Tag Archives: Carolina Panthers

2018 NFL Draft Grades: NFC South

The NFC South is always one of the most fun divisions to watch. Each year a new candidate takes the mantle of division champ. Rarely, does a team go back-to-back seasons with the crown. A year after the Atlanta Falcons went to the Super Bowl, it was the resurgent New Orleans who reclaimed their place in the playoffs.

But not withering were the Atlanta Falcons or Carolina Panthers. Both teams made the playoffs under the wild card banner and Atlanta actually pulled off an upset in the opening round of the playoffs defeating the No. 3 seed LA Rams.

So where do things stand after the offseason? Pretty much where they were left following the 2017 campaign. There were no big changes in the division. When three out of four teams make it to the playoffs there really is no need to overhaul anything, it’s just a matter of continuing to fix up the spots that are under-producing. So, how did these teams fare? Lets give it a look…

Atlanta Falcons: B+
1.) Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
2.) Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
3.) Deadrin Senat, DT, USF
4.) Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss
6.) Russell Gage, WR, LSU
6.) Foye Oluokun, LB, Yale

With no glaring need on the roster, the Atlanta Falcons were free to add to their roster as see fit. Nabbing  Ridley, arguably the best receiver in the draft, with their first pick was a win. Outside of starting receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu there wasn’t much left on the depth chart. Ridley will likely contribute immediately. Smith, another weapon added for Matt Ryan, was a strong pick as well. While he’s not the biggest back (Smith is listed at 5’9″), Smith is ultra productive. He had three straight seasons rushing over 1,000 yards and in those seasons racked up 40 touchdowns. Not to mention he added another seven scores off of 132 receptions. Oliver and Senat, add needed depth. The secondary play waned in 2017, so Oliver will provide needed assistance. Senat, much the same along the defensive line. With the mammoth Dontari Poe gone, Senat will help fill the void.

Carolina Panthers: B
1.) DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
2.) Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
3.) Rashaan Gaulden, CB, Tennessee
4.) Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
4.) Marquis Haynes, DE, Ole Miss
5.) Jermaine Carter, LB, Maryland
7.) Andre Carter, LB, North Carolina
7.) Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami

The Panthers brought in a quality yield, but one thing sticks out considerably. They failed to address the hole on their offensive line left after -All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell signed with Jacksonville over free agency. Beyond that miss, the Panthers addressed many needs. Cam Newton has had a dearth of wide receiving options over the years, but Moore finally gives him a weapon who can lineup all over the field. In Thomas, they have a budding receiving threat who should learn a lot playing behind Greg Olsen. Jackson and Gaulden, address a defensive secondary that has failed to grow after the departure of Josh Norman. Gaulden, plays with swagger and may move to the free safety spot left vacant by Kurt Coleman. Haynes, adds youth and depth to their pass rushing corps. The team can’ rely on Julius Peppers forever. Haynes should learn a lot playing behind the future Hall-of-Famer. He had 32 sacks over his career at Ole Miss.

New Orleans Saints: C+
1.) Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
3.) Tre’quan Smith, WR, UCF
4.) Rick Leonard, OT, Florida St.
5.) Natrell Jamerson, S, Wisconsin
6.) Kamrin Moore, CB, Boston College
6.) Boston Scott, RB, Louisiana Tech
7.) Will Clapp, C, LSU

The Saints made a huge trade to jump up and select Davenport to open their draft. In moving up from No. 27 to No. 14, the Saints gave away a fifth-round selection this year and next year’s first-round pick. That is a lot to give up to select an edge rusher. Nothing against Davenport, he is immensely talented and could live up to the trade, but he is also very raw at this point. He  never had a double-digit sack season at UT-San Antonio. Smith, is a classic Saints’ receiver. He provides a big target, but is also raw, having only played organized football for five years. That being said, his numbers did go up each year culminating with a 1,000 yard campaign and 13 touchdown season to cap his college career. Leonard and Clapp, add needed depth along their offensive line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B
1.) Vita Vea, DT, Washington
2.) Ronald Jones, RB, USC
2.) MJ Stewart, CB, North Carolina
2.) Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
3.) Alex Cappa, OG, Humboldt St.
4.) Jordan Whitehead, S, Pitt
5.) Justin Watson, WR, Penn
6.) Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin

Defensive tackle wasn’t the greatest need for the Bucs, but when a talent like Vea falls to you it would be foolish to pass on the player. Vea, is a colossal man and has freakish athletic ability. Paired with veteran Gerald McCoy, the Bucs may have just created the best defensive tackle tandem in the league. Jones, was a strong addition early in Round 2. He has the speed that makes him a threat every time he touches the ball. He’s not the biggest back, but the production is undeniable. How big his workload will be will be intriguing to watching. The Bucs had the worst pass defense in the league last year and clearly had to try and remedy that through the draft. They added two strong cornerbacks in Stewart and Davis. Stewart, has some off field issues, but has the versatility that is welcomed at the position. Davis, is a big, physical corner who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the run game. He doesn’t create a lot of turnovers, but broke up 29 passes in college.

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2017 NFL Draft Grades: NFC South

The NFC South has produced the NFC representative in the Super Bowl for the past two years with the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. And just like the last two years, this will be another year of highlight reel play from this division.

Atlanta are the top dogs following last year, but the big question is, how do they respond following that epic collapse in the Super Bowl? With Matt Ryan at quarterback and Dan Quinn as head coach, they should be set to make back to the playoffs despite losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco.

Besides the Falcons, the biggest surprise was the fall of the Panthers. They went from playing in the Super Bowl to having a Top 10 pick the following year. Carolina needs to find their identity, as do the Saints. The Saints have mired in mediocrity since winning the Super Bowl in ’09. They can’t keep wasting Drew Brees’ ability. The intriguing team of the division is Tampa. After an ugly shakeup at head coach last offseason, the team seems to be all systems go under Dirk Koetter.

Here, is how things came to be in the NFC South over the 2017 NFL Draft…

Atlanta Falcons: B+
1.) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
3.) Duke Riley, LB, LSU
4.) Sean Harlow, OG, Oregon St.
5.) Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego St.
5b.) Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming
5c.) Eric Saubert, TE, Drake

Every pick here could contribute in someway in 2017. That is impressive. McKinley, had the most moving moment of the draft as he came on stage after being selected, holding a portrait of his grandmother, who he had promised on her deathbed that he would make it to the NFL. The Falcons got gassed in the Super Bowl, which makes McKinley a perfect fit. His motor never stops. Last year, the Falcons took Deion Jones, who had only started one year at LSU before starring for Atlanta. Riley, could be considered a clone. Harlow, could contribute sooner than later now that there is a whole open at guard. Hill, provides a reliable power back. Saubert, could emerge a starter a few years down the road.

Best pick: Damontae Kazee
The Falcons are set on the outsides, but needed help in the slot. Kazee, in the fifth-round was a steal. A three year starter for the Aztecs, Kazee displayed impressive ball skills totaling 16 interceptions over that time.

Carolina Panthers: C+
1.) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
2.) Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio St.
2b.) Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan
3.) Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M
5.) Corn Elder, CB, Miami
6.) Alex Armah, FB, West Georgia
7.) Harrison Butker, K, Georgia Tech

McCaffrey to kickoff the Panthers weekend was a home run. He is a dynamic, Swiss army knife that can lineup all over the field. He’ll take a lot of pressure off of Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart. Samuel, is a very similar player to McCaffrey which was a head scratcher. Moton, is a versatile lineman, who could be a swing tackle or guard. The Panthers need to protect Cam Newton better. Hall, played opposite No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett, and was rather overshadowed. He will learn a lot behind Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers. Butker, could signal the end for Graham Gano.

Best pick: Corn Elder
Losing Josh Norman crushed the Panthers last year. Elder, can help move forward. Elder, is a competitive corner who can lineup in the slot. While he’s not the biggest, he displayed good ball skills, breaking up 23 passes the past two seasons.

New Orleans Saints: A+
1.) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio St.
1b.) Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
2.) Marcus Williams, S, Utah
3.) Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
3b.) Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida
3c.) Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic
6.) Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Miami

This may be my favorite draft class in the entire league. The Saints have been devoid of talent for awhile now, this injection of talent could really wake up the team. Lattimore, fell to them, because of injuries. If he can stay healthy, the Saints picked up a premier corner talent. Ramczyk, will be the bookend opposite Terron Armstead. Williams, will help the Saints get better after posting the 32nd ranked pass defense and allow them to run three safety packages. Anzalone, could become a starter if he stays healthy. He’s an athletic freak. Hendrickson, isn’t a flashy pass rusher, but he is an effective pass rusher. He had 23 sacks the past two seasons.

Best pick: Alvin Kamara
He was underused at Tennessee, which means he has a lot of tread left on his tires. Kamara, can return kicks, catch the ball out of the backfield, or be a change of pace running back. When your quarterback gets older, you support him with a strong rushing game. The Saints have done that.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A
1.) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
2.) Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M
3.) Chris Godwin, WR, Penn St.
3b.) Kendell Beckwith, LB, LSU
5.) Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise St.
7.) Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DT, USC

The Bucs did a wonderful job here. Howard, fell and the Bucs couldn’t have been more happy. Evans, has a little growing to do. He looks for the knockout hit instead of wrapping up. He’ll be dynamic if he can improve his tackling. Godwin, is a tremendous talent. Remember when Allen Robinson came out to little fanfare, then became a Pro Bowler? Godwin, isn’t too far off. Beckwith, was an ascending talent until he tore his ACL late last year. If he can get back to where he was, this was a steal. McNichols, is a player. He’s not the biggest, but maximizes his ability in both the pass and run game. Tu’ikolovatu, is a two down run-stuffer.

Best pick: O.J. Howard
In today’s game it is rare that a complete prospect comes out of college, especially at tight end, but Howard is the real deal. He can block inline, he is a dangerous receiving threat who can stretch the seam. He is a special talent.