NFL Draft Preview: NFC South
The NFC South is an up-and-down division looking for stability in the draft. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons were solid last season, but none of the other teams could quite put it together though none are too off from being a playoff team. Will this draft be what puts them over the top? Once again, analysts from DraftTek.com provided key insights.
Carolina Panthers (7-9 in 2012)
Picks: #14 (1), #44 (2), #108 (4), #148 (5), #182 (6)
Needs: WR, OT, DT, DE, CB, S
Outlook: This is Cam Newton’s team for better or for worse and how Newton rebounds from somewhat of a sophomore slump will dictate whether or not the Panthers can compete for a playoff berth. In turn, Carolina needs to focus on building up the electric quarterback’s lackluster receiving corps. At #14, Carolina could pick up Cordarelle Patterson from Tennessee who is a dynamic big-time playmaker but only has one year of major college experience. Tavon Austin of West Virginia could also be available, and he could be a game changer despite lacking in size. While either of these players would be great selections at this spot, the Panthers could take a look at defensive tackle in Round 1, particularly if Utah’s Star Lotulelei or Florida’s Sharrif Floyd are available. Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson is a much more plausible selection. If Carolina were to go with a tackle in the first, players like Robert Woods of USC or Terrance Williams of Baylor would give Newton an additional playmaker in Round 2. With their remaining three picks, the Panthers will likely look to address their secondary or a developmental offensive lineman.
New Orleans Saints (7-9 in 2012)
Picks: #15 (1), #75 (3), #109 (4), #144 (5), #183 (6)
Needs: WR, OT, OLB, S
Outlook: Sean Payton is back, and so are the Saints who will look to use these picks to return to form in 2013. With few choices, they will need to make them count, so look for a playmaker on either side of the ball in Round 1. Wide receivers Tavon Austin and Cordarelle Patterson from West Virginia and Tennessee respectively could be the spark they need. However, Rick McGlothlin, DraftTek.com’s Saints Analyst, said that this draft is “all about defense,” and he hopes the Saints resist that “temptation." McGlothlin added that “outside linebacker is a top priority, but so is safety and depth along the defensive line.” He points to Georgia’s Jarvis Jones or LSU’s Barkevious Mingo as prospects could be the disruptive force they need at linebacker. Kenny Vaccaro of Texas or Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International could be worth a #15 selection. In their remaining choices, New Orleans will likely continue to look to add some high ceiling prospects who can be difference makers. Of their team needs, wide receiver, outside linebacker and safety are all positions where value can be found in Rounds 3 and 4 which is good news for the franchise. If Jones is not the first round choice, look out for teammate Cornelius Washington later on in the draft.
Atlanta Falcons (13-3 in 2012)
Picks: #30 (1), #60 (2), #92 (3), #127 (4), #133 (4), #163 (5), #198 (6), #236 (7), #243 (7), #244 (7), #249 (7)
Needs: WR, TE, OT, DE, LB, CB
Outlook: The Falcons are a hair away from being a championship team, but they have had to shed some contracts this offseason and the team needs a solid draft to stay on the course. There is not a quarterback in this league that has the weapons that Matt Ryan does, and that has become a key part of the Falcons success. Adding a #3 receiver will be a mid-round priority amd possibly finding a future replacement for Tony Gonzalez in Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame or Zach Ertz of Stanford in Round 1 or even San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar in the middle rounds would stick to that plan. Also, the Falcons will attempt to replace John Abraham and Dunta Robinson in this draft, possibly at #30. Defensive ends like LSU’s Sam Montgomery or Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore could be solid selections in that spot. At corner, Desmond Trufant is possibly the best option, but DraftTek.com Falcons Analyst Erin Ford points to another direction. “The Falcons absolutely must get an elite caliber corner after losing their top CBs from a year ago. They have hosted Jamar Taylor from Boise State, and he looks like he is their guy.” The team certainly has enough picks to take some risks and really bolster their roster.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9 in 2012)
Picks: #43 (2), #73 (3), #112 (4), #126 (4), #147 (5), #181 (6), #196 (6)
Needs: WR, TE, OT, DT, DE, CB
Outlook: Tampa Bay already got their star by dealing the #13 pick for the NFL’s top cover corner in Darrelle Revis. Now, the team will not pick until #43 where they could pounce on Stanford’s Zach Ertz if he is still available. Purdue’s Kawann Short, Ohio State’s Jonathan Hankins, or Texas’ Alex Okafor could really solidfy the defensive line. DraftTek.com’s Bucs Analyst Warren Hauck also pointed to “DE Damontre Moore, OT Menelik Watson, and WR Terrance Williams” as prospects that could pique the Bucs’ interest. In latter rounds, Hauck added that “the team would like to beef up the depth at offensive tackle, wide receiver, and defensive tackle.” He also believes that, even with Revis, the Bucs would like to add a star corner. Hauck also provided insight on Bucs; GM Mark Dominick by reminding us that he “has selected multiple players at the same position in early rounds, so do not discount the Bucs from grabbing CB Logan Ryan, who played for Head Coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers.”