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NFL Draft Preview: NFC South

Gabe Salgado

Part four of this year’s NFL Draft preview keeps us in the NFL’s southland. Only this time we switch to the NFC South. This was one of the more lopsided divisions in the league last season. So everyone across the board can use some improvement.

Here is how the division could look after this year’s draft…..

 

Carolina Panthers: Own picks 25, 57, 89, 124, 161, 169, 174, 201 and 242 overall.

The Panthers biggest needs are on offense. The running back position is thin after the team let go of DeAngelo Wiliams. Plus, Johnathan Stewart and fullback Mike Tolbert have had trouble staying healthy over the last couple of years.

Kelvin Benjamin was great in his rookie year in 2014 but he needs a supporting cast. Jerricho Cotchery is getting older, while Ted Ginn Jr. –as great as he is when it comes to big, explosive plays- isn’t an every down receiver.

The Panthers also need some improvement on the offensive line as Cam Newton spent way too much time on his back. Here are some players who could help Carolina snatch another division title in 2015…

Running Back:

Mississippi State’s Josh Robinson (5’8”, 217) could fit in with the Panthers offense. Texas A&M’s Trey Williams (5’7”, 195), and Kentucky’s Braylon Heard (5’10”, 198) are also worth some looks.

Fullback:

Any one of the seven fullbacks mentioned could make a serviceable back up to Mike Tolbert.

Wide Receiver:

Carolina doesn’t need a superstar wide out, they just need someone who can complement Benjamin and Ginn. So with that being said; Baylor’s Antwan Goodley (5’10, 209) and Washington State’s Vince Mayle (6’2”, 224) would be good fits. A nice sleeper pick would come in the form of Georgia Tech’s Darren Waller (6’6”, 238) but he might need to shed some pounds first.

 

New Orleans Saints: Own picks 13, 31, 44, 75, 78, 148, 154, 187 and 230 overall.

The Saints addressed some of their defensive needs in free agency. But they could still use a dynamic pass rusher. They also need a replacement for tight end Jimmy Graham who was traded to Seattle after Super Bowl 49. They can also use a quarterback for the future.

Drew Brees is entering his 15th season and will be 36 this year. Backups Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin are not long-term solutions. So here are some players who could be wearing Saints uniforms this summer…

Tight End:

Considering how valuable Jimmy Graham was to this team, the Saints should use their first round pick on who they hope will be his replacement. Minnesota’s Maxx Williams (6’4”, 249), Miami-Florida’s Clive Walford (6’4”, 251) and Michigan’s Devin Funchess (6’4”, 232) could still be available when the Saints choose their first round pick.

Other suitable choices would be South Carolina’s Rory Anderson (6’5”, 244), Rutgers’ Tyler Croft (6’5”, 246) and Southern California’s Randall Telfer (6’4”, 250).

Quarterback:

Considering the Saints like to pass the ball 85-percent of the time, a quarterback with a rocket arm capable of throwing 40-plus passes per game should be available in the later rounds. Some of those signal callers include East Carolina’s Shane Carden (6’2”, 218), Washington State’s Connor Halliday (6’3”, 196) and Southeastern Louisiana’s Bryan Bennett (6’2”, 211).

Pass Rusher:

The Saints can easily find one in the second round. Among those players will be Arizona State defensive end Marcus Hardison (6’3”, 307), Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright (6’3, 300), Stanford outside linebacker James Vaughters (6’2”, 258), and Georgia Tech inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy (6’1”, 235) who can all ease into 3-4 defenses.

 

Atlanta Falcons: Own picks 8, 42, 73, 107, 146, 185, 225 and 249 overall.

After the Steven Jackson experiment failed, and with Jacquizz Rodgers going to Chicago, coupled along with Antone Smith being the only other proven halfback on the roster, the Falcons need some depth at the position.

They also need a duel-threat tight end (runner and blocker), and they’re in dire need of an offensive guard or two, or three etc. Here are some players that new head coach Dan Quinn could bring to Flowery Branch…..

Running Back:

At number eight the Falcons just might be able to land Georgia’s Todd Gurley (6’1”, 222), Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (6’1”, 215), Indiana’s Tevin Coleman (5’11”, 206), Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah (5’9, 205), or Alabma’s T.J. Yeldon (6’1”, 226). Gurley would be a perfect fit from a geographical standpoint.

Tight End:

Out of the few all-around tight ends available in the 2015 draft, the ones who may fit Atlanta best are Notre Dame’s Ben Koyack (6’5”, 255), Oklahoma’s Blake Bell (6’6”, 252) and Florida State’s Nick O’Leary (6’3”,252).

Guard:

Chances are slim that the Falcons will get Iowa’s Brandon Scherff. But they can still have success with Texas A&M’s Jarvis Harrison (6’4, 330), South Carolina’s A.J. Cann (6’3”, 313), or Florida State’s Tre’ Jackson (6’4”, 330).

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Own picks 1, 34, 65, 109, 162, 168, 184 and 218 overall.

It’s unofficially been set in stone that the Bucs plan on drafting Florida State’s Jameis Winston (6’4”, 231) with the first overall selection to rectify their quarterback situation. But they also need help on both the offensive and defensive lines. Here are players at those positions who could wind up in Tampa this year….

Offensive Line:

Perhaps adding Winston’s old college teammates, center Cameron Erving (6’5”, 313), guards Bobby Hart (6’5”, 329), and the aforementioned Tre’ Jackson, or Josue Matias (6’5”, 309). Other fits could be in the forms of Louisiana State tackle La’el Collins (6’4”, 305), Pittsburgh tackle T.J. Clemmings (6’5”, 309), or Miami-Florida tackle Ereck Flowers (6’6”, 329).

Defensive Line:

Perhaps some local products, combined with Lovie Smith’s coaching, could make all the difference in 2015. Those players could include another Winston teammate in tackle Mario Edwards Jr. (6’3”, 279), or a better fit could be Miami-Florida end Anthony Chickillo (6’3”, 267), or the Bucs could pick Florida tackle Leon Orr (6’5”, 323).

 

The NFC South picture should look a little more clearer once the draft has concluded.

 

 



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