The full and official mock draft by the ESPN.com Blog Network will come next week. Each of the eight division bloggers will get a chance to play general manager for the teams they cover.
I’m already practicing and a lot of you are asking for a mock draft right now. So let’s go ahead and do a practice mock draft for each of the first pick for the four NFC South teams. Obviously, I’m going to have to speculate on what happens with the picks in front of each of the NFC South teams. And, like I said, the real mock draft will come next week and I may change my thoughts between now and then.
No. 3, Tampa Bay: Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. I’m going on the assumption that quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh are the first two picks in the draft. McCoy’s the obvious choice for a glaring need. But I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Bucs taking offensive tackle Russell Okung. Restricted free agent Donald Penn isn’t happy because the Bucs haven’t given him a long-term deal. Penn could end up being used as trade bait. He’s been a decent left tackle, but he’ll never be a Pro Bowler. With Josh Freeman as the franchise quarterback, the Bucs might want to get a franchise left tackle.
No. 19, Atlanta: Defensive end Brandon Graham. The Falcons want to upgrade their pass rush. Graham is the best defensive end that’s going to be available.
No. 32, New Orleans: Defensive tackle Brian Price. A lot of people are projecting the Saints to go with a defensive end and that certainly could happen. Someone like Everson Griffen or Jerry Hughes could be available and they could be the choice. But I think the signing of Alex Brown gives the Saints decent depth at defensive end. The inside might be more of a need and price might be a better value pick.
No. 48, Carolina: Defensive tackle Terrence Cody. He seems to have fallen out of first-round consideration because he’s a one-dimensional player. All Cody can do is stuff the run, but that’s what the Panthers need. John Fox’s whole philosophy is built on running the ball on offense and stopping the run on defense. Right now, there’s no doubt the Panthers can run the ball, but stopping the run is another matter. Fox has always liked having a big guy in the middle (see Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu) and here’s his chance to re-load at that position.