NFL Draft analysis: NFC West

April 17, 2000

Atlanta

Rd. No. Player Pos. College 2 37 Travis Claridge OT So. California 3 67 Mark Simoneau LB Kansas State 4 100 Michael Thompson OT Tennessee State 5 134 Anthony Midget DB Virginia Tech 6 172 Mareno Philyaw WR Troy State 7 211 Darrick Vaughn DB SW Texas State

Pick to watch: LB Mark Simoneau -- Being counted on to upgrade the defense.

Analysis: Coach Dan Reeves blew this draft when he traded his first-round pick last year to the Ravens for a second-round pick he used to draft tight end Reggie Kelly. It turned out to be the fifth pick in the draft, and the Falcons didn't make a selection until the 37th pick, when they took offensive tackle Travis Claridge because starter Ephraim Salaam struggled last season and they have little depth at the position. This draft didn't do much to improve the Falcons.

Grade: D.

Carolina

Rd. No. Player Pos. College 1 23 Rashard Anderson DB Jackson State 2 57 Deon Grant S Tennessee 3 82 Leander Jordan G Indiana, Pa. 4 120 Alvin McKinley DT Mississippi State 5 147 Gillis Wilson DT Southern 6 182 Jeno James OT Auburn 7 221 Lester Towns LB Washington Pick to watch: CB Rashard Anderson -- The Panthers will need him when they play against the Rams' receivers.

Analysis: Because Eric Davis and Doug Evans didn't play that well last season, the Panthers wanted to upgrade their cornerback position. They signed Jimmy Hitchcock as a free agent and then grabbed cornerbacks Anderson and Deon Grant with their first two picks. They addressed another need with their next pick by taking guard Leander Jordan.

Grade: C.

New Orleans

Rd. No. Player Pos. College 2 33 Darren Howard DE Kansas State 4 96 Terrelle Smith RB Arizona State 5 131 Tutan Reyes OT Mississippi 5 158 Austin Wheatley TE Iowa 5 166 Chad Morton RB So. California 6 168 Marc Bulger QB West Virginia 6 195 Michael Hawthorne DB Purdue 6 200 Sherrod Gideon WR S. Mississippi 7 228 Kevin Houser TE Ohio State

Pick to watch: DE Darren Howard -- The only player the Saints selected on the first day of the draft.

Analysis: The Saints paid the price for the Ricky Williams deal in this draft. They gave up their first- and third-round picks in the Williams deal, and one of them turned out to be the second pick in the draft. They were fortunate that Howard fell to them in the second round. They also took fullback Terrelle Smith, who can block for Williams. The Saints did as well as they could with limited resources.

Grade: C

St. Louis

Rd. No. Player Pos. College 1 31 Trung Canidate RB Arizona 2 62 Jacoby Shepherd DB Oklahoma State 3 94 John St. Clair C Virginia 4 104 Kaulana Noa G Hawaii 5 139 Brian Young DL Texas-El Paso 6 198 Matt Bowen DB Iowa 7 220 Andrew Kline G San Diego State

Pick to watch: RB Trung Canidate -- He'll be an insurance policy in case Marshall Faulk gets hurt.

Analysis: When you're the Super Bowl champion, you can afford to reach at the end of the first round, and the Rams did by taking Canidate, a running back who can catch in the Faulk mode. They later added three offensive linemen, because they don't have much depth at the position after losing two starters in free agency.

Grade: C

San Francisco

Rd. No. Player Pos. College 1 16 Julian Peterson LB Michigan State 1 24 Ahmad Plummer DB Ohio State 2 35 John Engelberger DE Virginia Tech 2 48 Jason Webster DB Texas A&M 3 65 Giovanni Carmazzi QB Hofstra 3 86 Jeff Ulbrich LB Hawaii 4 108 John Keith S Furman 5 132 Paul Smith RB Texas-El Paso 5 150 John Milem DE Lenoir-Rhyne 7 212 Tim Rattay QB Louisiana Tech 7 230 Brian Jennings TE Arizona State

Pick to watch: QB Giovanni Carmazzi -- Should be the team's quarterback of the future.

Analysis: Bill Walsh wanted to trade down and get extra picks in an attempt to find five starters. He didn't quite pull that off, but he seemed to find at least three. It wasn't quite the 1986 draft that established Walsh's reputation as a personnel guru, but he wound up with 11 players and upgraded the defense by selecting defensive players with six of the first seven picks. It was a solid effort.

Grade: B

Draft analysis

The NFL draft analysis was compiled by Sun staff writer Vito Stellino.

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