Each NFC South Team’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help. Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks. Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player. I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the NFC South:

  1. julio-jones             Atlanta Falcons- The Falcons have made it to the Superbowl this year so calling anything a need is a little bit of a stretch since they didn’t need it this year so far.  They definitely were one of the surprise teams to win their division this season and even when they did not many people believed in them along the way.  I too am guilty of this, but they have continually proved me wrong.  Their offense is just incredible to watch.  Matt Ryan has re-emerged as a top 5 quarterback in the NFL, Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman combine for a great 1-2 punch at running back behind one of the 10 best offensive lines in the league and Taylor Gabriel and Mohammed Sanu have proved to be excellent complementary pieces to one of, if not the, best wide receivers in the league Julio Jones.  Their defense has been solid in the secondary led by rookie Keanu Neal, linebackers led by rookie Deion Jones, and a defensive line led by second year player Vic Beasley.  The defense is incomplete though.  The defensive line doesn’t have a great run stuffer and the linebackers haven’t been good at stopping the run either so I think that the better option for them would be to take a big interior defensive lineman who can stuff the run and help the linebackers by clogging up holes.  The Giants this year were a great example of how a run stuffing interior defensive line can mask deficiencies by the linebacker corps and can make a weakness at two places into a relative strength.  If the Falcons get a disruptive interior defensive lineman, then this year could be just the tip of the iceberg of their potential.
  2. mike-evansTampa Bay Buccaneers- This team looked for a while that it could arrive to the playoffs a year too early, but a late season mini-slide kept them out and sets them up to break out in Jameis Winston’s third season.  Their offense looks like it is just about there already with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans complementing each other greatly as a deep thrower paired with a guy who makes 50/50 balls seem more like 75/25 balls in his favor.  They also have 3 of their 5 offensive lineman performing above average and 2 capable running backs when they are healthy in Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers.  They also have some pieces on defense, but not a complete unit.  Their biggest weakness on defense is similar to the Falcons as they need run defense as none of their front 7 players are great in that area.  So since they have the same core problem as the Falcons, their draft need is the same as the Falcons in a disruptive interior defensive lineman.  The Bucs already have one disruptive interior lineman in Gerald McCoy, but he too doesn’t excel in run defense.  If they can get a guy in the mold of a Michael Brockers, then they can have one of the best defensive interiors in the league which will limit what opponents can do on offense and help out the rest of their defense against the run game.
  3. Drew BreesNew Orleans Saints- Does anyone remember the last time the Saints had a defense that could stop anyone?  That would be in 2013 when they were 4th in yards against and scoring against.  That is a long time in football terms, especially when at the time people were still more focussed on their offense.  But since then, it seems like Drew Brees has had to play 16 games worth of first to 40 wins every year and however great Brees is, he can only do so much.  The Saints are still the same offensive juggernaut they have been since Brees and Sean Payton arrived to the team in 2006.  Brees threw for over 5,000 yards yet again which has seemed to become routine for him, they had the best rookie wide receiver in the league in Michael Thomas, and their offensive line isn’t too good.  Their running back situation isn’t ideal, but the Saints pass the ball short often enough to simulate a running game with their short passing game.  Their defense though needs help at just about every spot not taken up by either Jordan Cameron or Kenny Vaccaro.  What they need more than anything though is someone who can match up with an opponent’s number one receiver and help to at least slow him down so the offense can maybe just play some games of first to 30 wins.
  4. cam-newtonCarolina Panthers- This team had one of the biggest negative turnarounds of any team in recent memory, going from 15-1 and losing the Superbowl to 6-10 and a top 10 pick.  Some people might be quick to overreact and say that the loss of Josh Norman made the team fall apart, but his replacement James Bradberry played pretty well in his stead and Norman, however good he was in 2015, was not worth 9 wins.  The biggest part of the Panthers’ regression was the regression of Jonathan Stewart as a running back.  The Panthers are at their best when teams aren’t able to key on whether Cam Newton will run the ball, throw the ball, or hand it off to the running back on any given play.  With Stewart showing his age this season, teams were able to key in on Newton and shut down the Panthers’ offense.  If the Panthers are able to grab a guy like a Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook, then you can see this team get back to close to their 2015 form really quickly.

Previous articles in this series:

AFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-north-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC West- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need-2/

NFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

NFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/each-nfc-norths-biggest-draft-need/

Who Will Control NFC South?

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The question is will the  Carolina Panthers control the NFC South again? Last year it seemed that no one could beat the Panthers, it didn’t matter if the team played in their division or not. Atlanta Falcons managed to make it to .500 record but, the Saints and the Bucs did not. Should I mention that in 2014 that no team in that division made it to a .500 record but, the Panthers somehow still won their division.

Last season the Panthers lost their top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season after he tore his ACL during the first practice of the summer. Now a year later he has returned. Their receiving core is back intact as of now. One of their problem areas is at running back. They have Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne, Jonathan Stewart and Brandon Wegher. Let’s start with Jonathan Stewart, the man that can’t stay healthy. His last full season played was in 2011. Why do they consider this guy a starter? Did I mention he is limited in the OTA’s right now? Maybe his body is trying to tell him to quit or become a water boy. Whittaker on his third team, well he isn’t much to talk about. This will be Artis-Payne’s second season. He didn’t play much, but I did like what I saw from the kid. A positive note, his rushing average is higher that Trent Richardson’s. I think if he gets more experience, he will actually be a good player. Cam Netwon who almost lead the team with rushing yards, had the best season of his career last season. He increased his touchdowns to 35. He also didn’t throw as many interceptions as previous years.

The Panthers did take a big blow to their defense this off-season. They lost their top cornerback Josh Norman. Norman was shutting top wide receivers down the majority of the season. Will their defense be as good as last year? They still have Kuechly and Davis but can they stop the ball down the field? We will see.

 

The Falcons

When you hear the Atlanta Falcons name mentioned you automatically think of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. These two have a great chemistry together. They also have an effective running back Devonta Freeman, who had a 1000-yard season. His backup Tevin Coleman wasn’t bad either. Since last season Roddy White had one of his worst seasons of his career since he started in the NFL, was let go this off-season. He was replaced by Cincinnati’s wide receiver Mohammad Sanu. Their tight end situation isn’t bad but, the Falcons did draft Austin Hooper from Stanford. They started last season with a 5-0 record, but, ended with an 8-8 record. So what happened? The defense played horrible and were last in sacks. The offensive line couldn’t protect Ryan so, he was making very questionable decisions. During the 2016 NFL draft the Falcons main focus was to draft defensive players. Will these upgrades and drafts help?

 

The Saints

Where to start with the Saints. The team, as a whole, had problems from the offense to the defense. The New Orleans Saints last season had a record of 7-9. The most consistent player on the Saints is well QB Drew Brees. He had a great season last year. Let’s first talk about their running back situation the Saints have Mark Ingram who has been on the team since 2011 and still hasn’t had a 1000-yard season. The last time he played all 16 games was in 2012. They signed C.J. Spiller for what reason I don’t know he didn’t do anything. They did draft a running back Daniel Lasco from California. They lost Jimmy Graham in 2014 so they had Benjamin Watson to fill his shoes. Watson did have one of the best season of his career, but they lost him in the off-season. The Saints did sign Colby Fleener to replace Watson. The defense for the Saints was garbage. They were ranked second to last in the league. A positive note the Saints did focus their draft on defensive players. They also signed Roman Harper for the second time.

 

The Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team with the fans who thought Jameis Winston was going to be their savior. Well, he might be but last year he wasn’t. The Bucs had 6-10 record last season. Last season Winston ranked 28th out of 34 in QB rankings. Winston also ranked fifth in the league in interceptions, but he did have a great yards gained pass completion. The Bucs have a great running back in Doug Martin and their offensive line last season was awesome, if they weren’t there was no way Martin was going to have over 1000-year season. What hurt the Bucs was losing their tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to shoulder injury for the season. They also lost Vincent Jackson to a knee injury for the season. Losing Jackson probably hurts them the most. He was one of the top players on the team and when he went down they only had Mike Evans. Mike Evans had a great yardage season last year, but only scored three touchdowns all season. Really? That’s horrible, Jackson only had three, but he got hurt. Seferian-Jenkins had four, but, again, he got hurt. Those two have great reasons why they didn’t score. The Bucs did fire Lovie Smith this past January. Maybe that is what needed to happen for them to have a better season.

 

The NFC South will be interesting to watch this season. The question is will they be a great division or horrible.

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