Atlanta Falcons

Help Needed

By: Colin Lacy news services

Just a couple of days after the 2023 Atlanta Falcons season came to a close in New Orleans, the change at the top was made with Arthur Smith out.

Earlier in the month Arthur Blank announced that Raheem Morris would be the new head ball coach in Atlanta.

As the fresh staff begins to roll into Flowery Branch, the biggest question is “How do the Falcons answer some key questions in the NFL Draft?”

The NFL will flock to Detroit on April 25th through 27th for the 89th annual First Year Player Draft, and the 8th name that will be read by Commissioner Roger Goodell will be the newest Atlanta Falcon.

With the 8th pick in the first round, most Falcon fans are praying for a quarterback. Draft experts however aren’t convinced that there will be that first round QB talent available after the seven previous picks are made. So, what are the QB options available?

Most “experts” believe that former USC quarterback Caleb Williams will be the first signal caller to hear his name on draft night. It’s believed that Williams will be taken off the board by the Bears with the number one pick, or at the very latest, will be reunited with former USC coach Kliff Kingsbury in Washington (hired as Commanders OC) with the second pick.

Seems all but certain that Williams will not be on the board for the 8th selection.

The next couple of QB prospects have at least a possibility (some slight, but still possible) of being on the board when Atlanta is on the clock.

North Carolina Drake Maye was destined to be the unanimous first selection, but a up and down 2023 season with the Tar Heels has seen his stock dip just a touch.

Maye is undoubtably uber talented and looks the part at 6’3” 230 pounds. Maye’s combination of accuracy with the arm and ability to make plays on the ground has shown his proficiency at times to run a high-powered offense.

The third “high first round” option potentially available for the “Dirty Birds” is Jayden Daniels. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner may be the player that had his draft stock soar the most in 2023 leading the LSU Tigers.

To me, Daniels seems to be the most realistic and to me frankly seems to be the best fit with the Falcons organization.

Daniels turned into a “human highlight reel” for the Bayou Bengals throwing 40 touchdowns (rushing for 10 more) and only four interceptions on the year.

The biggest improvement (and one of the largest knocks on Daniels entering 2023) was the deep ball, but Daniels proved all the naysayers wrong launching numerous balls down field with impressive, improved accuracy.

There are a couple other QB options in this draft, that if in desperation could be on the board, but I don’t believe are top 10 picks.

A couple names that will be heard in the first two to three rounds will be JJ McCarthy from Michigan, Michael Penix Jr out of Washington, and Bo Nix from Oregon.

To me the Falcons first round selection turns into one question. Do we think either Williams, Maye or Daniels will be available when we hit the clock?

If the answer is yes, fantastic. I think the Falcons will have to make a trade to move up a couple of spots (maybe as few as two spots to the 6th pick). To me, Jayden Daniels should be the play, and a lot depends on if the Bears take a quarterback with the first pick. If so, Atlanta will have to move up to get the former LSU Fighting Tiger.

What are the other needs? What happens if all -you know what- breaks loose, and the three quarterbacks are gone?

The next biggest need for new Head Coach Raheem Morris is an edge rusher on the defensive front. Dallas Turner from Alabama would be a powerful addition to the Falcons organization and would help erase a question that has been near the top of the Atlanta faithful for a number of years.

Overall, the Falcons have the potential to be an up-and-coming team in the near future and I understand that the draft is a full weekend of multiple rounds and the Falcons have eight picks in the Draft, but Atlanta unequivocally needs a quarterback pronto and the draft would be a huge key in addressing the need!

A Different Bird?

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The Atlanta Falcons coaching search is over. They hired Raheem Morris to succeed Arthur Smith.

Smith was fired after the Falcons’ season finale in January.

“He was offered (the job),” Morris’ agent Brian Levy confirmed in a text after reports of the Morris hire. “He accepted.”

“I am overjoyed for the opportunity for my family and I to return to Atlanta as the Falcons head coach,” Morris said in a statement posted on the team’s website.

“We know from firsthand experience what a first-class organization Atlanta is and what this team means to its city and its fans. I am incredibly appreciative of Arthur Blank for his leadership and for this entire organization for putting its trust in me to help lead this team.”

Morris, 47, has extensive coaching experience in the NFL and in the NFC South.

He was the defensive backs coach for Tampa Bay in 2007-08. He became their head coach for 2009-11. In three seasons his record was 17-31. The Buccaneers were 10-6 in 2019 but they missed the playoffs. He also coached in Tampa from 2002-05 as an assistant defensive coach.

He was the defensive backs coach for Washington from 2012-14. He was named the assistant head coach & pass game coordinator for the Falcons in 2015. He was moved to wide receivers coach (2016-19), then defensive coordinator in 2020. Atlanta got off to a 0-5 start in 2020 and Dan Quinn was fired. Morris was promoted to interim head coach on October 12, 2020. They were 4-7 under Morris.

He has been the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams from 2021-23. The Rams won Super Bowl LVI on February 13, 2022.

Blank said something interesting earlier in January that still resonates as the coaching search came to an end.

“At the end of the day, I understand the final decision will be mine, but mine will be in collaboration with others,” Blank said Jan. 8. “Like I said initially, we’ve kind of begun the process if you will. It doesn’t take long to get going, so we’re moving.

“But I also want to be clear on this is that there is no timetable. The only timetable is to do this correctly, take our time, be thoughtful, do all of the interviews, be respectful, make sure we have a full diverse set of candidates that we’re considering in every way.”

I’m not sure what to make of this hire. Morris has proven that he’s a good defensive coach.

Atlanta needs to get a franchise quarterback as soon as possible. They have a good offensive line and several talented skill position players.

Some examples are running backs Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Drake London.

He will need to hire an offensive coordinator that will put the ball in their hands.

Up to this point General Manager Terry Fontenot has failed to address the quarterback position.

This will be the biggest hurdle to overcome for the team to have success. If Desmond Ridder is under center in September then Morris is destined to fail in his first year.


Mr. Right?

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The Atlanta Falcons are still searching for a head coach to replace Arthur Smith.

It looks like Bill Belichick is the front runner for the position. He is the only candidate so far that has had two interviews with them.

I’m not sure if Atlanta has any other clear plans because they have had so many interviews with other candidates.

The Falcons have interviewed Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and he is scheduled for a second interview. I think this is the best available coach but he is the front-runner for the Chargers opening. That job is more attractive because they already have a franchise quarterback.

The Falcons have completed interviews with the following coaches: Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, Ravens assistant head coach/defensive line coach Anthony Weaver, former Patriots coach Bill Belichick (first and second interviews), Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Bills interim offensive coordinator/quarterbacks Joe Brady, Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik and Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

On paper Belichick seems like a great fit for the job. He won six Super Bowls with New England and two more as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. As we know, Tom Brady was his quarterback for the Patriots during that time.

After Brady left New England in 2020, New England had a losing record in 3 of those 4 seasons without him. This past season they were 4-13. They drafted quarterback Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 draft and they have not been able to help him develop.

This should be looked at because Atlanta might draft a QB in the first round.

It has also been reported that Falcons owner Arthur Blank wants to hire Belichick but

“The Atlanta thing, there’s a lot of buzz going around right now about the Atlanta job, that the executives are there are trying — and I’ve heard this, I’m telling you from so many different people — basically Arthur Blank wants to hire Bill Belichick, and all the front office people in Atlanta don’t want to hire Belichick because it’s like any big company — sport franchises are like microcosms of all big companies,” Bill Simmons said on his podcast.

“You bring in Belichick — you think Belichick’s going to listen to like [John] McKay’s kid … or [general manager Terry] Fontenot. He’s going to be like, ‘I’m going to do my own thing.’ “

I think the best remaining candidates are Slowik and Ben Johnson.

Slowik, 36, is credited with getting rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud ready to play in the NFL this season. Stroud, who was taken with the second overall pick in the draft, helped lead the Texans to the AFC South title. After blowing out the Browns in the wild card round, the Texans lost 34-10 to the Ravens on Saturday.

Johnson, 37, was a walk-on quarterback at North Carolina. He’s been Detroit’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons. The Lions were ranked third in total offense at 394.8 yards per game, second in passing (258.9) and fifth in rushing (135.9 per game) and fifth in points scored (27.1).

Same Old Story

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The 2023 NFL regular season has concluded. The Atlanta Falcons had an outside chance at making the playoffs if they beat New Orleans and if Tampa Bay lost in the last weekend of the season. They lost to the Saints, 48 – 17.

It’s never fun to get blown out by your archrival, but the ending of this game was talked about. The Saints put in backup quarterback Jameis Winston and they were supposed to take a knee to run the clock out. They were lined up in “victory formation” but Winston handed the ball off to Jamaal Williams for a 1-yard touchdown with 1:10 left in the game.

Saints head coach Dennis Allen says he had nothing to do with that and he tried to apologize to Smith after the game.

“They did that on their own. That’s not acceptable,” Allen said, adding that Smith “should be” upset about it.

“The score was already 41-17, so I don’t know how much worse it can get, but I got a ton of respect for Arthur Smith and the coach that he is,” Winston said. “I didn’t want to disrespect (Smith). That was not my intention. My intention was to lead the team that I’ve been with the entire year and we made a collective decision that we wanted to get one of our guys that they fight with — blood, sweat and tears, every game — in the end zone. I’m going to feel good about that.”

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith was fired a few hours after the game. Atlanta lost four of five games to end the season.

Smith coached the Falcons for three seasons and had the same record every year, 7 – 10. An interesting fact about him; his father is FedEx founder Fred Smith.

Firing him was the right move but Atlanta should have also fired general manager Terry Fontenot in my opinion. He was also hired in January 2021 with Smith and he is largely responsible with putting the roster together.

The Falcons desperately need a quarterback and so far, Fontenot has failed to address that. I think if they had a serviceable quarterback, they would have won two more games this season.

“Decisions like this are never easy and they never feel good,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement released at 12:03 a.m. Monday. “We have profound respect for coach Smith and appreciate all the hard work and dedication he has put into the Falcons over the last three years. He has been part of building a good culture in our football team, but the results on the field have not met our expectations. After significant thought and reflection, we have determined the best way forward for our team is new leadership in the head coaching position.”

It is very early so we do not know who the new head coach will be. Blank and Chief Executive Officer Rich McKay will lead the search for Smith’s replacement.

Fontenot will provide input along with other members of the Falcons and AMB Sports and Entertainment organizations.

The 2024 draft order is set for the teams that did not make the playoffs and Atlanta has the eighth overall pick. They desperately need a quarterback but I think they are picking too late to get a franchise QB. We will see if they trade up or try to acquire a veteran.

Birds Of A Feather

By: Robert Craft news services

For Arthur Blank, his football team won Sunday, but there haven’t been enough wins this season.

Blank clapped his hands and raised both fists in the air in the game’s final seconds, congratulated players and staff members, hugged coach Arthur Smith just outside the stadium tunnel, then hugged him again after the postgame news conference. He remains as emotionally invested an owner as there is in professional sports.

Blank will soon have to make a difficult call on whether to keep Smith or fire him, and it’s easy to see this is wearing on him. These decisions are never easy, and the fact the owner has fired four head coaches; not including Bobby Petrino, who slithered away by himself, doesn’t make it easier.

I’ve believed all along: it is more likely than not that Smith keeps his job. The angst and anger from fans is understandable, especially when looking at a three-season record of 21-28. Also, the offense  (Smith’s specialty) has largely underachieved.

His first two seasons came during a rebuild. This season’s record can be attributed in part – though not completely – to a turnover-laden quarterback, Desmond Ridder. And yes, Ridder is a forever grease stain on Smith’s resume.

It’s possible Smith saved his job, not only because the Falcons won before the New Year, but because we saw the upside of the offense when a quarterback doesn’t screw things up.

Taylor Heinicke threw for 229 yards and a touchdown, but more importantly, he didn’t commit one turnover. Atlanta totaled 406 yards in offense and  a season-high 29 points.

To view Sunday as a breakthrough would be premature. The Falcons’ record is pedestrian and they still need dominoes to fall just to make the playoffs. But in theory, both Arthurs may view this game with some level of hope for the future, assuming the Falcons draft the right quarterback in the offseason.

In addition to Smith’s uncertain future, several of his family members were in attendance for the game against the Indianapolis Colts, including his father, Fred Smith, founder of Federal Express.

It wasn’t the first time he had relatives attend a game but the timing seemed more significant on that day, given the backdrop.

The Falcons had dropped 8 of 12 since a 2-0 start. The 9-7 loss at Carolina was especially aggravating for anybody who had elevated expectations this season, especially Blank.

It’s logical to wonder if the win over the Colts carried more relief than joy.

“These are very complex decisions. There are a million factors that go into it. You know you have to represent the franchise, the fans, the players, the coaches — everybody. You have to make the right decision for the right reason, and you have to live with those consequences. My mother used to tell me that all the time.” Smith stated after Sunday’s game.

The Colts game was one of their best all-around games of the season. That counts for something. If this was easy, Blank would’ve made the decision by now.

NFC South Week 1 Recap

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The NFL season kicked off yesterday. I’m going to take a look around the NFC South and see what we can take away from these performances.

Atlanta- 24 Carolina- 10: As a Falcons fan I’ve always been grateful to the Panthers. No matter how bad the Falcons are you can always count on one win against the guys from Charlotte.

I expected it to be a rough day for Bryce Young since he’s a rookie quarterback on a bad team making his debut. The first pick in the draft went 20-38 passing for 146 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. I expect him to get better as the season goes on.

I was curious how the Falcons backfield would look since they drafted Bijan Robinson with the 8th pick in the 2023 draft. Tyler Allgeier rushed for over one thousand yards last season as a rookie.  Allgeier rushed for 75 yards and two TD’s on 15 carries. Robinson had 10 carries for 56 yards and 6 receptions for 27 yards and a score.

“This was a super-fun first game for me,” Robinson said. “I just can’t wait to showcase what we’ve got going down the line.”

Desmond Ridder is not the franchise quarterback of the future. He was efficient passing the ball, completing 15 of 18 attempts. He only passed for 115 yards though. He does not throw the ball downfield so playmakers like Kyle Pitts or Drake London can excel. London had zero catches and only 1 target. Pitts caught 2 passes for 44 yards.

Tampa Bay- 20 Minnesota-17: This game surprised me and left me thinking the Buccaneers have a chance to win the division. It’s way too early to make that prediction but they were the most impressive NFC South team yesterday.

Tom Brady retired for good, allegedly, and they replaced him with Baker Mayfield. The former number one pick is a journeyman who is on his last opportunity to be a starter in the NFL. He passed for 174 yards and 2 TD’s. Those aren’t impressive numbers but it is a big deal that he did not throw a pick. Mike Evans caught 6 passes for 66 yards and a score.

“It just comes with playing quarterback for a long time,” said Mayfield, who hopped from the Browns to the Panthers to the Rams to before landing with the Bucs. “The most important play is the next one.”

The Vikings won the NFC North last season and made the playoffs so this is a good win. Kirk Cousins passed for 344 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. He also lost 2 fumbles so the defense did a good job causing turnovers.

New Orleans- 16 Tennessee- 15: Derek Carr made his debut with the Saints and he did a decent job. He threw for 305 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. He was sacked four times so he took a beating.

“I’m glad we won. That’s all I wanted to do,” said Carr. “That was one of the more physical games I’ve played in my 10 years. … We showed that we could win the ultimate physical type of game.”

Star running back Alvin Kamara is suspended the first three games of the season. Jamaal Williams had 18 carries for 45 yards, which is a paltry 2.5 yards per carry.

Second year receiver Chris Olave led the team with 8 catches and 112 yards.

New Orleans was the favorite to win the division before the season started. I think the Bucs will challenge them.


NFC South Rookie Of The Year?

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The 2023 NFL season will start in a few weeks. Let’s take a look around the NFC South and see what rookies in the division will have the biggest impact.

Bryce Young, Carolina: Young was the first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft so we have to start with him. He had a lot of success at Alabama. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2021, won the SEC Championship and led the Crimson Tide to the National Championship game.

His biggest question at the next level is his size. He’s only 5’10, 205 pounds. He has a slight build so we do not know if he can take the punishment from being hit by pro defenders.

He is the projected starter Week 1 and we keep hearing positive things from his teammates.

The Panthers played the Giants in their second preseason game last week. Young finished 3-of-6 for 35 yards on two series at MetLife Stadium, making him 7-of-12 for 56 yards in two preseason games.

“I thought Bryce looked sharp,” coach Frank Reich said. “Put together a nice drive. Would have liked to have finished if off [with a touchdown]. Obviously, unhappy with the number of penalties we had.

“But I thought Bryce looked sharp. I think he wanted to throw the ball more, but I thought he looked sharp.”

Bijan Robinson, Atlanta: The Falcons picked Robinson with the No. 8 pick in the draft, which raised some eyebrows.

Rookie Tyler Allgier rushed for 1,035 yards, 3 touchdowns and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. He only started seven games so he did well in a limited role, so it did not look like the Falcons needed another running back.

They also still have Cordarrele Patterson and they are listed as the top two backs on the depth chart.

The value of running backs has gone down since most offenses showcase the passing game.

Robinson was the top rated back and he had a great career at Texas. He won the Doak Walker Award last year and he was a unanimous All-American. He rushed for 1,580 yards and 18 TD’s. Running backs can make an immediate impact so he is expected to produce like Saquon Barkley did as a rookie in 2018. Barkley had 2,028 all-purpose yards and 15 scores.

Bryan Bresee, New Orleans: Bresee was selected 29th in the draft.

He was considered as the top recruit coming out of high school but he did not live up to that at Clemson. He is 6’5, 305 pounds, so he has prototypical size for a defensive tackle.

He is a very good athlete with excellent strength so he should help the Saints interior line. In the second preseason game against the Chargers he recovered a fumble.

Calijah Kancey, Tampa Bay: Kancey was the 19th player selected and he draws comparisons to another Pitt defensive tackle, Aaron Donald.

He was a unanimous All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2022 he started 11 games and missed two games with an injury. He had 31 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.

Kancey has great speed and he should routinely make plays in the opposing team’s backfield.

I’m looking forward to see how these rookies perform in 2023.

Down South

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

All four teams in the NFC South report to mandatory minicamp this month. Let’s take a look at some key storylines for each team.

Atlanta: The Falcons offense has been receiving some hype recently. Is it smoke and mirrors or is it legit?

Quarterback Desmond Ridder is going into his second season and he’s expected to drastically improve. He was picked in the third round of the 2022 draft and he was the backup to Marcus Mariota for most of the 2022 season. I think he’s a huge question mark and I don’t put much faith in him.

There are some playmakers like Kyle Pitts that look good on paper. As a rookie in 2021 he had over a thousand yards and one touchdown. He played ten games in 2022 and had 356 yards and 2 scores. He has great size and speed so we will see if that will make him an elite tight end.

Wide receiver Drake London had a good rookie year with 72 catches, 866 yards and 4 TD’s.

Rookie running back Tyler Allgier started seven games and he finished with over one thousand yards and 3 scores. Then Atlanta added Bijan Robinson, who was considered the best RB in the 2023 draft.

I have a feeling they won’t quite be the 1998 Vikings or 2007 Patriots offense.

Carolina: The Panthers drafted former Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young with the top pick in the 2023 draft.

Now we will see if he can help turn the franchise around. Young is only 5’10 and 204 pounds so there are questions about his durability in the NFL.

Christian McCaffrey was traded to San Francisco last season, so the offense lacks playmakers.

They did sign wide receiver Adam Thielen as a free agent. His last thousand yard season was in 2018 so it looks like his best days are behind him.

Carolina also signed running back Miles Sanders as a free agent. He’s coming off of a breakout year in Philadelphia, rushing for 1,269 yards and 11 scores. The Eagles had a very good offensive line so I don’t expect the same level of production in Charlotte.

New Orleans: The Saints signed quarterback Derek Carr in the offseason. They did need a quarterback but how good is Carr? I think he’s slightly above average. Last season in Las Vegas he had the league’s leading rusher Josh Jacobs and receiver Davante Adams. In 15 games he passed for 3,522 yards, 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Receiver Michael Thomas has not been healthy since the 2019 season. Running back Alvin Kamara struggled last season but some of that was due to inconsistent quarterback play.

Tampa Bay: Have they thrown in the towel before the season began? The Tom Brady era is over so the Bucs signed Baker Mayfield in March.

The former top pick has been a bust through his first five seasons. He’s competing with Kyle Trask for the title of QB 1.

Tampa still has some skill players like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin so maybe he can develop some chemistry with them.

I think the NFC South will be the weakest division again this season. I expect the champion to be under .500 but maybe one of these teams will shock me.

New Falcons To Fly?

By: Robert Craft news services

The Atlanta Falcons added six players in the draft and felt that all six would improve their team in some way.

“From the first pick, No. 8 overall, to the eighth pick in the seventh round, the theme has been smart, tough, highly competitive players that fit what we’re about, fit our makeup,” general manager Terry Fontenot said. “Versatile, smart football players. Very excited about the outcome of this draft.”

Sure, if we had a “worst pick” category, the Robinson pick might fit there, because there are legitimate questions about the wisdom of taking a running back with a top-10 pick, but those arguments center on roster construction and salary-cap management.

On the field, no player in this draft could have added more spice to the Falcons roster than the former Texas running back.

The Falcons already had one of the NFL’s most potent rushing offenses. They led the league with 559 rushes and were third in the league in rushing EPA and rushing success rate.

Tyler Allgeier(4.9), last year’s fifth-round pick, and Cordarrelle Patterson(4.8) each ranked in the top 13 of the NFL in yards per carry and each had more than 690 yards on the ground.

Patterson, who is entering his 10th professional season, could see his role in the running game diminished because of Robinson’s addition, but Allgeier will not. The rotation remains strong it seems.

Matthew Bergeron (2nd round pick)will help solidify the offensive front if he can win a starting job, luckily the Falcons can adjust if he does not.

Robinson, meanwhile, will be a huge part of the rotation right away. He can affect every area of the offense.

The Falcons needed a left guard and drafted a player who has one practice day of experience at the position.

Bergeron played tackle throughout his career at Syracuse, and at 6-5, 318 pounds, he’s not built like a guard. But the team believes he has the strength and, just as importantly, the intelligence, to play inside on the line of scrimmage.

The Falcons drafted like a team that believes it’s going to be pretty darn good in 2023. Their offseason spending spree included $179.8 million of guaranteed money.

By the time the draft rolled around, a team that went 7-10 in 2022 had filled most of its roster holes, leaving it with flexibility in the draft.

The selection of Robinson could take a potent offense to another level as long as Ridder can run the show efficiently.

Defensively, the Falcons clearly felt good about their free-agency moves because they talked about third-round edge selection Zach Harrison like a developmental prospect who they don’t expect much from in 2023.

Atlanta needed to add a cornerback at some point during the draft and they left with All-American Clark Phillips III in the fourth round.

They then added two players in the 7th round  (Alabama safety DeMarcco Hellams and offensive guard Jovaughn Gwyn). Both players will be in a tough battle to make the roster.

For Atlanta, everything will come down to Ridder. The last two months have taken the Falcons’ roster from one of the thinnest in the league to one with realistic playoff goals.

If the quarterback can handle the job, they will be in the division race throughout the season.

There were mixed emotions from some football fans, the home-town Atlanta Falcons had a chance to take UGA star defensive lineman Jalen Carter with the No. 8 pick. Instead, they chose Texas running back Bijan Robinson. How will history remember the pick?

Will the Falcons look foolish in three years for taking a running back in the top 10? In the new era of pro football, in which teams do not pay running backs.

Making The Grade

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The 2023 NFL Draft has come and gone. Let’s look at the NFC South and see how each team did.

Atlanta Falcons Draft picks: RB Bijan Robinson, OT Matthew Bergeron, EDGE Zach Harrison, CB Clark Phillips III, S DeMarco Hellams, G Jovaughn Gwyn

They surprised everyone by picking Bijan Robinson with the 8th pick. He was the best running back in the draft, but the position has been devalued for several years.

Last year a running back was not drafted in the first round. The Falcons desperately need to improve on defense and specifically sacking the quarterback. Jalen Carter from UGA was still available and that made the most sense.

Rookie Tyler Allgier rushed for 1,035 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry in 2022. They also still have Cordarrelle Patterson, who takes a lot of snaps at running back. This was a luxury pick for a 7 – 9 team that has needs to address.

Phillips is small but a tenacious player. He should make an immediate impact. Harrison is a solid defensive end.

Grade: B-

Carolina Panthers Draft picks: QB Bryce Young, WR Jonathan Mingo, EDGE D.J. Johnson, G Chandler Zavala, S Jammie Robinson

The Panthers have been looking for stability at quarterback since Cam Newton left Charlotte. Drafting former Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young with the 1st pick was a good move.

There are concerns about his size because he’s 5’10 and 200 pounds. Kyler Murray is also 5’10 so maybe it’s not as big of a factor as it seems.

New head coach Frank Reich is a former offensive coordinator so I’m sure he will work with Young and put him in the best position to succeed.

Mingo and Johnson address positions of need. Zavala is a powerful blocker who adds depth to the Panthers’ offensive line. Robinson’s instincts and agility will earn him playing time as a rookie.

Grade: A-

New Orleans Saints Draft picks: DT Bryan Bresee, EDGE Isaiah Foskey, RB Kendre Miller, G Nick Saldiveri, QB Jake Haener, S Jordan Howden, WR A.T. Perry

Bresee and Foskey are great fits for Dennis Allen up front after his defense has been gutted the past two offseasons.

Breese was the No. 1 recruit coming out of high school, but he never lived up to that at Clemson. Miller and Haener were head-scratching reaches based on what New Orleans already had. Saldiveri fills the Saints need for an athletic interior lineman.

Grade: B

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft picks: DT Calijah Kancey, OT Cody Mauch, EDGE YaYa Diaby, LB SirVocea Dennis, TE Payne Durham, CB Josh Hayes, WR Trey Palmer, EDGE Jose Ramirez.

Kancey brings versatility, explosiveness, and underrated leverage to the Bucs’ defensive line. They traded up for Mauch but it makes sense because he can also be moved to tackle if the team needs him there.

Diaby is very athletic but a work in progress. He will need to reach his potential to justify the mid-third-round selection.

The Buccaneers filled plenty of needs on both sides of the ball. Two glaring omissions from the class are a QB and another running back. I’m surprised they passed on Will Levis in the first round.

Grade: B