NFL Draft Grades: NFC South
Atlanta Falcons: B+
The Falcons had a really solid draft, with their lone blemish being the Dez Southward pick in the third round with Terrence Brooks still on the board. Getting Jake Matthews in the first round was a great value pick and fills a need on the offensive line, recognizing that they were not going to get the pass rusher that they coveted coming into the draft. Instead, they turned their attention to the second round, where they found a first round talent in Ra’Shede Hageman to help the interior of that defensive line. It is as if the Falcons got two first round picks this year with those two players. Prince Shembo may have gone a little higher than expected, but he is a solid outside linebacker prospect and adding a player like Devonta Freeman as the future runningback is solid value in the third round. A player to look out for in the coming years is Marquis Spruill from Syracuse University. Spruill is a tackling machine and has a nose for the football. In a 4-3 defensive scheme, he should thrive at the outside linebacker position with some fine tuning.
Carolina Panthers: C
The Panthers only had six selections in the draft, and it seems as though they didn’t take advantage of the picks they had. The obvious need for the Panthers was wide receiver, and they filled that hole with Kelvin Benjamin in the first round. However, Benjamin is a project wide receiver, and unless he makes significant strides in the offseason, it is tough to imagine Benjamin makes waves in his first season. The selection of Kony Ealy in the second round is a steal for the Panthers, as many had projected him in the late first round. In the even Greg Hardy leaves next offseason after his franchise tag expires, Ealy would be a very solid replacement for him. As for a couple of the later picks, Tre Boston is a solid free safety with good ball-skills and play making ability. In the fourth round, he is a solid value pick. Trai Turner was the selection in the third round, and that seemed like a bit of a reach for the guard with a player like Dakota Dozier still on the board. The Panthers had an okay draft, but it doesn’t make the team better next season with a lot of holes still remaining on the roster.
New Orleans Saints: C+
The Saints had only six picks to play with, and as long as they have Drew Brees, they will always be a contending team. Brandin Cooks in the first round nets them a very good player and fills the void left by the departed Lance Moore, but with bigger needs on the defense, it is a bit concerning that they opted to go offense again. The selection of Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the second round is another solid pick for the Saints and gives them a big, physical corner, but he could very easily fizzle out in the league, so they will have to hope he pans out. Khairi Fortt and Ronald Powell were two very solid selections for the Saints to help improve the linebacker play, but Powell could very easily win a spot over Fortt, showing the reach potential for him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A
Josh McCown and Mike Glennon may not take this team very far, but the Bucs regime is putting the pieces in place to build a winner in Tampa Bay. The selection of Mike Evans in the first round is a no-brainer pick and gives another big-bodied weapon to pair with Vincent Jackson. On day two of the draft, the Bucs continued their good draft with the selections of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Charles Sims, two players that are sure to make an immediate impact. Sims is a play-making back that should complement the style of Doug Martin well, and Seferian-Jenkins is a developing tight end to give the quarterbacks a best friend to throw to.