The NFC South is one of the most intriguing divisions in the NFL. Having seen about as much parity as any division in the league, it’s always an adventure to see what team wins the division once known as being the “Worst to First” champion year in and year out.
Round 1 Pick 17: Keanu Neal, S, Florida
Round 2 Pick 52: Deion Jones, LB, LSU
Round 3 Pick 81: Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford
Round 4 Pick 115: De’Vondre Campbell, LB, Minnesota
Round 6 Pick 195: Wes Schweitzer, OL, San Jose State
Round 7 Pick 238: Devin Fuller, WR, UCLA
Analysis: The Falcons continue to focus on their defense under Coach Dan Quinn. Keanu Neal was a bit of a surprise in the middle of the 1st round, but he’s an athletic hard hitter at a position of need. Quinn will look for Neal to be his enforcer in the secondary. Deion Jones is a safety sized linebacker who supposedly ran a 4.35 at his pro day. He’ll play the Will in Quinn’s scheme. He can also be used to cover tight ends. Austin Hooper was one of the better rounded tight ends in this class, and I expect him to contribute immediately. Campbell is another athletic linebacker who should excel on special teams to start before developing. Schweitzer I can’t speak on, I don’t know a thing about his tape. Fuller is just a guy at wide receiver, but provides some depth at the position.
Round 1 Pick 30: Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech
Round 2 Pick 62: James Bradberry, CB, Samford
Round 3 Pick 77: Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia
Round 5 Pick 141: Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma
Round 7 Pick 252: Beau Sandland, TE, Montana State
Analysis: The Panthers underwhelmed a bit in this draft. Vernon Butler was a nice pick at 30. A little early, but he wouldn’t have been there at 62. Butler won’t start this year, but they can’t pay both Lotuleilei and Short. Butler is strengthening a strength. Bradberry is raw as hell but man is he talented. Maybe early for him, but for how good he could be, it was fine. Worley and Sanchez are both depth selections, but could both be solid. Sandland is a flier pick, as the former Miami Hurricane is more talented than this draft slot.
New Orleans Saints:
Round 1 Pick 12: Sheldon Rankins, DL, Louisville
Round 2 Pick 47: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Round 2 Pick 61: Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State
Round 4 Pick 120: David Onyemata, DL, Manitoba
Round 7 Pick 237: Daniel Lasco, RB, California
Analysis: The Saints are a mess as a frachise, and while I liked their first three picks a ton, they could have used the extra picks to fill out their mess of a roster. Rankins was a nice pick at 12, he can play all over their DL. Michael Thomas will resume the Marques Colston big receiver role, which will compliment Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks well. They traded up to get Vonn Bell, which was a good value, as he was mocked at the end of the first round in some mock drafts. I can’t speak on Onyemata, but I know he’s a plus athlete at 300 pounds. Lasco was an underrated RB throughout the process, and I liked that pick a good bit. I liked the picks, but the lack of volume is tough for such a bad roster.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Round 1 Pick 11: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Round 2 Pick 39: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
Round 2 Pick 59: Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State
Round 4 Pick 108: Ryan Smith, CB, North Carolina Central
Round 5 Pick 148: Caleb Benenoch, OT, UCLA
Round 6 Pick 183: Devante Bond, LB, Oklahoma
Round 6 Pick 197: Dan Vitale, FB, Northwestern
Analysis: The Buccaneers will be looking to build off a promising season for new quarterback Jameis Winston. However, rather than give Jameis weapons, they’ll just make sure he doesn’t need to score as much to have a chance to win. They traded back and still got their guy in VH3, so that’s huge. Spence is the best pass rusher in the draft, so getting him at 39 is also a huge value. Then they went and traded up for a kicker in the 2nd round. *sigh. Ryan Smith was a nice pick, and should help the Bucs as a returner and corner. Benenoch is a project, but a high upside play. Bond was an early entrant who fell, but fits Tampa’s scheme. Vitale is a bit of a do it all player, and a good athlete at the position. He’ll play special teams, fullback, and tight end at times.
Grade: B (A- without trading up for a kicker)