Tampa Bay Bucs
By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The NFC South was the worst division in the NFL in 2022. Tampa Bay won the division but finished the season with a losing record, 8 – 9.
They did rest Tom Brady after the first drive of their final regular season game, so they were trying to rest him and not risk injury going into the playoffs. The Bucs were beaten thoroughly in the Wild Card round by Dallas, 31 – 14.
The other three teams in the division all finished 7 – 10. Do any of these teams have something to look forward to in the offseason?
Surprisingly, they all need help at quarterback. We do not know if Brady is returning for the 2023 season. He was asked this and he seemed a bit annoyed.
“If I knew what I was going to f—ing do I would’ve already f—ing done it,” he told Jim Gray. “I’m taking it a day at a time. I appreciate you asking. Thank you.”
Let’s take a look at the team needs of each franchise.
Atlanta: The Falcons have the No. 8 pick in the 2023 draft. They also have the lowest sack percentage (3.6%) and second lowest QB pressure rate (22%) in the league one year after they finished last in both of those categories.
Someone has to find a spark for the Falcons’ pass rush.
The biggest needs are quarterback, edge rusher and wide receiver. They started Marcus Mariota most of the season before playing rookie Desmond Ridder. I think the most likely scenario will be to draft a defensive player with the first pick.
One pleasant surprise was the offensive line. The unit, led by right guard Chris Lindstrom and left tackle Jake Matthews, helped to pave the way for 159.9 rushing yards per game, which ranked third in the NFL.
Carolina: The Panthers have glaring needs at QB, corner back and tight end. They hold the 9th pick.
Jaycee Horn is a very good young corner, but they need to get someone opposite of him. They desperately need to find stability at the quarterback position but that is difficult.
They started three different quarterbacks and even dropped Baker Mayfield during the season. That was surprising since Mayfield started the season opener.
They also traded Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers before the trade deadline. It looks like they are in full rebuilding mode.
Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers are picking 19th overall. With Brady’s future unknown they need to consider quarterback, defensive back and offensive line.
They had several starting offensive linemen go down with injuries and I think that’s a key reason to why they struggled.
They also fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich so we do not know who will replace him yet. If Brady does retire, they will have a very tough 2023 season.
New Orleans: The Saints traded their first-round pick to Philadelphia last April. The Eagles have the No. 10 pick thanks to that deal.
Now the first pick is No. 41 in the second round. They need a quarterback, safety, defensive tackle, guard and wide receiver.
Jameis Winston has been injury prone the last two seasons and he has not played as well as expected.
The division could be wide open next season. We will get a clearer picture after free agency and the draft.
By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The 2019 NFL Draft starts April 25, 2019. For the 31 other teams that didn’t win the Super Bowl they have a chance to add players and improve their franchise. Let’s take a look at the NFC South and see who they might select in the first round.
Tampa Bay (5-11): The Buccaneers have the fifth overall pick. They had a bit of quarterback controversy to begin the season before Jameis Winston came back from his four-game suspension.
It looks like the Bucs will stick with the troubled young QB. Bruce Arians has taken over as head coach and he will try to give Winston protection.
Left tackle Donovan Smith will be a free agent. On the right side, Demar Dotson is entering the last year of his contract and turns 34 in October. That is why Alabama’s Jonah Williams should get picked to protect Winston’s blind side.
Atlanta (7-9): The Falcons are coming off of a disappointing season that had many injuries on the defense. They need to drastically improve on that side of the ball and on the offensive line.
Head coach Dan Quinn is on record saying he is only comfortable at center and left tackle.
With the 14th pick guard Cody Ford from Oklahoma makes sense. He’s extremely physical and he would help change the identity of the line. He played guard and right tackle so he might also be shifted to that position.
If defensive tackle Ed Oliver (Houston) is still on the board he should get selected. He reminds me of Aaron Donald because he can totally disrupt an offense.
Carolina (7-9): The Panthers started off the season hot before the seven-game losing streak. They are in an interesting position because star quarterback Cam Newton had surgery on his injured shoulder. Some time tables have predicted him to miss the 2019 season.
They also need help on defense. Mario Addison led the team with nine sacks. They need help getting to the quarterback and that is the direction they will go with the 16th pick.
They can draft a local player like Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell. The defensive end registered 50 career tackles for loss and 27 sacks in three seasons. He added 56 total pressures and 30 total stops during his final year. He’s 6’4, 265 pounds with great first-step quickness.
New Orleans (13-3): The Saints had a great season, advancing to the NFC Championship game. They should have won the game but a terrible no call for pass interference against the Rams cost them. They traded their first-round pick in the 2019 draft to move up and select Marcus Davenport.
The biggest needs are tight end, defensive tackle, running back and linebacker. Running back Mark Ingram will be a free agent so that may create a need. Alvin Kamara is great but he works best paired up with a physical runner.
New Orleans will pick 62nd in the second round. I think they will want a pass catching tight end. I’m not sure who will still be on the board by the time they make the pick. The best-case scenario is Irv Smith from Alabama. The best available might be Dawson Knox of Ole Miss.
Prior to last year the NFC South was the toughest division in the league. The Saints were the only playoff team so the other three teams need to get better. It will be exciting to see how everything plays out.