NFL Draft Grades: NFC South

Vic Beasley with Roger Goodell
Atlanta Falcons: A
1.) Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
2.) Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
3.) Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana
4.) Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
5.) Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson
7.) Jake Rodgers, OT, Eastern Washington
7.) Akeem King, DB, San Jose St.

Bottom Line: The Falcons are kind of in rebuild mode. After making the playoffs for three straight seasons (2010-2012), they have missed out the past two seasons and posted only 10 wins combined. With new head coach Dan Quinn and assistant general manager Scott Pioli taking control of the draft, the Falcons may have found the few missing pieces to get back to the postseason. Their top five draft picks could make significant impacts as rookies, with Jarrett getting sleeper status. Many project him to go in the second- or third-round but fell to the fifth. He fits perfectly as a one gap pass rusher in Quinn’s 4-3 defensive scheme. Coleman, could be the lead back.

Carolina Panthers: C+
1.) Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
2.) Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
4.) Daryl Williams, OT, Oklahoma
5.) David Mayo, LB, Texas St.
5.) Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Auburn

Bottom Line: The Panthers’ grade isn’t as bad as it seems. They acquired quality players, however where they addressed needs is a major head-scratcher. Funchess, is their best pick when matching need and value. He gives quarterback Cam Newton another 6’5″ target. He’s still developing. The 2014 Walter Payton Award winner, Thomas Davis, announced the Panthers first pick — Thompson. It was an awkward moment as Thompson is clearly Davis’ eventual replacement. Williams in the fourth-round is good value but the offensive line was their biggest need. Addressing it for the first time in the fourth-round is very questionable, especially when you take a linebacker when your corps is already loaded. All this aside, Williams could start Day One on the right side.
Andrus Peat

New Orleans Saints: B+
1.) Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
1.) Stephone Anthony, ILB, Clemson
2.) Hau’oli Kikaha, OLB, Washington
3.) Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado St.
3.) P.J. Williams, CB, Florida St.
5.) Davis Tull, DE, OLB, Tennessee-Chattanooga
5.) Tyeler Davison, DT, Fresno St.
5.) Damian Swann, CB, Georgia
7.) Marcus Murphy, RB, Missouri

Bottom Line: This is a terrific haul by the Saints and coach Sean Payton. The only thing holding them back from an “A” grade is not addressing the positions of receiver or tight end. Quarterback Drew Brees is getting old and protecting him is of the utmost importance, thus the selection of Peat. But the team in cap-cutting moves traded Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. That leaves veteran Ben Watson as the starting tight end and third-year man Nick Toon as the slot receiver. They must have a lot of faith in them to avoid addressing the position. They bolstered their linebacking corps with great talent in Anthony and Kikaha. Tull is a solid developmental pick. Their third-round draft picks were the best taking (arguably) the best quarterback in the draft in Grayson and Williams, a proven, starter-caliber corner.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B
1.) Jameis Winston, QB, Florida St.
2.) Donovan Smith, OT, Penn St.
2.) Ali Marpet, OG, Hobart & William Smith
4.) Kwon Alexander, OLB, LSU
5.) Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska
6.) Kaelin Clay, WR, Utah
7.) Joey Iosefa, FB, Hawaii

Bottom Line: Winston was the obvious number-one overall pick for this year’s draft. He has the talent to succeed but the questions around his off-field incidents will always be there. There biggest need heading into offseason was the offensive-line. If there were a word worse than atrocious, they were it. So adding two linemen in the second-round was a good choice. Smith, will start Day One at either tackle or guard. Marpet, a D-III prospect, will make the big jump to the NFL. He has the skills to do it, but it will surely take some sort of an adjustment period. Alexander, gives the linebacking corps a serious bump. Teaming him with veteran Lavonte David, gives them a pair of sideline-to-sideline players. They will be fun to watch.

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