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Monday, 4 May 2015

2015 NFL Draft: NFC South Analysis and Grades

Atlanta Falcons


1 (8): Vic Beasley - OLB, Clemson

2 (10): Jalen Collins - CB, LSU

3 (9): Tevin Coleman - RB, Indiana

4 (8): Justin Hardy - WR, East Carolina

5 (1): Grady Jarrett - NT, Clemson

7 (8): Jake Rodgers - OT, Eastern Washington

7 (32): Akeem King - DB, San Jose State



The Falcons were one of the teams expected to get a back early, while their defense was porous with holes. In the first two rounds, they got two extremely athletic and talented prospects, Vic Beasley and Jalen Collins. Beasley is on the lighter side of edge rushers, but he has the pass rushing skills to start at defensive end right away and become one of the more difficult guys to take on. Collins on the other hand, has great size for his position, but is too raw to play early on. He will need some time to develop, but he has all the physical traits teams want in a corner. Putting him opposite standout corner Desmond Trufant, the Falcons have one of the youngest and most physically imposing cornerback tandems. There were rumors that a team was trying to trade up into the first round for Tevin Coleman, but he went through the second round without being picked. The Falcons, with the ninth pick in the third round, were more than happy to have him fall to them. He is strong, fast, and gives every carry his all. He will be an instant starter for the Falcons and can bring back the success they used to have in the running game. Justin Hardy was a solid pick, as he should be able to immediately step in as their slot receiver. He lacks size and speed, but is a reliable target worth taking day three. In the fifth round, they got excellent value in Grady Jarrett, who should be a great fit as a defensive tackle that can both stop the run and rush the passer. Their two seventh-round picks are unlikely to be anything more than backups, but Jake Rodgers has good athleticism for a tackle while Akeem King has tremendous size. Their first five picks were great, practically getting three first-rounders, a second, and a reliable third option. The Falcons will have more work to do on their offensive line and their defense, but this is a good start.


Best Pick: Tevin Coleman - RB, Indiana

Tevin Coleman was often considered the third best back, just behind Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. With T.J. Yeldon and Ameer Abdullah going ahead of him and the Cardinals and Cowboys passing on running backs, he fell right into the back-needy Falcons' lap.


Worst Pick: Jake Rodgers - OT, Eastern Washington

Jake Rodgers is athletic, but he is also underpowered. He will likely never be anything more than a backup, but what can you expect out of a seventh-round pick. Putting him here just shows how good their draft haul was.


Grade: A+



Carolina Panthers


1 (25): Shaq Thompson - OLB, Washington

2 (9): Devin Funchess - WR, Michigan

4 (3): Daryl Williams - OG, Oklahoma

5 (33): David Mayo - LB, Texas State

5 (38): Cameron Artis-Payne - RB, Auburn



The Panthers' biggest needs were receiver, offensive line, and strong safety. In the first round, D.J. Humphries was taken just one pick before them, so instead they took Shaq Thompson. Thompson could perhaps work as the 32-year-old Thomas Davis' replacement, but that was less of a need then what else could have been filled. Had they gotten a receiver here, they could have picked up a tackle like Jake Fisher in the second. In the second round, they traded up to get Devin Funchess, a 6-foot-5 wideout/tight end hybrid. With Greg Olsen's spot set in stone, it looks like Funchess will play opposite Kelvin Benjamin for the Panthers. This gives them two big-bodied receivers on the perimeter. He has been plagued with drops though, and he will have to fix that if he is to reach Benjamin-like heights. Daryl Williams is an underrated pick, as the fourth-round selection has starting capabilities. Where he will start is a question though. Guard is probably his best position, but the Panthers failed to pick up another lineman in the draft, so he may stay outside at right tackle. If he stays outside, he will struggle against NFL-level athletes. David Mayo is on the smaller side, at 228 pounds, and has below average athleticism. He is likely a backup and special teamer. Cameron Artis-Payne can be a bruiser, but lacks the speed to be an all-around threat. Thompson is the heir to Davis, while Funchess should work well with Benjamin, and Williams has good interior qualities. This was a decent draft, but they need more speed and should have picked a more pure tackle.


Best Pick: Shaq Thompson - OLB, Washington

Shaq Thompson is a very athletic linebacker than many thought might make a switch to safety. What makes this their best pick as he has the potential to be the perfect replacement for Thomas Davis. He was a bit overdrafted, but no one they drafted was a great pick in terms of value.


Worst Pick: David Mayo - LB, Texas State

All of the earlier picks have some risk associated with them, but David Mayo's lacking physical traits make him a bad pick, even in the fifth round. Overall, there was not much separation between these picks, but it seems harsh to call a potential quality player like Thompson, Funchess, or Williams, the worst pick.


Grade: C



New Orleans Saints


1 (13): Andrus Peat - OT, Stanford

1 (31): Stephone Anthony - ILB, Clemson

2 (12): Hau'oli Kikaha - OLB, Washington

3 (11): Garrett Grayson - QB, Colorado State

3 (14): P.J. Williams - CB, Florida State

5 (12): Davis Tull - OLB, Tennessee-Chattanooga

5 (18): Tyeler Davison - DT, Fresno State

5 (31): Damian Swann - CB, Georgia

7 (13): Marcus Murphy - RB, Missouri



The Saints could have addressed receiver, tight end, or guard, but their biggest needs coming into the draft were on defense, as made evident by six of their first eight selections being on the side of the ball. Their first pick was a bit of a surprise, as Andrus Peat is a right tackle and they needed a guard. This likely means Zach Strief, who has excelled at tackle in years past, will move inside. Stephone Anthony is a great pick at the bottom of the first, one I got right in my mock draft. He is not as instinctive as you would like for a first-round pick, but his physical traits and aggressive style of play, he will be an immediate upgrade for the Saints. Given a year or two to develop, he could become one of the more feared inside backers. Hau'oli Kikaha was as shocking a pick gets. There were more talented edge rushers on the board, but they went with Kikaha, the most productive of the bunch. He is little small and his athleticism is lacking, but he understands the game well. He can be a decent starter, but he has a low ceiling for a second-round pick. The second quarterback taken off the board, Garrett Grayson looks to be the heir to Drew Brees. His physical traits are nothing more than adequate, just enough, but he captured the eyes of many teams and scouts with his accuracy and anticipation. Some see him as purely a reliable backup, but he has starting potential. The question is how good of a starter can he be. In the third round, it could be hard to pass up on a talented corner like P.J. Williams, but with Keenan Lewis, free agent acquisitions Brandon Browner and Kyle Wilson, and 2014 second-round pick Stanley Jean-Baptiste, this is a crowded group. Lewis and Browner are easily the two best and are more than likely to be the starters on the perimeter, but that's where Jean-Baptiste and Williams best fit. Wilson has was a disappointment for the Jets, but he is the best fit, or least worst, for the nickel position. Perhaps these past two early-round picks were made because Lewis and Browner are 28 and 30, respectively. The other cornerback they got, Damian Swann, it a corner/safety hybrid that is likely just a depth player or special teamer. Davis Tull provides solid depth at outside linebacker, where he can make contributions from time to time due to his relentless style of play. Tyeler Davison is a big, strong man that has solid athleticism. He will need to develop behind the scenes for a year or two, but he can take over at defensive end after that. Marcus Murphy, their final pick, is a smaller guy that can find work on screens, in the slot, and as a returner. Anthony and Davison add some talent to their defense, but beyond that they made a lot of questionable decisions. With all the picks they mustered this offseason, this was a disappointing draft.


Best Pick: Stephone Anthony - ILB, Clemson

This is not an outstanding pick, but it is a solid one. Stephone Anthony is a physical specimen that should be able to develop the intangible aspects of his game over time. He will be an immediate starter for the Saints defense and will be able to make an impact against both the run and the pass.


Worst Pick: Hau'oli Kikaha - OLB, Washington

Andrus Peat drew some consideration here, but ultimately the worst pick for them was Hau'oli Kikaha, who was drafted ahead of the likes of Randy Gregory, Eli Harold, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and Nate Orchard. He can be a quality rusher in this league, but he has a low ceiling. In the second round, this was a major reach.


Grade: D+



Tampa Bay Buccaneers


1 (1): Jameis Winston - QB, Florida State

2 (2): Donovan Smith - OT, Penn State

2 (29): Ali Marpet - C, Hobart & William Smith

4 (25): Kwon Alexander - OLB, LSU

5 (26): Kenny Bell - WR, Nebraska

6 (8): Kaelin Clay - WR, Utah

7 (14): Joey Iosefa - FB, Hawaii



Quarterback and left tackle were the two positions the Buccaneers were expected to address first, but after that, they just have so many needs that it became hard to pinpoint where they would go. Jameis Winston will be their starting quarterback, and while he will probably struggle early on due to the change in the speed of the game, as most guys do, he should be able to pick it up later in the season. He has guys like Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, while the team's fifth-round pick, Kenny Bell can be a weapon in a year or two. Bell is a little raw in terms of route concepts, but his size, speed, and hands make him a steal in day three. Jackson is getting older and Bell will likely replace him on the outside opposite Evans. The other receiver they got, Kaelin Clay, is likely limited to special teams, as he lacks the burst to make it as a slot receiver. They got two linemen in the second round to shore up their offensive line, but neither guy really has a set position. Dovovan Smith is a little lacking in athleticism for a tackle, but he has the perfect build for guard. However, where their needs lie, it looks like he will start on the left side. As for Ali Marpet, he can play center and guard, but it is more likely guard right now, as Patrick Omameh will struggle if forced to start. Kwon Alexander was an excellent pickup in the fourth round, as Danny Lansanah is 29 years old and on the last year of his contract. Lavonte David is also on a contract year, but the Buccaneers cannot let a talent like that walk away. Joey Iosefa has some running back qualities, but he is more built to be a fullback. If he can grasp the nuances of the position, he may be able to overtake Jorvorskie Lane, who has been just average. Four of the Buccaneers' first five picks should pan out, so this was a pretty good draft haul. Had they gotten a better fit for tackle, this would have been at least an A-, possibly an A.


Best Pick: Kenny Bell - WR, Nebraska

Kenny Bell will not get onto the field too often in his first year, but he will become to team's number two receiver, behind Mike Evans, once Vincent Jackson leaves, be it by release or contract expiration. He will need to work on his routes, but he has great speed and hands.


Worst Pick: Donovan Smith - OT, Penn State

When this pick was initially made, it looked like he would be their starter at right guard, but then they got Ali Marpet in the third, who now projects to start there. The Buccaneers were expected to take a left tackle early in the draft, and it looks like Smith is the guy they expect to play there. Smith's athleticism is well below average and will have a tough time holding up as the blindside protector.


Grade: B+


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