Grading the NFC South’s Draft


The NFL Draft has come and gone. No, the Bucs didn’t draft a QB, yes that’s a good thing, yes, the Falcons inexplicably drafted a running back at seven overall despite having a rookie running back who ran for over 1,000 yards last season in Tyler Allgeier, no that’s not a good thing (for the Falcons). 

So let’s move on from that atrocious run-on sentence. Here are the grades for the NFC South’s drafts, starting with, of course, the…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B-

I want to start off by saying I actually think this was a decent draft job by the Bucs’ front office. They didn’t do anything weird (like draft a kicker or a punter in the first four rounds), and they didn’t do what everyone (incorrectly) wanted them to do and draft a QB. Of course they can still be competitive this season, and this draft continues that idea.

They went with big guys with their first 3 picks, and I’m never going to be mad at that. Kancey, Mauch, and Diaby are all guys that can fill positions of need, with Kancey and Mauch likely being immediate starters while Diaby will probably join a pass rush rotation that was in dire need of an infusion of something different. What frustrates me is how long they waited and how passive they were with drafting a member of the secondary.

They only had two starting quality corners and two starting quality safeties going into the draft, and they’re pretty much in that same situation, even after drafting safety Josh Hayes out of Kansas State in the 6th round. Brian Branch fell inexplicably into the 2nd round, and while I’m incredibly satisfied with who they got in the second, it would have been worth exploring doing what Detroit did and trading up to get arguably the best safety in this class.

Regardless, they filled out their roster properly at the end of the draft with a speedy wideout who lacks any real route running ability but can be developed into a decent depth piece, a tight end who can hopefully serve as a solid backup receiving tight end, and a fun hidden gem EDGE guy who had a productive career at a smaller school (Eastern Michigan) in Jose Ramirez. I think of this draft class as a series of safe decisions. Nothing to blow anyone away, but also nothing super weird and stupid. 

Atlanta Falcons: D+

You want to talk about weird and stupid. Drafting a running back at seven with Tyler Allgeier already in the backfield is nasty business. I’m positive that Bijan Robinson will be a superstar running back, but the Falcons (like every other team in the division) had a boatload of other needs that could have been filled beautifully with that top-10 pick in the first round. EDGE, corner, offensive line, hell, they could’ve even jumped on the Will Levis train and I would have at least understood it more than this pick. Drafting Robinson is something a Super Bowl contending team like the Eagles or Ravens spend a first on, not a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in God knows how long.

The rest of their draft class was fine, nothing to write home about; they filled out the rest of their roster with solid talent that can contribute now and down the road. It’s just a tough thing to overcome such a head-scratching first round pick, especially for a team that has spent the past two first round picks on other skill positions and none on defensive players or even an offensive lineman. 

Carolina Panthers: B+

Having the first overall pick should be easy, right? You draft the best guy in the draft, and the Panthers did just that. They didn’t get cute and pick Anthony Richardson or (gulp) Will Levis; they went with the guy they traded a shit ton of picks and DJ Moore for, Bryce Young. They spent the rest of the draft getting some really high-value guys, and a few that stood out for me were certainly guard Chandler Zavala and safety Jammie Robinson. Both could end up starting at some point this season, and to get two potential starters in the 4th and 5th rounds is really just doing a tremendous job of doing your homework.

They’re also positions of need for the Panthers as they continue to build a really good offensive line and a defense that could make some noise. A lot of this hinges on Young and how he performs, but I think they’ve picked a pretty damn good guy to do that. 

New Orleans Saints: C+ (with A- potential)

Another team plagued by a questionable first round pick, the Saints didn’t have a horrible draft, just very similar to the Bucs; a lot of safe picks (other than the first). They went with injury-prone interior defensive lineman Bryan Breese. This is a huge position of need, so they certainly score some points there, and if Breese stays healthy he’s a huge win (hence the A- potential). But for a city already dealing with Zion Williamson missing 50+ games every season (sorry), you’d think they’d be wanting a more sure thing with their first round pick, especially since they’re still in win-now mode with the signing of QB Derek Carr.

They got a decent complimentary back in the third round that’s very different than the star they have in Alvin Kamara (although his future is questionable at best), and started to look towards the future without Cam Jordan in the second, going with an EDGE guy out of Notre Dame in Isaiah Foskey. They also doubled down on Fresno State QBs in the fourth round, selecting Jake Haener, who will hopefully continue his already established connection with the other former Fresno fella Derek Carr. 

The Bucs didn’t do a horrible job in this draft, and GM Jason Licht should be commended for his commitment to retooling this team the right way, from the front back, but I just grew a bit annoyed as the names continued to pop up of secondary members that they just sat back and missed out on; of course, they didn’t overpay for any of the draft day trades and maybe teams were simply asking for too much with some of the picks that ended up being corners or safeties, but I still have a hard time buying their plans for that group going into this season. It’s going to be interesting to see if they address the position in free agency moving forward, or if they decide to try out Zyon McCollum or newly drafted Josh Hayes at the nickel position.

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