Time to start talking draft

The regular season has been over for less than 48 hours. That means it’s time to start looking ahead to the draft.

I just saw the first mock draft I’ve seen this offseason. It comes from my friend Charlie Campbell of Pewter Report. He covers the whole first round and that provides a conversation starter for most of the rest of the NFC South. The Panthers don’t presently have a first-round pick because they traded it to San Francisco last year to get defensive end Everette Brown in the second round. But I’m not ruling out the possibility of the Panthers somehow getting back into the first round between now and April.

For now, let’s talk about what the other three NFC South teams may do in the draft. Let’s start with the Buccaneers.

Campbell has them taking Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Makes perfect sense. The Bucs need a tackle and McCoy is a good one. The only other scenario I see is them taking Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, if he somehow makes it past the first two picks or if the Bucs move up to grab him. The Bucs have plenty of needs, but defensive tackle is, by far, the most glaring.

Campbell has the Falcons taking Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon at No. 19. I wouldn’t rule that out because Mike Peterson is near the end of his career and Witherspoon could team with Curtis Lofton and Stephen Nicholas to give the Falcons a nice trio of linebackers. But that would be a value pick and the Falcons have greater needs at defensive end and cornerback.

If I’m the Falcons, I’m looking hard at a couple of Michigan players -- defensive end Brandon Graham and cornerback Donovan Warren.

Campbell has the Saints taking Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick at No. 31, and New Orleans’ draft position is subject to how the postseason shakes out. But I like the pick and not just because it involves a Penn State guy. Sedrick Ellis is a very good defensive tackle, but there’s been a big drop-off by the run defense when he’s been hurt. In a best-case scenario, Ellis stays healthy and you pair him with Odrick. If the injury problems continue, the Saints still would have at least one top-notch defensive tackle.