Last, but certainly not least, we get to the NFC South. One of the most upside down divisions in the league. I say that will all respect, as usually the team that finishes at the bottom, will place near the top the next season. This year the 1st overall pick was welcomed into the division, as the Buccaneers picked Jameis Winston to be their savior. The rest of the division did pretty well also. Let’s take a look:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Impact Rookie: Jameis Winston, QB Florida State
Winston was, in my opinion, easily the best Quarterback in this class, and should be a perennial Pro Bowler in the NFL. His football acumen is nearly unmatched for a player his age, and if he can tone down the gunslinger in him and limit some of the mistakes, he should end up as the franchise player that the Buccaneers have envisioned him to be. He has the weapons around him to succeed immediately, with Doug Martin as a serviceable runner int he backfield as well as Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans on the outside. Winston should be a front runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Delayed Impact: Donovan Smith, OT Penn State
Despite his physical attributes, Smith was a bit of a headscratcher at the top of the 2nd round. I understand the rationale perfectly, when teams select a franchise Quarterback they select a blindside protector for him. However, Smith is greener than grass as a football player. He’s very raw, and showed that a lot at Penn State. He may end up being a better professional than he was a college player, but he’s yet to put all of his pieces together. I expect him to struggle, and Winston to be on the ground, a lot this rookie season.
Diamond in the Rough: Kaelin Clay, WR Utah
Clay might be best known, unfortunately, as being the guy who dropped the ball at the 1 yard line vs Oregon. However, Clay is a very talented athlete. He has great speed, displayed on that play when he beat Oregon deep. He’s also an excellent return man. With Jackson and Evans on the outside, Winston needs a threat in the slot, and Clay can provide that. A deep threat to open up the defense for Winston to work with Austin Sefarian-Jenkins underneath.
Impact Rookie: Vic Beasley, DE Clemson
My top rated player in the draft, Beasley will immediately becoming the Falcons’ best pass rusher, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up with double digit sacks and wins Defensive Rookie of the Year. Beasley is an absolute animal off of the edge, and will be a cornerstone for Dan Quinn to retool and build this defense around for years to come at the LEO position. The Falcons haven’t had a decent pass rusher since John Abraham left, and now they’ve got one.
Delayed Impact: Jalen Collins, CB LSU
This has nothing to do with talent with Collins. One of the highest ceilings of any Cornerbacks in this class, Collins possesses the elite size and speed that Quinn wants to play their physical brands of press coverage. However, the reason he may not pay dividends immediately. Collins is very raw, and was only a one year starter in Baton Rouge before declaring for the draft. He is still learning the game, and with Quinn’s development, he should eventually be a solid starter for the Dirty Birds, just not right away.
Diamond in the Rough: Grady Jarrett, DL Clemson
Like I mentioned yesterday in the AFC South article with Michael Bennett, I have no idea how Grady Jarrett fell this far. One of the best 3 techniques in the class, Jarrett provided excellent value in the 5th for the Falcons, and he should contribute immediately. The Falcons’ strength defensively is in the trenches, and with Jarrett, it just got bolstered. Clemson routinely fields one of the most talented Defensive Lines in the country, and for Atlanta to get two of them, it’s gonna be Hotlanta for opposing Quarterbacks.
New Orleans Saints
Impact Rookie: Stephone Anthony, LB Clemson
Another Clemson defender; this is becoming a common theme, unintentionally I might add. Anthony was the second of two 1st round picks the Saints had this season, and in Rob Ryan’s blitz happy 3-4 scheme, Anthony’s athleticism will be put to good use. My top Linebacker of this year’s Inside Linebackers, Anthony has nice size, and will quickly become a leader on a team that was torn apart this offseason.
Delayed Impact: Hau’Oli Kikaha, LB Washington
I mentioned this during draft coverage, one thing that I don’t like about being a Draftnik is that I pick apart all players, even ones that I like. Kikaha was one of my favorites throughout this draft process, as his technical prowess is some of the best I’ve seen. His handfighting skills are elite for a prospect, however his knees are made of paper mache’, and he was drafted too high for his own good. He’s already getting playing time, I just don’t expect him to live up to his draft slot.
Diamond in the Rough: Davis Tull, LB Chattanooga
Tull was a small school freak, winning the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year three times while playing for the Mocs. A #ForcePlayer# (Shouts out to Justis Mosqueda, follow him on Twitter at @Jumosq), Tull is a very explosive athlete off of the edge, and in lieu of Junior Gallette’s departure recently, Tull has an opportunity to fill in as a situational pass rusher. Tull likely has a brighter NFL future than Kikaha, which is a bummer considering they were drafted three rounds apart.
Impact Rookie: Devin Funchess, WR/TE Michigan
Another large weapon for Cam Newton, #SaveCam, Funchess was a bit of a tweener in college, but he’s a better athlete than his testing would indicate, and paired with Kelvin Benjamin, the Panthers have their own version of what Tampa Bay is doing on the outside. Although he played both in college, Funchess will likely play both in the slot and outside, but only as a Wide Receiver.
Delayed Impact: Shaq Thompson, LB Washington
This pick perplexed me a bit. Carolina seems to be hoarding all of the elite coverage Linebackers, already having Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly. Thompson however, was a bit of a question mark. He played: Linebacker, Kick Returner, Safety, and you guessed it, Runningback, at Washington. We didn’t know what position the former 5 star HS recruit would play. It appears as though he’ll play Linebacker in Carolina, and he’s a raw talent. He may have to adjust to the professional game.
Diamond in the Rough: Daryl Williams, OT Oklahoma
Okay, so I mentioned the #SaveCam movement earlier. Cam Newton, despite his elite athleticism for the position, is sacrificed to opposing Defensive Lines. Cam is constantly harassed and under pressure. I saw a stat last year, 25 NFL teams had an Offensive Tackle that was drafted in the 1st round. The Panthers didn’t have a Tackle that was drafted AT ALL. Williams was a solid Tackle at Oklahoma, and will likely play Right Tackle for the Panthers.