The NFC South received an infusion of young talent from the 2010 NFL Draft. The players came from all backgrounds and pedigrees. They hail from powerhouses like Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, and Virginia Tech and small schools like Appalachian State and Montana.
Most of us know of Gerald McCoy, Jimmy Clausen, and Sean Weatherspoon, but may have never heard of Arrelious Benn, Joe Hawley, or Shann Shillinger. Regardless, all of these players are trying to make the team in Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, or Tampa Bay.
Some teams may not have a single rookie start for them this season while others may cautiously start half a dozen.
Here are ten rookies destined to make an impact in the NFC South.
Once Detroit selected Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh, it was clear that the Buccaneers wouldn't hesitate to take Gerald McCoy out of Oklahoma with the third overall pick.
McCoy fills a huge need as a penetrating three-technique defensive tackle in the Tampa-2 system. McCoy will start immediately and should remain the starter for the next decade.
Weatherspoon's athleticism made him the most coveted 4-3 outside linebacker in the draft. He is an immediate starter for the Falcons, who struggled immensely to stop the pass last year.
Atlanta will use Weatherspoon all over the place. He will be running sideline to sideline chasing running backs, dropping into coverage to protect against short and intermediate routes, and occasionally be asked to blitz.
The Saints' selection of Florida State's Patrick Robinson came as a surprise to many because New Orleans already has two solid starters at corner with Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter. In today's NFL, however, a "nickel" corner can almost be considered a starter with all of the three-receiver sets that many offenses feature.
Robinson is an instinctive, aggressive corner who plays well in man coverage and will be used often in Gregg Williams' exotic blitz packages.
Why would the Buccaneers choose two defensive tackles with their first two picks?
The answer is quite simple. Tampa's defense was at its best when Warren Sapp and Anthony "Booger" McFarland teamed up to form a dominating interior presence.
Price was regarded by many as one of the top five defensive tackles in the draft and was projected by many to go at the end of the first round. Like McCoy, Price will likely start immediately in Tampa Bay and fortify a run defense that was the worst in the NFL.
Take a look at Tampa's collection of wide receivers and you know why they traded up to get this receiver out of Illinois. The Buc's leading receiver last year was tight end Kellen Winslow, and it wasn't even close. Next on the list was Antonio Bryant, but he is now in Cincinnati.
Benn gives Josh Freeman an excellent target over the middle of the field. Tampa still doesn't have many weapons in the passing game and he will receive a lot of pass targets.
Because of this, he is a dark horse candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Other than Tim Tebow, there wasn't a more polarizing figure in the 2010 NFL draft than Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. While many fans rave about his obvious physical ability and immersion in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense, detractors question his leadership skills.
Carolina needs a fresh start at quarterback after Jake Delhomme's nightmarish 2008 playoff game and disastrous 2009 season. Matt Moore stepped in for the final five games of 2009 and led the team to a 4-1 mark.
The Moore-Clausen battle should continue throughout most of training camp and will be the talk of the summer in Carolina.
Carolina has struggled to draft a legitimate starting receiver to play alongside Steve Smith. First, they tried with Keary Colbert, who teased them with a good rookie season but then flamed out. Then they turned to Dwayne Jarrett, who has caught just 33 passes in three seasons.
Now, it's LaFell's turn. With Smith out for at least part of training camp due to a broken arm, LaFell will have a golden opportunity to get plenty of reps to improve as a player and impress the coaches.
If LaFell can make the same big plays for the Panthers as he did for LSU and avoid the mental lapses that came from time to time while in college, he will be a solid number two receiver.
Johnson probably won't start in Atlanta, but his versatility makes him a valuable commodity. He started at both guard and tackle during his career at Alabama.
If a starter goes down, the Falcons can plug Johnson into the lineup without having to shuffle any other linemen around. This helps to provide continuity in critical situations.
During his senior year, he helped pave the way for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and freshman Trent Richardson.
This fourth round pick has a chance to start at some point this season in New Orleans. The Saints lack quality depth at defensive tackle, especially at the one-technique spot.
Woods' size (6'4", 300 lbs) and strength make him a perfect candidate to help patch up a sometimes leaky interior run defense. The Saints' rush defense ranked in the bottom third of the league last year in stops at or behind the line of scrimmage and in short-yardage situations.
Weakside linebacker Thomas Davis' season-ending ACL injury has forced the Panthers to shuffle the deck at linebacker and will allow Norwood to get more reps at training camp.
Norwood, who started his college career as a defensive end, is perhaps the biggest linebacker on the roster at 245 lbs. He excels at coming off the edge and making plays in the offensive backfield.
Norwood is a strongside linebacker who will likely relieve James Anderson in nickel and dime situations.