Friday, April 22, 2011

NFC South Draft Preview

As the clock ticks closer to the NFL Draft on April 28-30, we'll be doing our best to preview the team needs of all 32 teams to give you all an outlook on what to expect come draft day. Of course, there are no guarantees with things like mock drafts (even though they are fun to do) so we did our best to get some insight from bloggers/fans of other teams. Today we take a look at the NFC South. Our friends Andrew from The Saints Nation and Scott from were cool enough to help us out with some inside perspective on their team needs.

For reference, we compiled the draft picks each team currently has. Compensatory picks are listed in parentheses.

2010 Record: 13-3
NFC South Champions, Lost to Green Bay in Divisional Round

Draft Picks: 27, 59, 91, 124, 158, 192, 210, 229, 230

The Falcons surprised some by sprinting out to the #1 seed in the NFC. Matt Ryan continues to deliver at quarterback and he has his share of weapons in RB Michael Turner and WR Roddy White. The Falcons could use another receiver to complement White in the passing game. On defense, the Falcons could still use some help in the secondary and on the defensive line, particularly having to face Drew Brees twice a season. 

Our friend Scott, owner of (in our opinion, one of the top 5 NFL Draft websites out there), and Falcons fan, hooks us up with what's going on in the ATL. Check him out on Twitter: @scar988

1. What are the biggest needs Atlanta has entering the draft?

Defensive End - We need a true Pass rusher who can get in rotation with Abraham and Biermann.
Wide Receiver - Need some speed there.
Left Tackle - Baker has been sub par since the beginning.

2. Do you think Atlanta will address those needs in the draft or wait for free agency?

All draft. I think Dimitroff's biggest focus is the draft. Of the 22 starters on Atlanta, 16 were drafted or brought in through their rookie process of the UDFA and practice squads. The offensive line as a whole, the starting wideouts. Almost every pick to Dimitroff is gold. And he will attempt to bring in talent through the draft and fill holes through the FA.

3. What players would you like to see the Falcons target in the draft?

The guys they are already looking at. Jernigan, Torrey Smith at WR, Justin Houston and DaQuan Bowers at DE.

2010 Record: 11-5
Lost to Seattle in Wild Card Round

Draft Picks: 24, 56, 72, 88, 226, (243)

How much did Pierre Thomas mean to this team? His early-season injury completely changed the trajectory of the Saints season and they really never recovered. On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints still lack that true pass-rushing defensive end, even though they finished in the top half of the league in sacks. Luckily for New Orleans, the draft is deep in defensive lineman and they should be able to snag at least one long-term contributor.

Last year, our Saints draft preview was just a video of Tracy Porter picking off Peyton Manning and running it back for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV. This year, our friend Andrew from The Saints Nation drops by to give us some more info on NOLA. You can also find him on Twitter @GoSaintsNation

1. What are the biggest needs New Orleans has entering the draft?

I'd say, in no specific order, that the Saints have needs at running back, defensive end, linebacker and defensive tackle. Running back and DT more for depth purposes, and DE and LB would be nice to add an impact player.

2. Do you think New Orleans will address those needs in the draft or wait for free agency?

Who knows what's going to happen with free agency? I think in general the Saints are very careful with how they spend their money being a small market team. It's hard to imagine they're going to find "the answer" after the 1st round at those positions. So I think you hopefully find an impact player with that 1st round pick, and then maybe add one or two players through free agency that can start. The Saints also have a ton of free agents of their own to re-sign, so a lot of their "needs" will depend on who they lose.

3. What players would you like to see the Saints target in the draft?

If Mark Ingram falls to #24 - and all reports are that he will, he deserves consideration. Other targets include Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan, Illinois DT Corey Liuget, Temple DT Muhammad Wilkerson and UCLA LB Akeem Ayers. I could see any of those players ending up on the Saints. Personally, I'd love an edge rusher that can consistently get to the quarterback, but I'm not sure there's a clear guy that fits that description at #24. If Ingram or Liuget is the best player available, the Saints won't pass up the best player available for a need. They never have.

2010 Record: 10-6

Draft Picks: 20, 51, 84, 116, 151, 187, 222, (238)

In NFC South tradition, the Bucs went from the bottom of the division last year to contending for the division title the next. Josh Freeman took the next step in his development as an NFL quarterback and undrafted free agent LeGarrette Blount has the makings of a big-time back in this league, and rookie WR Mike Williams might have been the best rookie receiver in the league last year. On defense, the Bucs need help in the secondary, especially with CB Aqib Talib's arrest a few weeks ago. Tampa was also 30th in the league in sacks and could use a defensive end that can get to the quarterback.

2010 Record: 2-14

Draft Picks: 1, 65, (97), 98, 132, 166, (203), (244)

Even though Carolina holds the #1 overall pick, they lack a 2nd round pick one has to think they would try to shop the pick in the hopes of trading it away for at least a 1st and 2nd rounder. The Panthers will set the tone for how the rest of the draft will play out. If new coach Ron Rivera decides that he is not impressed with Jimmy Clausen, the Panthers will probably roll the dice on Cam Newton (QB-Auburn) with the #1 overall pick. If the Panthers have faith in Clausen, they'll probably look to the defensive side of the ball and take either the best player in the draft (Patrick Peterson CB-LSU) or the top interior lineman (Marcel Dareus DT-Alabama) to improve their 23rd-ranked run defense. 

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