NFL Draft Grades: NFC South

The NFC South has been one of the more intriguing divisions in the NFL the past decade or so, as there has been a remarkable amount of parity. Other than the Buccaneers, all three teams have won the division in the past 4 seasons. The Panthers have won the South the past two seasons, but this division is still up for grabs.

Atlanta Falcons: 6-10 in 2015, 8th Overall

Round 1 Pick 8                   Vic Beasley                         DE           Clemson

Vic Beasley was one of my top 3 players in this draft, and this is an ideal situation for him. The Falcons had to be praying when Vic wasn’t selected by the Jaguars at #3. New Head Coach Dan Quinn will be bringing his Seattle defensive scheme to Hotlanta, and Vic Beasley is a fantastic scheme fit in their LEO position. Beasley is an athletic freak and will be an instant threat for double digit sacks. Beasley is my pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and should be an immediate fan favorite for a team that has struggled rushing the passer. Beasley is their best pass rusher right now, and should only get better with experience. Grade: A 

Round 2 Pick 42                 Jalen Collins                       CB           LSU

Collins has the potential to be the best Corner in this class, or he could be a “bust” of sorts. The long and lanky corner has good speed, and again is a great fit for Coach Quinn’s scheme. At 6’2″ and 195, he’s got great size on the outside and is a good athlete, with the upside of a shutdown Cornerback. This is a good value for Collins, who was in First Round discussions leading up to the draft. He should be a starter by his second or third season, and can allow Robert Alford to move inside in Nickel packages. The one thing limiting this pick is the risk of Collins only starting 10 college games. Grade: B

Round 3 Pick 73                 Tevin Coleman                  RB           Indiana

This was a great value for the Falcons, who were rumored to be looking at Coleman at 42. The speedster was the other back in the Big Ten to rush for over 2,000 yards, and will immediately push for playing time in the backfield. The Falcons have been hurting at Runningback ever since Michael Turner started to decline a few years ago. Coleman impressed by running a sub 4.4 40 at his Pro Day as he was hampered by a foot injury at the Combine. Coleman is a good character guy, and could easily end up a starter down the line. Grade: A

Round 4 Pick 107              Justin Hardy                       WR         East Carolina

This pick was a favorite of Draft Twitter, who were apparently higher on Justin Hardy than the NFL was. The NCAA career receptions leader will help add some talent to the receiving corps and help Matt Ryan. Hardy lacks the flashy athleticism that some of the others have, but he simply gets open and does the little things right, and it’s tough to quantify that. This is a good value this late in the draft for Hardy, who could be their slot Wide Receiver on Day 1. Grade: B+

Round 5 Pick 137              Grady Jarrett                      DT           Clemson

This was an absolute steal for Atlanta, grabbing one of my top two 3 Techniques in the draft. Jarrett is a high motor player who will play for a long time in the NFL. He successfully added about 25 pounds to his frame between Clemson the draft, which was necessary. He’s an example of where great value meets a great scheme fit. I’d be shocked if Jarrett isn’t starting in a year or two. Great pick by Dimitroff. Grade: A

Round 7 Pick 225              Jake Rodgers                      OT          Eastern Washington

Protecting Matt Ryan should be top priority on offense and the Falcons have struggled a bit with their Offensive Line lately. Rodgers is a small school body who the Falcons hope to hit on in the 7th round. Grade: C

Round 7 Pick 249              Akeem King                        DB          San Jose State

King is a big, long athletic kid who is similar to the type of picks the Seahawks have been making late in drafts. Listed as a safety, don’t be surprised if the Falcons try him at Corner initially, Quinn and Seattle have had success with 6’3″ Corners before. Grade: C

Overall Grade: A. The first two picks were big time Dan Quinn guys. The next three had Thomas Dimitroff all over them. Even if Jalen Collins doesn’t play to his potential, this was a very good class for the Falcons. Quinn stated that he wanted to be fast and physical, and Beasley and Collins exemplify that. Dimitroff loves team captains and Coleman, Hardy and Jarrett are all in that mold. This looks like an excellent first draft for Quinn, and the Falcons are in a much better position to contend this upcoming season.


Carolina Panthers: 7-8-1 in 2015, 25th Overall

Round 1 Pick 25                 Shaq Thompson                LB         Washington

I think Carolina was looking at Florida’s Tackle D.J. Humphries, but when he went the pick before Carolina, they opted for the ultra athletic Linebacker. Thompson fits right in with the Panthers Linebackers, as he’s very athletic and excels in coverage. This puts stress on opposing offenses to use the perimeter, while taking pressure off of the Panthers secondary. Thompson was seen as a good value here, but I thought it was a bit of a reach, not as a talent, but more as a fit for the Panthers. Grade: B-

Round 2 Pick 41                 Devin Funchess                 WR       Michigan

The NFL is a copycat league, and I can’t imagine that Carolina hasn’t seen how dangerous Tampa Bay can be with it’s big Wide Outs resembling a basketball team on the outside. Funchess will couple with last year’s First Rounder Kelvin Benjamin to create one of the league’s bigger tandems on the perimeter. Funchess came in to 2014 looking to be a top prospect, so this has to be considered a good value for the Panthers in the 2nd. Grade: B+

Round 4 Pick 102               Daryl Williams                   OT        Oklahoma

Finally, the Panthers look to #ProtectCam. The poor guy is running for his life weekly, and somehow has led the Panthers to the playoffs in the past two seasons. Williams is a solid player, but you have to question how the Panthers waited so long to give Cam some help. Williams is a good run blocker, and will help open running lanes for the backs. This is about the right range for the Tackle from Oklahoma. Grade: B

Round 5 Pick 169               David Mayo                        LB        Texas State

I had to do some research on Mayo when I saw this pick, as I hadn’t heard of him throughout the pre-draft process, but he was one of the most productive players in the country on defense a year ago. The Panthers are continuing to add competition to their Linebacking corps. It’s tough to say that anyone in the 5th round is a reach, but this wasn’t the best value that could have been had. Grade: C

Round 5 Pick 174               Cameron Artis-Payne       RB        Auburn       

This is a solid pick by Carolina, as Cameron Artis-Payne fits the Panthers type of back. In his only year as a starter in Auburn, he was a solid downhill runner, using his thick physique to pound defenders and wore them down throughout the games. He should compete for some carries in the rotation immediately, as DeAngelo Williams signed with Pittsburgh this offseason. Grade: B

Overall Grade: B-. This was a solid draft for Carolina, you can’t say that they didn’t get better, but again the lack of Offensive Line help lends me to believe that they believe in Michael Oher as their Left Tackle, which makes me fear for Cam Newton’s safety. Carolina is the reigning division champ, but will have to fend off the Falcons and Saints.


New Orleans Saints: 7-9 in 2015, 13th and 31st Overall

Round 1 Pick 13                 Andrus Peat                       OT          Stanford

My top Tackle in this year’s class, Peat will probably start at Right Tackle initially, and could take over for Terron Armstead if the Saints don’t think they can afford him in a year or two when his rookie contract is up. Peat also provides protection for Drew Brees, who is in decline, but is still the Saints’ best option at Quarterback. The prototypical Tackle in this class, Peat was a safe pick for a team going through flux. Grade: B+

Round 1 Pick 31                 Stephone Anthony         LB           Clemson

A toy for Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan to work with, Anthony is the most athletic true Inside Linebacker in this year’s class. This might be a bit high for Anthony, but he wouldn’t have been there for the Saints at 44. Anthony was an excellent blitzer at Clemson, and Rob loves to be aggressive defensively. This is a good fit schematically, and a good situation for Anthony to succeed. Grade: B+

Round 2 Pick 44                 Hau’Oli Kikaha                   LB           Washington

This is where being an evaluator ruins your perception of the draft. I liked Hau’Oli Kikaha a lot as a player, but he has knees made of paper mache, and ran a 4.9 40 yard dash. However, he led the country in sacks last season, and should succeed in the NFL. He just probably shouldn’t start during his career, and that’s what makes this pick pretty iffy. I can’t penalize a team for adding a good player to their team, but the former Judo fighter has a limited ceiling at the next level. This is a bit of a reach for the Saints. Grade: D+

Round 3 Pick 75                 Garrett Grayson               QB          Colorado State

I mentioned that Drew Brees is on the decline at this stage of his career, and for the Saints’ offense, Grayson is the best fit at this juncture. Grayson was my 4th ranked Quarterback in this class, and although he lacks a high ceiling, he fits well in the Saints timing based passing game. He also won’t be depended on for a few years, so he can develop under Brees. He was one of the 5 draftable signal callers I graded in this draft, so I can’t knock on this pick in the 3rd. Grade: C+

Round 3 Pick 78                 P.J. Williams                       CB           Florida State

Nice bounce back pick here. P.J. Williams was once considered not only a 1st round pick, but the best Corner in this class, so this is a good value for the Saints. Williams will help take some pressure off of the pass rush, which struggled last season. Williams should compete for a starting spot. Grade: A-

Round 5 Pick 148              Davis Tull                             LB           Chattanooga

Justis Mosqueda likes this pick because Tull is a #ForcePlayer#, and he’s an underrated player, a former 3-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Southern Conference in FCS. Tull is a solid value here, and should help aid their anemic pass rush from a year ago. They need to give Junior Galette some major help. Tull and Kikaha should pair to help the pass rush next season. Grade: B+

Round 5 Pick 154              Tyeler Davison                  DL           Fresno State

Tyeler Davison was getting some buzz around draft time, so this is a pretty good value here. Davison is one of the few true 3-4 Nose Tackle prospects in this class, so he’ll give the thus far disappointing John Jenkins some competition. The Saints defense was pretty porous a year ago, so he’ll also help support the run. Grade: B

Round 5 Pick 167              Damian Swann                  CB           Georgia

I’m a big fan of this pick, as Swann was the lone remaining starter from the Georgia defense that lost to Alabama in the pseudo-National Championship/SEC Championship game in 2012. Swann is a very experienced player, and should be a solid Nickel corner for the Saints. A very nice value here in the 5th. Grade: B+

Round 7 Pick 230              Marcus Murphy                RB           Missouri

Remember when the Saints had Darren Sproles and the little jitterbug-type back created mismatches all over the field? So does Sean Payton, and Murphy is a very similar type player to Sproles, who adds value in the return game, as a pass catcher, and a change of pace back. This was a very solid pick in the 7th, and Murphy should make the team. I like this pick a lot. Grade: B

Overall Grade: B+. The Saints traded Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills this past offseason, and it was real unclear as to what the exact plan was, but this was a very solid draft with multiple immediate contributors. Both 1st round picks should be instant starters, and the Saints could make a push for the division championship in 2015.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-14 in 2015, 1st Overall

Round 1 Pick 1                   Jameis Winston                QB          Florida State

This pick will probably determine GM Jason Licht’s job in a few years. Jameis Winston was no question the top on-field talent at the Quarterback position in this draft. The former Heisman winner brings a winning attitude to the Buccaneers that they desperately need. Winston, the multi-sport star at Florida State will finally be able to solely focus on football, and if he can avoid the off-field concerns, he should be a Pro-Bowler for years to come. Winston has to play well if this administration wants to keep it’s positions. Grade: A

Round 2 Pick 34                 Donovan Smith                OT          Penn State

I certainly understand the logic behind this selection. As is fairly common, when you select a franchise Quarterback, a blindside protector is soon to follow. However, I’m not a huge fan of this pick. Donovan Smith was a late riser, after a solid showing at the Combine, but I think that there were both better values and better Tackles available at this juncture. If Smith pans out, then I’ll gladly eat my words, but I think that Smith may have been better suited to play Guard or Right Tackle in the NFL. If he doesn’t succeed immediately, this pick will be further scrutinized. This can also potentially stunt Winston’s growth. Grade: C

Round 2 Pick 61                 Ali Marpet                         OG         Hobart

The Bucs traded back up into the late 2nd round in order to nab the D3 star, who had a fantastic Senior Bowl and exhibited his athleticism at the Combine. Marpet will provide Winston with some much needed protection, as the Buccaneers’ Offensive Line is an absolute mess. Marpet should be a very good Guard in the NFL, and this is around the right range for Marpet. Grade: B+

Round 4 Pick 124              Kwon Alexander                LB           LSU

This is a very good pick by the Buccaneers, as Alexander probably should have been selected before this. In Head Coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2, no pun intended, defense, athletic Linebackers are a necessity, and sideline to sideline pursuit is essential. Alexander is a very fast and athletic defender and could start immediately for the Buccaneers. Great value here. Grade: A

Round 5 Pick 162              Kenny Bell                          WR         Nebraska

One of my personal favorite Wide Receivers in this class, Bell should provide a nice inside target for Winston. Bell plays very physically, and is wiry strong. He ran a 4.4 40 yard dash in Indianapolis, but Bell is best when working underneath and creating separation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bell is the starting slot receiver to start the season. Grade: B+

Round 6 Pick 184              Kaelin Clay                         WR         Utah

Kaelin Clay might be best known for his infamous fumble at the goal line as he was entering the end zone against Oregon, but I really liked this pick for Tampa as well. Clay is an electric return man, and can be a nice deep threat as a 4th receiver in a year or two. At this spot in the draft, getting a player who can contribute in multiple ways is a good value. Grade: B+

Round 7 Pick 231              Joey Iosefa                         RB           Hawai’i

Iosefa played tailback at Hawai’i, but will likely be forced to play Fullback in the NFL. He reminds me a bit of the Steelers’ former 3rd Down Back, Verron Haynes. He has experience running the ball, but lacks the speed to play in the NFL. I can’t knock a 7th round pick, but I think the Bucs could have gotten more value here. Grade: C-

Overall Grade: B. The Buccaneers had so many holes, and so many needs, that almost any additions of talent are welcomed. It starts and ends with Winston, who I’m probably higher overall on than most, but I think he can be the Buccaneers answer to all of their Franchise’s problems, and he’s really their first Franchise Quarterback since Vinny Testaverde was supposed to be in the 80’s. The additions to the receiving corps and O-Line are definitely solid, and if all goes to plan next season, expect a Defense heavy draft in 2016. But I definitely like their draft. Hopefully they’re headed in the right direction.

Written by 

Adams-Friendship Green Devil and Carroll University Pioneer for life. Aspiring to be great. @RieseDraft

Related posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.