NFC South mocking with McShay

Todd McShay has his latest Insider mock draft and it includes some very interesting picks for the three NFC South teams that don’t have the No. 1 overall pick.

Like just about everyone else, McShay has the Carolina Panthers taking Auburn quarterback Cam Newton at No. 1. But let’s skip right past that because his picks for the other three NFC South teams are very unique.

McShay has Tampa Bay taking UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers at No. 20. That’s a break from conventional wisdom that the Bucs will go with a defensive end. I don’t think this one’s out of the question. The Bucs need a playmaker somewhere in the front seven, and taking a linebacker makes some sense if they’re not sold on the defensive ends. Ayers isn’t like Georgia’s Justin Houston, a guy who has experience at linebacker and defensive end. Ayers usually plays in the 250-pound range. He could be used as a pass-rusher from the linebacker spot, but he doesn’t have the size to move to defensive end and be an every-down player.

McShay has New Orleans taking Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson at No. 24. Some people view him as a defensive end and some see him as a defensive tackle in the NFL. The Saints could use help at either spot and they don’t have to make an immediate decision on what position he’ll play for the long term. This is sort of like 2009, when the Saints used their first-round pick on Malcolm Jenkins. They used him as a cornerback as a rookie and moved him to free safety, where he blossomed last year.

At No. 27, McShay has the Atlanta Falcons going in a different direction than a lot of people are expecting. Most mock drafts have the Falcons taking a defensive end. But McShay has them taking Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo. Interesting. Left tackle Sam Baker, who was taken in the first round in 2008 to protect Matt Ryan’s blind side has struggled at times. There also is uncertainty elsewhere on the offensive line because the Falcons have some potential free agents. This pick might go against the norm, but it makes some sense.