. He went home to Southern California after his rookie year, and though he participated in conditioning of sorts, he now realizes the value of staying put. "Last year, I kind of felt like I could still do the same things out there that I could do here," he told this week. "I was, but it was also a little different. Sometimes you can get your teammates in the film room and with the coaches, you get to go over little things that you can't get when you're not here at the facility."

The Saints re-signed Stecker, and Thomas looks to be a good one, but McAllister's future is in doubt. It was recently revealed that he not only underwent surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee last September, but also a microfracture procedure on his previously injured right knee. He has delayed his 2008 roster bonus until April 15 so the team can see how he's healing.

With all this roster drama swirling around him, it's still Bush's load to carry. That's what happens when you're selected second overall in the draft. What Bush, his fans and his detractors will have to realize is that the Saints didn't draft a back that can pound the rock all day. He's a piece of the puzzle -- albeit a very talented one -- who needs another consistent, reliable back on the field to take some of the defensive focus away from him.

Free Agency Recap

The Saints finished eighth in passing DVOA last season and set about retaining all the major players. Receivers Devery Henderson, Terrance Copper and David Patten; tight ends Eric Johnson and Billy Miller; and linemen Jamar Nesbit and Jonathan Goodwin all re-upped. The reorganization of a defense that finished 27th in total DVOA -- dead last in DVOA against the pass -- and resembled a CFL squad far more often than it should have began with the acquisition of two middle linebackers: Dan Morgan, signed away from the Panthers, and Jonathan Vilma, acquired for a fourth-round pick from the Jets. Vilma's an interesting acquisition. If his knee checks out, he's a dynamic addition to the Saints' 4-3 scheme. Morgan may get some work outside. The Saints also signed veteran quarterback Mark Brunell, who should be an upgrade over Jamie Martin as the backup to Drew Brees.

Draft Needs

In our last NFC South Four Downs, we detailed the perils of New Orleans' secondary; there may not be a bigger need in the NFL than for this team to upgrade that squad. Jason David was outplayed by a bare area in the middle of the field, and Mike McKenzie has some serious ACL surgical recovery to complete. McKenzie's still an effective player when healthy, but he's 31 and it's time to start thinking about reinforcements. Ex-Patriot Randall Gay is a decent stopgap. The Saints have the 10th pick in the 2008 draft, and they may zero in on Troy cornerback Leodis McKelvin, this year's top-rated corner. If McKelvin is gone and neither Glen Dorsey nor Sedrick Ellis is there at 10 (there's little doubt New Orleans would take either player if such a miracle occurred), don't be surprised if they take a shot at Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. "DRC" has the deep speed to help stop this defense's penchant for giving up big plays.

Later rounds should see the Saints taking a defensive tackle somewhere. Age will catch up to Brian Young and Hollis Thomas sooner than later. Notre Dame's Trevor Laws is a slightly undersized interior lineman who would impress as a three-technique tackle in a 4-3. Most mocks have him as a second-round prospect, but the stock is rising. Any number of midround linebackers would be able to fight for starting time under the right circumstances.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brand New Cadillac

There's a nine-inch scar on the right knee of Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. It's where the patellar tendon, torn last September 30 against the Carolina Panthers, was repaired. Williams, Tampa Bay's first-round pick in 2005, recently told the St. Petersburg Times that he's wondered at times whether the injury would be career-ending. "You're laying in bed, you're doing rehab and you can't move your leg,'' Williams said. "So you start to think that even though the doctor is telling you, 'Whoa, they're just speculating, be patient.' But we're human. You get to thinking like, 'Man, maybe it is."

Since then, there's been a lot of praying and even more rehab. Williams is now able to engage in light exercise, and he hopes to be ready to play when the 2008 season begins. According to various reports, the sentiment on the part of his team is that he'll be ready at midseason at best. The more insidious speculation is that his career may be over. Tampa Bay has 2007 surprise Earnest Graham, the re-signed Michael Bennett, and veteran Warrick Dunn in the fold; they seem to know that relying on Williams this year may be pure folly.

It's all speculation until the off-season conditioning program begins, but Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, told Williams it's a 9- to 12-month recovery process. Williams points to Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter and Broncos linebacker Nate Webster as examples of players who have returned to the game after similar injuries. His current state of mind -- "I definitely have a great shot. I feel good about it" -- is the only way to go.

Free Agency Recap

The signing of Dunn, who began his estimable career in Tampa Bay and inspired fond memories long after he signed with the Falcons in 2002, is an interesting nostalgic notion. The Bucs plan to use him in the passing game more than they will as a serious rushing option, which will probably extend his career. Tampa Bay also stayed in the division with their biggest signing, a surprising six-year, $34.5 million deal with $15 million guaranteed for ex-Saints center Jeff Faine. That's a lot of scratch for a center, though the Saints did finish first overall in Adjusted Line Yards up the middle despite starting a running back who is not exactly known as a pile-pusher. Brian Griese, acquired in a trade with the Bears, will begin his second stint in Tampa Bay (he was their primary quarterback in 2004) backing up Jeff Garcia. They're also taking a chance with receiver Antonio Bryant, who missed the entire 2007 season wrestling with the league's substance-abuse policy.

Draft Needs

The demolition of Tampa Bay's offense in their playoff loss to the Giants re-emphasized the team's primary need: When Joey Galloway was unable to make plays due to injury, Garcia had no other realistic options and spent a very long three hours getting his brains beaten in by New York's otherworldly defensive line. Cal's DeSean Jackson is a small speed-burner who is trying very hard indeed to avoid getting pigeonholed by Ted Ginn, Jr., comparisons, and he'd certainly give opposing cornerbacks something to think about downfield. Louisville's Harry Douglas might be a good option on the second day -- you may remember Douglas as the guy who disclosed at the Combine that he loves him some Ike Hilliard. He also crashed Brian Brohm's press conference and started asking questions. This is a guy who could make Bucs Cam very interesting.

Speaking of cornerbacks, with Brian Kelly opting out of Tampa Bay and signing with the Lions, and Ronde Barber approaching the wrong side of his thirties, it's possible that the Bucs will look at a fairly deep group at the position.

Reports also indicate that the team has shown a specific interest in San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson, the Shrine Game hero who suffered through an indifferent workout at the Combine. I wrote a pool report about Johnson from the RCA Dome, and I was alarmed at how much trouble he had throwing across his body and operating with reasonable consistency. What I didn't know at the time was that Johnson had suffered back spasms while running a 4.4 40-yard dash earlier in the day. His recent Pro Day, which was attended by representatives of more than 20 NFL teams, allowed him a fresh start. His stock may be rising again, and the Bucs are among his biggest advocates.


21 comments, Last at 29 Mar 2008, 10:23pm

1 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Well, now I know what album I'll be listening to for the walk home from work today! Nice work.

2 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

As a Saints fan, I like all the re-signings on the offensive side of the ball. The biggest problem on offense was the RB's, and it's not exactly a problem area. Part of the problem was Coach Payton going pass-wacky, and that prob. was a result from the lack of production. Personally, I would like to see the Saints go to this type of base set--2 WR's, Bush in the slot, a TE, and 1 RB. Or 2 WR's, Bush in the slot, and a FB & RB (our TE's aren't the greatest). If the D goes nickel, pound the rock. If they stay in their base, Bush against a LB will almost always favor the Saints.
Regarding the draft, I would like the Saints to trade down if Dorsey/Ellis isn't there--I don't see Talib, McKelvin, or DRC being worth the #10.

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

we detailed the perils of New Orleans’ secondary; there may not be a bigger need in the NFL than for this team to upgrade that squad.

Was this written before the D-Hall trade? Or are the Falcons hoping Houston and "hole in the zone" will work?

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

People rag on Trevor Laws because his height, but he's only half an inch shorter than Glenn Dorsey, and he's actually taller than Sedrick Ellis.

5 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

There is no way that Atlanta's secondary is in as bad a shape as New Orleans, even after the Hall trade. For one thing, Hall was good, but not that good. Secondly, they have 2 recent second round picks in the mix. Not only that, but they aren't paying a player that is worse than a hole in the zone.
There is definitely no way that the secondary is New Orleans bad.

6 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I've been forced to watch Falcons games because I am a Saints fan exiled in Atlanta (OK, so there goes my claim of being unbiased) and I think that without Hall, the Falcons secondary is at about Saints level when McKenzie was healthy.

7 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I think that without Hall, the Falcons secondary is at about Saints level when McKenzie was healthy.

I agree, but I think they are two very different situations. The Falcons secondary obviously took a huge short-term hit with the loss of Hall, but they weren't going to be any good any time soon -- plus Hall was likely a goner anyway -- and they are obviously in rebuilding mode.

The Saints, on the other hand, well, it'd be nice to win now. Drew Brees is probably the best QB they have had in franchise history -- sorry Archie -- and with the additions at linebacker combined with playing in a terrible division, fielding a semi-formidable secondary may very well be enough to get the Saints back into the playoffs.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with what you are saying, I'm just getting at the fact that it really doesn't matter whether or not the Falcons have Hall right now. They weren't going to win anyway, and are rebuilding. It's comparising apples and oranges.

8 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

As for the Saints draft pick...

I really doubt Dorsey falls that far. I know there have been some injury concerns, and I don't think he's going number one overall, but I can't help but wonder a lot of those injury concerns are from some teams hoping to stir up some fear with him that may cause him to drop to them. I'd be really surprised if he were still sitting when the Saints went on the clock.

Sedrick Ellis may be a very much more interesting proposition. If Dorsey is the first DT taken off the board, I think there is a very good chance that Ellis may fall to the Saints. It would be hard to pass that up if that were to happen.

That said, I couldn't fault the Saints at all for taking a corner. They need one in the worst way, and they've got a nice group to pick from. I think it's hard to say just how bad the Saints secondary was last year, and with Hole in Zone, even a somewhat mediocre cornerback would be a huge upgrade.

A lot of going to depend on who is there. If Dorsey falls, he's a Saint, end of story. And if Ellis falls that far, he may be too. A lot could depend on whether or not they have the chance to take the first corner off of the board. If they have a chance at taking either Ellis or the first corner, that could be interesting. If, however, the first corner goes off the board and Ellis is still sitting there, I have a hard time believing they would pass him up to get the second corner.

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

1. Dorsey and Ellis both have to fall for either to become a Saint, because the Bengals would take either of them if they were there at #9.

2. The Saints already have the personnel for a dominant pass-rush, even if their DTs aren't great. Neither Ellis nor Dorsey is primarily a run-stuffer, and run-stuffing DTs aren't worth top ten picks anyway. I think there's a good chance they take a corner even if McKelvin and one of Jenkins and Rogers-Cromartie have already gone. Hell, even if all three have they might take Talib.

10 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Personally, I'd have associated Train In Vain with the Falcons: "You say you stand by your man?" Oh, the irony.

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

My opinion on DeAngelo Hall is best summed up by a line I read on this site about Mike Alstott: he gets called overrated so much that he's probably a little underrated. I have no idea how he plays the run, but when it comes to shutting down his man he's probably top 5 in the league. I mean, who's better? Asomugha, Bailey, and Pacman, sure. But then who? Rashean Mathis? Probably, though I'd wager it's closer than most people would admit. Asante Samuel might be better in zone, but I give Hall the edge in man coverage. I can't really think of anyone else, though like with the power rankings there's probably a bigger difference between between the first 3 (if Jones hasn't declined) and the rest that doesn't show with simple rankings. The guy's a tool, so I can understand why people root for him to fail. He [i]is[/i] an elite corner, though.

Also, to the staff: Have you guys ever considered putting out a mock draft?

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Re 11:

"He [i]is[/i] an elite corner, though."

I disagree, he is about above average, which is why people call him overrated. Marcus Trufant, Charles Tillman, Dunta Robinson, and Drayton Florence, and probably Mike McKenzie are all better than him. With the players you listed that pushes him out of the top 10. He might be lower than that.

13 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

11: I'm not so sure that PacMan is really that great, but at the same time, I'm not sure that DHall is that much better. Also, I think that Antonio Cromartie is better than Hall.

And as far as to why I think that the Atlanta secondary is still better than the New Orleans secondary, it's really because Atlanta has some up and coming players, while the Saints have nothing.

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Florence better than Hall? I am not sure about that-well one will be a nickelback and the other will not.

Hall right now is bordering on Dre Bly with the Lions. Good enough to be a Pro Bowler, had no supporting cast in the secondary and will get burnt trying to make a play.

15 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I'm not sure about Florence either, but Robinson is (or was, pre-injury - who knows how well he'll come back) certainly a better all-around corner. Trufant probably too. Sheldon Brown has a case, as does the good version of Lito Shepherd. You can debate the individual players, but the point is that Hall is an above average #1 CB, but not truly elite (though he has the physical tools to be, and could yet have more developing to do). That makes him a very valuable player, but probably still not worth what he's getting paid.

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I got my Chargers' corners mixed up, apparently Cromartie is the better one.

17 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

I would say that apart from his injury, Chris McAllister is better than Hall as well.

18 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Also, I think that Antonio Cromartie is better than Hall.

I forgot about him. I'd agree that Cromartie is better(if he can sustain it, though I have no reason to believe he won't), which I think pushes Hall out of my top 5. Everyone else listed is pretty debatable, though I'll concede that with 5 there's enough players above him to strip him of the elite label I applied to him yesterday.

19 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

The big difference between Hall (or a number of others) and the Top 3-5 CB's to me is consistency. Hall is not consistent. Of course, neither is Asante (both are better than the Bills to San Francisco guy, I suspect).

The best way to build a team is through the draft. Typically the best value is in the late 1st round through the early 3rd round. This gives Atlanta quite a few potentially good picks.

If I were GM I think I might have passed on Turner this year and kept Matt last year. Now that they are in a total rebuilding state I would look at getting a solid veteran QB who can handle the pummeling while rebuilding the lines. Inside-out.

Year 1 - Offensive Line and DT.
Year 2 - QB to sit on the bench for at least a year. CB or WR would be nice, but Safety and/or TE could make sense.
Year 3 - Running Back and DE. Another CB and safety and WR. If you made all the right picks you migth be competitive now.
Year 4 - This is the year to really fill the holes and see how far you can go. (for the next 2-3 years)

Based on my formula, RB is what you pick up in year 3 or 4, not year 1. I would just write this year off, in which case letting a QB (Harrington and Redman) get destroyed might not be the worst decision in the world.

20 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Re: 19 -

I think in general, for a rebuilding team you're right on. However, I think if there is someone available that you think will be the long-term answer at a position, you take them regardless of position. For example, you have to get Stud DE's if they're available, as a good pass rush is absolutely critical... its not a position I think you can wait 'til year 3 on unless you have to...

The team is rebuilding, so should be taking the best available talent (for the long-term), not focusing on filling positional needs. In case of a tie or roughly equivelent talent grades, then follow the script you propose.

The big exception to this is RB... I don't think you can generally get an RB that is a safe "long-term" solution. Their expected half-lives are simply too short. A Gale Sayers/Terrell Davis doesn't do you a lot of good in years one-three without the other pieces around them, so I don't think spending a 1st/2nd round pick on one is a good idea in the early years. If you stumble upon a stud late, great (ala TD)... but the high round picks are just too valuable for other slots in the 1st year or 2.

You also have to take into account how long it typically takes various positions to adjust to the NFL... i.e. it usually takes QBs/WRs 2-3 years, so you should draft them earlier (time-wise) than LBs, etc., knowing that you're developing them for the future (i.e don't ask/expect them to contribute much immediately). In that sense, it makes sense to get a cheap/short-term veteran in front of them while they develop (as you say with Redman/Harrignton), and in ways lets you grab the "high-potential" guys rather than those that you need to start right away.

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC South

Really late coming to this so this will never be seen. But once again, people start talking about top level corners and Terence Newman isn't mentioned. Charles Tillman, Mike McKenzie, Lito Shepard get mentioned but not Newman? Crazy. Just Crazy. No one values consistency. I'd take Newman over everyone but Asomugha. Admittedly, I'm an odd case and a Newman homer, but still...

But yeah, the Saint's secondary is still the single worst unit in Football. I'd still consider the Texan's secondary worse than Atlanta's. Though all three are probably pretty close to the same level of crapiness.