Making The Grade
By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com 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.
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.
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.
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.