NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: Mark Ingram, #28 overall pick by the New Orleans Saints, holds up a jersey on stage during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Draft grades are meaningless, but ridicule isn't.
In an effort to help balance the meaningless NFL Draft grades given out hours after the draft's conclusion and never visited upon again, here's a grading system of merit: The NFC South's draft classes, evaluated by their potential for ridicule.
Atlanta Falcons (2010: 13-3, NFC South Champions)
Apparent 2011 Draft Theme: OOOH, SHINY
After years of Thomas Dimitroff's predictably predictable New England Brand Predictability, Comrade summoned his best stoned high schooler drafting a fantasy team: "A linebacker quality punter? Dude. Yes. Yes. We neeeed that. Yes." After 72 hours of brittle reinforcement by Atlanta's state media, we'll admit the Julio Jones pick IS a logical compliment to the offense, but that doesn't change the fact it was sealed with a lopsided negotiation. If (when?) Jones can't live up to his five-picks billing, this deal will look as good as your desperation trade for the Billy Ripken F*ck Face card when you were 12.
And hey, defensive end depth? No worries, man! The first word on Jacquizz Rodgers is VERSATILITY. That, and yet-to-be-patented-or-even-invented robot knees for John Abraham, and this class fills every need. Hm. Maybe a new Tony Gonzalez we could grow in a test tube.
Grade: B-. In hindsight, the last blockbuster Falcons trade on Draft Day was almost lopsided enough to make San Diego a Super Bowl Champion. OH BUT IT'S CLEVELAND. Never mind; no one wins!
New Orleans Saints: (2010: 11-5, NFC Wildcard)
Apparent 2011 Draft Theme: Unparalleled Unhateability
OF COURSE THEY DRAFTED THE SINGLE MOST LIKABLE PLAYER IN THE ENTIRE DRAFT. At some point during the season, the sheer power generated by the media's infatuation for the Breesus / Mark Ingram tandem will generate pure cosmic electricity, and right in the middle of Pam Oliver featurette the two will form Admirability Voltron, the single most sympathetic feature story in the history of sports media. And like the cowering villains, Atlanta will be left to reconcile the sheer unhateability of both players.
It's just business: What Reggie Bush has in versatility, he sorely lacked in his nationally sympathetic storyline / false idol rating, and therefore the Saints made the least condemnable Draft Day position coup in NFL history. If you can't top-line a Fox Family Channel film alongside a golden retriever with cancer, you're not fit for the New Orleans backfield.
Grade: D-. Little to ridicule, although anytime the Saints draft a defensive player, the "instant analysis" is usually the same 35-word hymn to the glory of Gregg Williams' scheming. Gregg Williams likes to mix up blitz schemes and disguise his coverages until they're virtually unstoppable, unless you've got two bad knees and are running straight ahead on a draw. Gregg Williams is the Bald Bull of defensive masterminds.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2010: 10-6, 3rd place NFC South)
Apparent 2011 Draft Theme: Rockstar Games Development Team
Look, sucking toes on the internet is the apex to any coach's career, so it's time to shift focus from Rex Ryan and find a franchise that's literally rebuilding its roster for HBO Sunday Night programming. The incoming Bucs draft class can all be read like fortune cookies: Take the usual player capsule "Luke Stocker is a big, physical tight end that could compliment Kellen Winslow and spread TE receptions around," and add the phrase "if the bitch don't get CUT." (See also: Allen Bradford / LeGarrette Blount).
Grade: A- Raheem Morris' Tampa team doesn't skirt character issues - they inspire them. Provided Aqib Talib can somehow stay on the roster, this combination of roster and locale could be the long-delayed plot for "Grand Theft Auto 5."
Carolina Panthers (2010: 2-14, 4th Place NFC South)
Apparent 2011 Draft Theme: Magic Beans!
They still suck, but for three days in April they get national attention and the competitive equivalent of a participation trophy. Despite the fact he couldn't combine two elements of meaningless jargon a month ago, Cam Newton's QB rating was elevated solely because of Ryan Mallett's hangover, and advanced to Christ-like over the weekend by virtue of his new division. Anytime a team (team means Tampa) drafted a defensive lineman - even one-legged ends - the analyst collective (best voiced in your head by Jon Gruden) would exclaim: WELL OF COURSE THEY DID! I MEAN DEAR GOD, YOU'RE IN A DIVISION WITH JOSH FREEMAN, MATT RYAN, DREW BREES and NOW ON TOP OF THOSE HAM AND EGGERS, CAM NEWTON!
Didn't this division - Gruden's World Championship team specifically - invent the blueprint to nullifying a mobile quarterback in the Michael Vick / Aaron Brooks era? Nevermind. Alex Smith was once Tom Brady in April.
Grade: B+ The eventual demise of Newton will be a Vince Young script with heavy David Simon rewrites. "Mr. Clausen" is already an Omar-quality meme.