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NFL Draft in Review Part I: Winners

Detroit has improved significantly on the field the past two seasons and this draft should help them continue along the path toward becoming a playoff contender. Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley was a great value pick as the 13th pick in the first round. With the combination of Fairley and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the Lions’ first round pick in last year’s draft will give opposing offenses nightmares for years to come. Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure was another good value in the second round and could start alongside fellow second-round pick Titus Young, a wide receiver from Boise State.

Green Bay:
Coming off of a Super Bowl win, the Packers kept the momentum going by having a fantastic draft. Drafting versatile offensive lineman Derrek Sherrod from Mississippi State with the last pick in the first round adds depth to an already solid offensive line. They used their second round pick to give quarterback Aaron Rodgers another weapon in do-everything wide receiver Randall Cobb from Kentucky. My favorite pick of theirs, however, may have been snagging Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, who won last year’s Mackey Award for the nation’s best tight end in the fifth round.

Tampa Bay:
Tampa Bay came into the draft needing to add players on the defenseline, and they immediately added help with Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, the 20th pick in the first round. Clayborn has had some injury issues, but he had 11.5 sacks in 2009 and six in 2010. Their second round pick, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers out of Clemson, could turn into the steal of the draft if he stays healthy. Bowers was talked about as a top-three pick in the draft before injury concerns with his knee pushed him way down the board and into the second round. If the knee holds up, Bowers has multiple-Pro Bowl potential. Washington’s Mason Foster solidifies their linebacking corp, and fourth rounder Luke Stocker, a tight end out of Tennessee, was a great value and has the potential to be an above-average player.

New Orleans:
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and New Orleans had to be ecstatic when former California defensive end Cameron Jordan fell to them with the 24th pick in the first round. Jordan has great speed off the edge and adds some much needed pass-rushing ability to the Saints’ defense. New Orleans then traded up into the first round to draft Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram from Alabama with their second pick. Ingram should come right in and complement running back Pierre Thomas. He should also help replace the expected departure of running back Reggie Bush. The Saints also picked up a couple of value picks later in the draft with Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson in the third round and Pittsburgh defensive end Greg Romeus in the seventh round. If not for injury issues, Romeus would have been drafted in the top two or three rounds.

The Bengals went into the draft knowing they had holes to fill at quarterback and wide receiver. Quarterback Carson Palmer has asked to be traded and also contemplated retirement, while the wide receiver position continues to be a question mark with the continued off-the-field distractions of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. The Bengals drafted former Georgia product A.J. Green, considered by many experts the top wide receiver in this year’s draft, with the fourth pick in the first round to fill the hole at wide receiver. After a run on quarterbacks in the first round, the Bengals were able to grab TCU quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round. If given a couple of years, Dalton could turn into a pretty solid quarterback for the Bengals. They also added a legitimate pass rusher in the third round with Nevada’s Dontay Moch, who has top-end speed at 250-pounds. Fourth rounder Clint Boling from Georgia and fifth rounder Robert Sands from West Virginia shore up the offensive line and defensive backfield, respectively.

Tomorrow, Hipp looks at five losers of the 2011 Draft. On Wednesday, Bennett wraps up the three-part series with a recap of how the Southeastern Conference fared, including five of the top six picks in the first round and former Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe, who went to the Kansas City Chiefs with the 199th pick in the sixth round.