NFC South Draft Grades

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Regardless of who you cheer for, there are always glaring winners and losers of the NFL Draft. There were some surprises this year, such as Green Bay selecting quarterback Jordan Love in the first round. There were also no-brainers such as Joe Burrow and Chase Young going first and second overall. From the perspective of the NFC South, which of the four teams improved the most from the draft?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Round 1, pick 13: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Round 2, pick 45: Antoine Winfield Sr., S, Minnesota

Round 3, pick 76: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt

Round 5, pick 161: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota

Round 6, pick 194: Khalil Davis, DL, Nebraska

Round 7, pick 241: Chapelle Russell, LB, Temple

Round 7, pick 245: Raymond Calais, RB, Louisiana

Overall Grade: A-

Let’s start with the most-improved team from a season ago in the entire NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They addressed priority number one at pick 13 in offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. Wirfs will come in and likely start at the right tackle position on day one. Though Tampa Bay traded their fourth round pick to trade up one spot with San Francisco to secure Wirfs, the fact that he fell to 13 had the front office thrilled.

In round two, the Buccaneers added a small, but quick safety that will probably rotate in and out to begin his career. Overall, a ball-hawk who has a great NFL pedigree and is a reliable tackler.

In round three, Tom Brady got his Tampa Bay version of running back James White. Ke’Shawn Vaughn will get his chance to prove that he can be a great pass-catching third down running back.

No picks in round four. However, one of the original two were used to gain one of, if not the best tight end of all time, Rob Gronkowski. The other secured positioning in the draft to select Tristan Wirfs.

Round five brought Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson to Tampa Bay. Johnson looks to have “steal” potential as few draft analysts had him falling to round five. With the wide receiver three position still wide open for the Buccaneers, expect Johnson to come in and compete right away.

Khalil Davis, sixth rounder out of Nebraska, adds depth to the defensive line. He will come in and learn from fellow Nebraska alumni Ndamukong Suh and Lavonte David.

Round seven provided special team help with Chapelle Russell and a potential kick/punt returner in Raymond Calais.

New Orleans Saints

Round 1, pick 24: Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan

Round 3, pick 74: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin

Round 3, pick 105: Adam Trautman,TE, Dayton

Round 7, pick 240: Tommy Stevens, QB, Mississippi State

Overall Grade: B-

With only four picks in the draft, the Saints’ primary focus was on offense. Cesar Ruiz will add toughness to the interior part of their line. Trautman is a potential Jared Cook replacement after next season and can develop into an NFL pass-catcher. Zack Baun is undersized to play the edge position in the NFL, but his speed will be put to good use as an outside linebacker. Tommy Stevens will probably just be a camp body, as New Orleans has Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, and now reportedly Jameis Winston all under contract for the 2020 season.

The NFC South still has the best quarterbacks in the league.

Atlanta Falcons

Round 1, pick 16: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

Round 2, pick 47: Marlon Davidson, DE, Auburn

Round 3, pick 78: Matt Hennessy, C, Temple

Round 4, pick 119: Mykal Walker, LB, Fresno State

Round 4, pick 134: Jaylinn Hawkins, S, California

Round 7, pick 228: Sterling Hofrichter, P, Syracuse

Overall Grade: C

Because of the unbelievable wide receiver talent in the NFC South, Atlanta had to go with a cornerback in round one. However, Terrell may have been a reach in the first round. He is not a great tackler and was beat often in the National Championship game against LSU this past season.

Although round one was not abundantly successful, Atlanta hit a home run in the second round with the selection of Marlon Davidson. Paired next to Grady Jarrett Davidson could be a force and makes the Falcons defensive line scary.

Carolina Panthers

Round 1, No. 7 overall — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Round 2, No. 38 overall — Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
Round 2, No. 64 overall — Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
Round 4, No. 113 overall — Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
Round 5, No. 152 overall — Kenny Robinson Jr., S, West Virginia
Round 6, No. 184 overall — Bravvion Roy, DT, Baylor
Round 7, No. 221 overall — Stantley Thomas-Oliver, CB, FIU

Overall Grade: B

Carolina went seven for seven in draft picks spent on defense. Their defensive line will be amongst the tops in the league with the additions of Brown and Gross-Matos, who had first round potential. Chinn and Pride Jr. also probably slid further than they should have. A significant improvement to the defense, however, I would have added some weapons for new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The NFC South will be a very competitive division in 2020. As a division, I would put the offensive weapons and defensive lines up against any other division in the entire league. I still worry about each teams’ secondary, but it would not surprise me to see at least three teams finish with records over .500 in 2020.

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