There are always winners and losers that come out of the NFL draft, and it is especially important who won and who lost in the NFC South. Last year, the New Orleans Saints nailed their draft class and wound up adding four wins from the previous year. It isn’t necessarily the first pick that allows you to have that jump, it’s picks in rounds 4-7 that separate the good teams from the great teams.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Entering the draft, Tampa Bay had two picks in the top 100 and had many needs to fill. After a trade back with Buffalo in the first round, Jason Licht wound up with five top 100 picks and did a tremendous job filling all the team needs, and adding depth at key positions. The team added Vita Vea, who was regarded as the draft’s best defensive tackle. Ronald Jones will also add another dimension to the Tampa Bay offense and help take some pressure off of Jameis Winston. The team continued to address both the offensive and defensive lines, which has been the theme all offseason in hopes of becoming a more physical team.
Loser: New Orleans Saints
I really don’t like what the Saints did in this year’s draft. The Saints traded their second round pick, as well as next year’s first round pick to move up and select pass rusher Marcus Davenport. That decision to give up next year’s first round pick when you probably need to select a Quarterback is making me pin them as losers in this draft. I would have loved the pick for the Saints if they stayed at their spot and selected Marcus Davenport, but to give up next year’s first round pick is a head scratcher. With that being said, I do think the Saints got a steal in the seventh round by selecting Will Cappa. The Saints also added two defensive backs as well as a wide receiver in the third round. All in all I would give this draft class a B- for the Saints.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons didn’t have many picks in this draft, but let me start by saying that they used all of them wisely. I think they got absolute steals with Calvin Ridley and Isiah Oliver, both players to me will step in and be day one starters. It is no surprise that they picked a defensive tackle after losing Dontari Poe in free agency. People expected it to be their first pick, but they got good value in the third round. Their next three picks were all solid and they hope those players can come in and contribute. Atlanta has always been very successful at drafting talent, and they continued that trend this season. Hats off to Thomas Dimitroff.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
It pains me to say this, but Carolina had themselves a pretty good draft. I think the selection of D.J. Moore will absolutely help Cam Newton. We all knew that their first pick would be a receiver, but we didn’t know which one it would be. Carolina’s secondary struggled last season and they addressed it with both of their second round picks. The team selected Donte Jackson who has blazing 4.3 speed, and Rashaan Gaulden who is considered more of a slot corner. They pretty much followed the Buccaneers strategy and selected one inside cornerback and one outside cornerback. Both players have a good shot to step in and be day one starters. Outside of D.J. Moore and Ian Thomas who is a tight end, the whole draft class was defensive players. The Panthers did a good job of getting value out of their first few selections, which is why I think they become the third NFC South team to win this draft.
The NFC South will be another interesting and tough division for all the teams involved. With that being said, I think Tampa Bay had the best draft class out of every team, and is setting themselves up to have a nice turnaround season in 2018. I’m not predicting a division title, but I do believe this team has the talent level to compete for a wild card spot. It’s all up to Dirk Koetter now...Jason Licht has done his job.