NFC South Draft Grades
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.
By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The NFL Draft is over and now we have an idea of what each team will look like next year.
Several players will surprise or disappoint fans as time goes on. Let’s take a look around the NFC South and see how each team did.
Atlanta: The Falcons did a good job on not reaching for a quarterback in the first round.
They selected USC wide receiver Drake London with the 8th pick. He’s a big target at 6’3 7/8 and 219 pounds. In 8 games last season he had 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Calvin Ridley is suspended the entire season so he will be the #1 receiver. He should do well paired with tight end Kyle Pitts.
In the second round they drafted Edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State) and linebacker Troy Anderson (Montana State). In Anderson’s case I think they fell in love with measurables. He’s 6’3 ½, 243 lbs. and he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash.
Ebiketie played his first three seasons at Temple. In 2021 he had 62 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
They also drafted quarterback Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), edge rusher DeAngelo Malone (Western Kentucky), running back Tyler Allgeier (BYU), guard Justin Shaffer (UGA) and tight end John FitzPatrick (UGA).
Carolina: The Panthers selected tackle Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) with the 6th pick.
Ekwonu is a great combination of size (6’4, 310 lbs.), power and athletic ability.
Carolina had the 31st ranked offensive line last season so this helps address a serious need.
Trades for Sam Darnold and C.J. Henderson left them light on picks.
Carolina also drafted QB Matt Corral (Ole Miss), linebacker Brandon Smith (Penn State), edge rusher Amare Barno (Va Tech), guard Cade Mays (Tennessee) and corner back Kalon Barnes (Baylor).
Getting Corral in the third round may be great value for a potential starting quarterback.
Smith should compete in the linebacker rotation.
New Orleans: The Saints had two first round picks and they got WR Chris Olave (Ohio State) and tackle Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa). They should both be immediate contributors.
Trevor Penning is reminiscent of Terron Armstead as a prospect. He’s an uber-athletic tackle coming from a small school. He’ll now replace Armstead, who started 93 games for the Saints over the past nine seasons before signing with the Dolphins this offseason.
Olave was extremely productive in college and he might be the best route runner in this draft class.
The other picks were CB Alontae Taylor (Tennessee), LB D’Marco Jackson (Appalachian State) and defensive lineman Jordan Jackson (Air Force).
Tampa Bay: The Bucs didn’t have a first-round pick. They had two second round picks and they got defensive lineman Logan Hall (Houston) and guard Luke Goedeke (Central Michigan).
Hall will probably begin his career as a defensive tackle but could develop into a pass-rusher. Goedeke might be the biggest sleeper among interior linemen.
They also selected RB Rachaad White (Arizona State), TE Cade Otton (Washington), kicker Jake Camarda (UGA), CB Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston State), TE Ko Kieft (Minnesota) and edge rusher Andre Anthony (LSU).
I don’t think there are any All-Pro players in this draft class. This draft is more about getting role players that can help them get back to the Super Bowl.