The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the NFC South winners in the NFL draft, according to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.
No argument here. Tampa Bay came out of the draft with three instant starters in safety Mark Barron, running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David. General manager Mark Dominik did an excellent job of moving up and back to squeeze as much as he could out of this draft.
Kiper gave the Carolina Panthers a B-. He talks glowingly about first-round pick Luke Kuechly and how he’ll solidify the linebacker corps. But Kiper questions the Panthers for not adding a defensive tackle, and I don’t have a big problem with that. The Panthers are getting Ron Edwards back after he missed last season with an injury and second-year pros Terrell McClain and Sione Fua should only improve on what they did as rookies.
Kiper graded the Falcons with a C and the Saints with a C-. That may be a little harsh and you have to factor in that the Falcons didn’t have a first-round pick and the Saints didn’t pick until the third round. You’re not going to get big-name players when you’re in that situation.
But I think the Falcons did a nice job of addressing needs, particularly with Wisconsin’s Peter Konz in the second round. He should solidify the interior of the offensive line. The Saints added defensive tackle Akiem Hicks in the third round and receiver Nick Toon in the fourth, and I like both picks. Hicks may have played college football in Canada, but he has lots of upside and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is likely to give him significant playing time. Toon might not have much upside, but he’s a polished wide receiver and should fit nicely into New Orleans’ passing game.