New Orleans Saints
First-Round Pick: Marcus Davenport-Defensive End-UTSA
Best Pick: Marcus Davenport
After suffering a heartbreaking loss this past January in the postseason, the New Orleans Saints know that it is time to keep trudging forward in their quest to win another Super Bowl. And although that the Saints defense was greatly improved last season compared to what it was in year’s past, there is still room for the unit to grow.
In the first round of the draft, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis saw an opportunity to get a player who would have an immediate impact for his team which is what led to him trading up 13 spots in order to draft former UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport. At 6’6″, 264 lbs., Davenport is a very imposing figure who was able to wreak havoc last year in Conference USA as he was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. For years the Saints have lacked an edge rusher who can put fear into opposing offenses, but that might be changing with the acquisition of Davenport.
Davenport was the only immediate impact player who was selected by the Saints this year as the rest of the draft saw them focus on adding depth on both sides of the football. But if Davenport is able to pan out like the Saints expect him to, they could be one of the more complete teams this year in the National Football League.
First-Round Pick: D.J. Moore-Wide Receiver-Maryland
Best Pick: D.J. Moore
The Carolina Panthers went 11-5 in 2017 which was good enough to win most divisions around the National Football League, but with the NFC South as competitive as it was, they had to settle for a wild card spot. And even though that the Panthers were unable to win the NFC South last season, they know that they can still make a Super Bowl run in 2018 as division champion or not since they are built for January which in actuality begins in April at the NFL Draft.
In watching the Panthers last year, it was clear that they lacked speed at the wide receiver position as they were 28th in the NFL in passing offense. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney didn’t waste anytime in addressing this issue for Carolina as he used the team’s first-round pick on former Maryland Terrapins wide receiver D.J. Moore. Moore joins the Panthers fresh off of being named as the Big Ten Conference’s Receiver of the Year. Last year Moore averaged nearly 13 yards per receptions, and with Carolina’s ability to run the football, he should benefit from play-action passing which he will see with more one-on-one coverage.
In order to survive in the NFC South, the Panthers have to deal with two of the more explosive offenses in the NFL which are possessed by the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints respectively. The ability of the Falcons and Saints on offense led to the Panthers using six of their remaining seven draft choices on the defensive side of the football. These defensive selections included three cornerbacks as the Panthers are once again expecting the NFC South to be decided through the air.
Depth, depth, and more depth was the name of the game for the Panthers at this year’s NFL Draft as they look to keep up with the elite teams in the NFC.
First-Round Pick: Calvin Ridley-Wide Receiver-Alabama
Best Pick: Calvin Ridley
Fresh off of making consecutive postseason appearances for just the second time in franchise history, the Atlanta Falcons are seeking to keep the momentum going for themselves heading into the 2018 National Football League season. And the best way to maintain a solid roster is through the draft.
The Falcons were one of the teams at the tail end of the first round who didn’t make a trade in order to move up or down as they were content staying pat. The Falcons patience would pay off as they use their first-round selection on former Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Last year at Alabama, the football wasn’t thrown that much, but when it was Ridley made secondaries around the Southeastern Conference pay. Ridley averaged more than 15 yards per reception and with the Falcons, he’ll be the go-to-guy for quarterback Matt Ryan on third down as a slot receiver when it comes time to move the chains.
Like the Saints and Panthers, the Falcons understand the importance of having a quality defense in order to win the NFC South. After drafting Ridley, the Falcons used their next two selections on the defensive side of the football as they picked former Colorado Buffaloes cornerback Isaiah Oliver and former South Florida Bulls defensive tackle Deadrin Senat. Senat was a member of the American Athletic Conference’s All-Conference team last season as his tenacity will be a welcome addition to the Falcons who need all the help that they can get on their defensive line after losing nose tackle Dontari Poe in free agency.
It’s all about keeping up with the Panthers and Saints in the NFC South and Atlanta is hopeful that they did enough for that.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
First-Round Pick: Vita Vea-Defensive Tackle-Washington
Best Pick: Vita Vea
As if the 5-11 mark for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wasn’t tough enough for them to deal with, they also had to sit back and watch the other three teams in the NFC South make the playoffs. In all the Buccaneers have been unable to make the playoffs since 2007 which dates back to their struggles in the National Football League Draft. In recent years the Bucs have been able to come out smelling like a rose in the first round, but in the later rounds they have struggled as this is where rosters are created.
The first round of this year’s draft would once again see the Buccaneers come out good as after trading down with the Buffalo Bills, they selected former Washington Huskies defensive tackle Vita Vea. Last year the Bucs were dead last in the NFL in total defense, while they were 23rd versus the run. What Vea gives Tampa Bay on their defensive line is an attitude adjuster as his presence alone will be intimidating. At 6’4″, 347 lbs., Vea is a mountain of a man, and he joins Tampa fresh off of being named as the Pac-12 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017.
With three selections in the second round, Tampa Bay continued to fill out their roster with running back Ronald Jones, as well as cornerbacks M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis. On the defensive side of the football both Stewart and Davis play with chips on their shoulder which is exactly what this Buccaneers defense needs as they look to get on track.
The Bucs have been continuously pushed around in the NFC South, and unless there is a culture change within the building, this team will keep on being unable to measure up.