Looking from the outside, I don’t think anyone in the NFC South had a particularly great draft, but then no one had a poor one either. All four teams took care of some needs with quality players. As with all drafts, we won’t know for sure until training camp opens.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With a defensive Head Coach in Lovie Smith, many thought that Tampa Bay would draft some top defensive talent. That wasn’t the case as the Bucs signed a lot of defensive players in free agency prior to the draft. They went into the draft with a strong need at wide receiver, having traded troubled wide receiver Mike Williams to Buffalo.
In the first round, The Bucs selection of Texas A&M’s Mike Evans was an excellent pick. Evans has great size to go along with speed and body control. He has excellent hands and gives the Bucs an instinct threat in the red zone. Early on, he will complement Vincent Jackson, but he will eventually become their top target.
Tampa Bay had a need at tight end and Austin Seferian-Jenkins gives them a quality performer. Seferian-Jenkins can play in tight at the “Y” or flexed out as he has the speed and athleticism to play either. He should start right away.
Charles Sims will be an excellent complement to Doug Martin. He has excellent hands and receiving skills. Guard Kadeem Edwards is raw but he has the athleticism, size and strength to challenge after a period of development. The same holds true for tackle Kevin Pamphile form Purdue.
An interesting UDFA to keep an eye on is quarterback Brett Smith from Wyoming. I did a lot of tape work on Smith and while he is raw and needs some work on his fundamentals, he still has arm strength, accuracy and can keep plays alive with his feet.
The Falcons went into the draft looking to find a left tackle. They got their man in Jake Matthews from Texas A&M. He can play either tackle position, and if he is similar to his dad or uncles, will still be playing late into the 2020’s! From a football character view point, Jake is off the charts!
Ra’Shede Hageman has some inconsistency in his play, but when he is on, he is a dominant inside player. He is a perfect fit for Mike Nolan’s scheme. Wisconsin’s Dezmen Southward has the talent to play safety or corner. Devonta Freeman is a very good complementary back who will be strong when used in a rotation.
Atlanta was looking for an edge rusher and may have found him in Notre Dame’s Prince Shembo. At 6013, he doesn’t have ideal height, but he is explosive off the edge and can use his hands. He is also a top competitor. The rest of the Falcons draft are guys who all have traits to challenge for a roster spot, but I don’t see any eventual starters in the group.
New Orleans Saints
I love the Saints first round pick Brandin Cooks. He is a highlight film waiting to happen. He will be best utilized in the slot with his size, but he can also play outside. He has great speed and quickness, and when he gets in the open field, watch out!
Corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste has great size and good speed. He is best as a press cover guy. He can struggle in off coverage because he lacks top footwork. I didn’t see good anticipation in zone. Though he has size, he is not a really physical guy. He will need to improve his run support skills.
Khairi Fortt is an interesting guy. He has very good size, speed, and athleticism. His problem is staying on the field and his durability is a question mark. He has good pass rush skills coming off the edge while on his feet, but can be a bit slow to key and diagnose versus the run game.
Florida’s Ron Powell is similar. He has had multiple injuries. His style of play is similar to Fortt’s. Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is a quality performer. He is physical, has top instincts, and very good ball skills. He is coming off an ACL, and it remains to be seen when he will be 100%. Tavon Rooks is a developmental tackle.
The Panthers went into the draft with a need at wide receiver and tackle. They got the receiver in the opening round with Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is a big athletic guy who can create mismatches. Many thought Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy was a lock first round player. The Panthers got themselves a bargain in the second round. He gives the Panthers yet another outside rusher. LSU guard Trai Turner has the traits to come in and start right away at guard, he may also be able to play tackle.
North Carolina safety Tre Boston has corner experience, but is best suited to play strong safety. He has shown he can be physical and tackle. He needs to be more disciplined in coverage. Getting Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney in the sixth round is a steal. He is a solid all-around back who is excellent inside, can produce as a receiver and is a capable pass blocker.
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