We now take our 2016 Draft Outlook to the NFC side of the South and look at the ever-changing NFC South. Last season, the Carolina Panthers took control of the division, absolutely tearing the South and the NFC to shreds. This year, they look to do the same. But will rivals New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Atlanta, the only team to defeat them in the regular season, keep Carolina from winning the division for a third straight year? What improvements does the “Who Dat” nation need to make? Can Atlanta win a championship before the new Falcons Nest is finished? And will Tampa Bay prove they belong in the conversation with the rest of the division as a potential wild card team? This is my official 2016 Draft Outlook on the NFC South.
2015 Record: 15 – 1 (1st in division)
Playoffs: Lost in Super Bowl (Finished 1st in conference)
Analysis: This team is coming into the season as the most complete and dominant team in the NFC. They weren’t the most complete team going into their last game, the Super Bowl, as they got beat badly by the Denver Broncos and their impressive defense. But one of the biggest glaring holes as to why they weren’t complete was the weapons that surrounded league MVP Cam Newton. Most were injured, and on top of that, his biggest weapon, Kelvin Benjamin wasn’t injured and no one really stepped up and filled his shoes. If Carolina wants to match their defense and win another NFC title and a Super Bowl, they need to make sure that if Benjamin goes down, they have someone to replace him, ASAP.
Draft Picks: 30th in the 1st round, 62nd in the 2nd round, 93rd in the 3rd round.
Draft Players to Watch: Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh, Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal. If I’m Carolina, these are the two players I’m looking at for my star QB Newton to be throwing to. Boyd, like the video says, has the best hands in the country and the length to get you a touchdown in 50/50 ball situations. While he isn’t the fastest player, he still has enough burst to change a game around. Lawler is the exact same, the only difference being that Lawler has more speed. He also has this strange ability of stretching himself to make any catch, which not only helped put him on the draft boards but his quarterback while at Cal, the first quarterback that’ll be taken in the draft, Jared Geoff. They both can also lineup in the slot, which will be beneficial to the Panthers, as Benjamin is going to need to play on the outside to be productive. If Carolina gets either of these guys, expect Cam to dab his way to a second Super Bowl and this time win it all.
2015 Record: 8-8 (2nd in division)
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify (Finished 7th in Conference)
Analysis: Now, as much as I would love to say that Atlanta needs a lot on their team, I can’t. They have a pretty good team, they have the best receiver in the NFC in Julio Jones, and they have a quarterback in Matt Ryan, who is a great talent. So what is wrong with them? Bad season? Wrong division? I think its more so they picked a bad time to not capitalize on their talent. Remember before Seattle and Carolina had these great seasons, Atlanta was the favorites to win it all. They need to get back on the snide and find out what needs to be done to win it all. First move was already completed with the release of Roddy White, but will that do more harm than good?
Draft Picks: 17th in the 1st round, 50th in the 2nd round, 81st in the 3rd round.
Draft Players to Watch: Aaron Burnbridge, WR, Michigan State. Now this is a pickup you could get in the later rounds, but if I’m Atlanta, I’m getting him with the 2nd round pick or moving up to grab him. While he isn’t a better player than Julio Jones, he definitely helps spread the field out for the Falcons, allowing Julio to see less double teams with a safety over him. He also has enough size to be another receiver to go into 50/50 ball situations in the end zone and can make a 3rd and long into a 20+ yard play. With his acquisition, expect the Dirty Birds to be flying high again.
2015 Record: 7 – 9 (3rd in division)
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify (finished 11th in conference)
Analysis: This team is confusing. Look I’m all for wanting to shake things up, make a change, but why on god’s green earth would New Orleans let their star pass catcher, Jimmy Graham, go and not have a plan as to who is going to replace him? That is what hurt the Saints last year, as they were barely relevant last year and made it seem as though both Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton’s heads were on the chopping block. On top of that, their defense was absolutely horrible and they only won 7 games because they have Brees at quarterback. But this year is different as they picked up three big pieces in the offseason. First, they acquired tight end Coby Fleener in the free agency and shored up the defensive line and linebacker corps by grabbing Nick Fairley and James Laurinaitis from the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams. But what can they get in the draft that will help them advance and win the division again?
Draft Picks: 12th in the 1st round, 47th in the 2nd round, 78th in the 3rd round.
Draft Players To Watch: Chris Brown, WR, Notre Dame. Now the reason I think CB is who the Saints should watch out for is because they don’t have a lengthy receiver on the team. They need some height if they expect to beat out these tall defensive backs not only in the division but in the conference. Brown has the necessary speed to give you a great option of whom to throw to on third down and also allows you to let Brandin Cooks play his natural role of slot receiver. The “Who Dat” Nation needs him, and if they get him, expect the Superdome to hold another Super Bowl trophy.
2015 Record: 6 – 10 (4th in division)
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify ( finished 14th in conference)
Analysis: Tampa Bay from this year to last year, looks a lot different. Last year, they felt the same as the Tennessee Titans did, new coach and new franchise quarterback means turnaround season. And like the Titans, they were wrong. But Tampa does have some things going for it. Number one, it still has one of the best young QB’s in the league in Jameis Winston, along with 3 extremely good wideouts in Kenny Bell, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. But what does the Bucs do to make this season even more impressive?
Draft Picks: 9th in the first round, 39th in the 2nd round, 74th in the 3rd round.
Draft Players to Watch: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State, Jaydon Mickens, WR, Washington. Lets start with Calhoun. While they don’t exactly need him to start on the defensive line, he could be apart of a very interesting rotation of d-lineman in Tampa. Imagine his skill, speed and pure destructive force alongside Willie Gholston, Robert Ayers and Gerald McCoy. Nightmares abound. Now when it comes to Mickens, I chose him because he could be an interesting wrinkle that the offense uses. Sure he isn’t the biggest receiver but he could be you Julian Edelman and get you yards underneath with Evans, Jackson and Bell drawing the defenses attention. Plus he has long ball speed, so don’t count him out for outrunning the defensive backs put up against him. If the Bucs pick these two guys, expect the cannons to fire nonstop in the Bay.
Well that is my outlook on the NFC South. Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta need help at the wideout position, while Tampa needs to create a defensive nightmare of a d-line rotation. Come back next time where we will take our outlook to the west and look at what the NFC West needs.