<
>

Pierre-Paul in NFC South?

I spent a large chunk of the last three weeks working on this story on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. I got assigned the draft profile on the University of South Florida product mainly because I live close to the college and not for any real NFC South angle.

Since Pierre-Paul’s been on my mind a lot lately, I’ve been wondering about the chances of him ending up with an NFC South team. On the surface, it appears to be a long shot if all four teams stay where they’re at in the draft. But every NFC South team needs a pass-rusher, so let’s explore ways (however remote) they could end up with Pierre-Paul.

Tampa Bay. The Bucs probably are the only team with any sort of realistic shot at Pierre-Paul because a lot of people are pegging him as a top-10 pick. The common belief is the Bucs are intent on getting a defensive tackle at No. 3 and that’s probably true. But what do the Bucs do if Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are taken with the first two picks?

Pierre-Paul, who had a private workout with the Bucs last week, would have to be a consideration because the Bucs also need help at defensive end. They could even perhaps trade down a few spots and still get him.

Atlanta. The Falcons are sitting at No. 19. If Pierre-Paul somehow slips that low, you almost have to believe Atlanta would take him, but it probably won’t come to that. Trading up would be the other option for the Falcons to get perhaps the best pure pass-rusher in the draft. But they’d probably have to move into the top 10 to make sure they get him and the cost could be prohibitive.

New Orleans. The Saints don’t pick until No. 32 and it’s virtually certain Pierre-Paul will be long gone by then. Trading up into the top 10 is probably the only way the Saints could get him. It’s not likely, but general manager Mickey Loomis has been known to take some chances.

Carolina. As I was working on this story and watching Pierre-Paul at his pro day, I couldn’t help but think I haven’t seen an athlete this gifted since Julius Peppers came into the NFL in 2002. Wouldn’t it be cool if the Panthers got Pierre-Paul to take Peppers’ place? Well, we can dream about it. But it won’t happen. The Panthers don’t even have a first-round pick and they’d have to package several picks to move anywhere near the territory in which Pierre-Paul will be taken.