Thursday, April 15, 2010

NFC South Draft Outlook

Over the next few weeks in the run up to the NFL Draft on April 22-24, we will be previewing the draft needs of all 32 teams. We started with the NFC West and continue today with the NFC South. As of right now, compensatory draft picks have not yet been awarded, so exact pick numbers after the 3rd round are not known.

UPDATE: We got some last minute help from our friend Scott Carasik founder of on his home-town Atlanta Falcons. Check out his site for some great draft insights, rankings, and info!

2009 Record: 13-3
NFC South Champions, Super Bowl XLIV Champions

Draft Picks: 32 (1-32), 64 (2-32), 95 (3-31), (4-32), (6-32), (7-32)

Our Take:

After wiping the floor of the Sun Life Stadium with Peyton Manning's tears, Saints fans have had an offseason to remember. All bets are off on how much of it they actually remember. As for the draft, the Saints need to find a replacement for LB Scott Fujita who went to Cleveland in Free Agency. Beyond that, adding more depth in the secondary and along both lines will never hurt. New Orleans definitely isn't hurting for playmakers on offense, particularly with the plethora of receivers and running backs they have.

2009 Record: 9-7

Draft Picks: 19 (1-19), 83 (3-19), (4-19), (5-2), (6-2), (6-20)

Matt Ryan had a great rookie year, but as we predicted in our Season Previews last year, the Falcons took a step back. Both Ryan and Turner were injured in the middle of the year, but the Falcons showed great resilience by bouncing back and winning some games when they needed to to stay in the playoff hunt. Their ability to have continued success on offense even with two of their biggest playmakers injured speaks to the strength of their offensive line to just dominate the line of scrimage. On defense, the Falcons could use some help in the secondary, at linebacker, and at defensive end.

UPDATE: Scott Carasik, founder of, took time out of designing and updating his awesome website and talking to fans on twitter to give us some insight into Atlanta's offseason.

1. What do you see as the biggest need(s) for your team to address this offseason?

The biggest need Atlanta needed to address was the pass defense. They needed a true #1 corner and a LDE who can actually pass rush. They already went out and got CB Dunta Robinson, so DE is a very likely pick in the first. They also need someone to replace Mike Peterson at WLB, since he was below average last year in his play. There are also future needs at spots like #2 WR, since Jenkins isn't seeming to work out there anymore, TE, because Gonzalez is older, and OC because McClure can't last forever. There's also the need of a true all-around DT for depth and possibly taking over the 3-tech down the road.

2. Have they addressed any of these so far in Free Agency? Which do you think are better addressed in the Draft?

Yes they have. They brought in Robinson, which was the smartest thing they could have done. LDE and OLB though are definitely better addressed through the draft. I feel like Dimitroff is only going to bring in 1-2 big names every off-season and if he signs any other players they will just be small role players. I think every need right now is a draft need, and not a FA need.

3. Who is on your draft wish list?

Too many players to list at the moment. I really like the idea of getting Graham, Weatherspoon or Morgan in the first, and then waiting until the comp pick in the 3rd round or even the 4th round to address the other big need. I would love to see Atlanta somehow wind up with Andre Roberts and Tyson Alualu in the 3rd. In the 5th, I think we should get a pair of OL and in the 6th get a K like Tiffin.

Our take:

The Falcons took DT Peria Jerry with their first round pick last year, but he spent the year on IR. The Falcons D-line will be improved this year when Jerry returns, turning the focus of this draft on picking up a linebacker. Missouri LB Sean Witherspoon seems to be a leading contender for the Falcons to take with the 19th overall pick in the draft. Spoon is a natural leader who has a great attitude. Beyond that, you can never have too much depth in the secondary when Drew Brees is in your division.

2009 Record: 8-8

Draft Picks: 48 (2-16), 78 (3-14), (4-14), (6-6), (7-16)

If you're looking for a team to finish last in the NFC South next year, this might be your horse. They lost 2 QBs in Free Agency (Jake Delhomme and AJ Feeley). Matt Moore is the likely starter next year, and while he will have one of the best RB tandems in the league to help him out, he isn't exactly the type of quarterback that can lead a team to the playoffs. Outside of Steve Smith, Carolina doesn't have a lot of weapons on the outside, and Smith has been seeing blanket coverage because none of the other Panthers receivers scare anyone. On defense, the Panthers lost DE Julius Peppers, their only real pass rusher. The Panthers were 23rd in the league in sacks last year with 31, but Peppers accounted for 10.5 of those, with no one else recording over 5.

The Panthers have a lot of needs to address in this draft, but don't have the depth of draft picks to make runs at all the positions where they have needs. Given that, you would have expected them to be more active in Free Agency. Carolina is definitely in the market for a long-term answer at quarterback, which may mean they look at guys like Colt McCoy in the second round or Tony Pike/Tim Tebow in the 3rd round. This is not a very deep draft for pass rushers, but without a first round pick, the Panthers are going to have to settle for either taking a DE later in the draft or making do with what they have on their roster.

2009 Record: 3-13

Draft Picks: 3 (1-3), 35 (2-3), 42 (2-10), 67 (3-3), (4-3), (5-22), (6-3), (7-3), (7-10), (7-25)

Tampa Bay was the definition of a rebuilding team last season. Things actually started to turn around after they wore the Creamsicle jerseys against Green Bay and picked up their first win. Josh Freeman, still a work in progress at QB, started to come on towards the end of the season. Tampa is loaded with picks at the front and back of the draft. With 3 picks in the first 43, and 3 picks in the 7th round, Tampa is in excellent position to either nab three stand-out players that can really help their team, or make some mid-round trades to move into position to draft players they have their eye on.

Tampa is in good position with the 3rd pick in the draft, but their choice is almost entirely dependent on what the two teams above them do. If the Rams and Lions take the two DT's (Suh and McCoy) then the Bucs can choose between OT Russell Okung and S Eric Berry. Personally, we would take Berry. If one of the DT's fall to them, then their choice becomes a lot easier. If the Rams decide not to draft a QB, the Bucs could leverage their #3 overall pick as trade bait and snag a few more picks throughout the draft to allow someone to trade up to take either Bradford of Clausen. Chance are, they either take a DT or Berry.

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