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:
- 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.
- Tampa 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.
- New 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.
- Carolina 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/