By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The NFL regular season is winding down. We know who the contenders are and the teams that need to try again next year.
I’m going to take a look at the projected NFC South draft order and team needs.
Pick #5 Atlanta: The biggest team needs are edge rusher, defensive back and offensive line.
The Falcons have struggled to protect their $150 million quarterback Matt Ryan. In the Thanksgiving game against New Orleans he was sacked nine times (tying a career high). Atlanta failed to sack Drew Brees, which brings the team’s needs in the trenches into focus.
Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is by far the best pass rusher in the draft. I do not expect him to be around when the Falcons pick, so I think Iowa edge rusher AJ Epenesa will be their pick. He had double-digit tackles for loss the last two seasons. He had 10.5 sacks in 2018 and 9 in 2019.
Pick #12 Carolina: Their biggest team needs are DB, OL and defensive line.
Quarterback might also be a need since Cam Newton has not played since Week 2. Kyle Allen has stepped in but he has not played well. His QBR is 38.3, which is 30th, and he’s thrown double digit interceptions.
The Panthers defense cannot stop the run, ranking 29th in run defense. Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs would be a good pick. He has great size standing at 6’2 and 208 pounds. He has 3 interceptions and 8 pass breakups this season.
Pick #14 Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers biggest team needs are QB, RB, OL and DL.
Jameis Winston is in the final year of his rookie contract and he’s still struggling. He’s been a turnover machine his entire career and this season is no different.
Winston leads the league with 20 interceptions. That would be too much for a rookie but he’s in his fifth season and he has also had off the field issues.
The Bucs have several other areas of concern but I believe they will prioritize drafting a franchise quarterback.
Oregon QB Justin Herbert could be the answer. He has prototypical size at 6’6 and 237 pounds. He’s a senior so he has a lot of experience which is invaluable.
Herbert helped bring the Ducks program back to a national title contender. This season he has 31 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions, so we know he can protect the football.
Pick #29 New Orleans Saints: The Saints are truly Super Bowl contenders so this might turn into the 31st or 32nd pick.
The biggest needs are WR, interior OL and DB. Michael Thomas is great but he could use another receiver to help stretch the field. Thomas is a true possession receiver and he is the focal point of the defense.
A player with speed would be explosive and they could make teams pay for covering him one on one.
Three of the seven Saints defenders who have played the most snaps in 2019; Vonn Bell, Eli Apple and P.J. Williams happen to be members of the New Orleans secondary. All three are scheduled to become free agents in 2020.
Clemson receiver Tee Higgins would be a great addition, assuming he’s still on the board.