By Steven Weldon
With two days to spare, we've finally made it to the final division - the NFC South. I saved this division for last because of one reason, and you will see in the breakdown why.
The Falcons were banged up this season, and then just lost running back Tevin Coleman in free agency. Atlanta really needs to work on their secondary and shoring up their running backs, as Devonta Freeman cannot seem to stay healthy. Unfortunately, neither of those are very strong in this draft. They could reach for Greedy Williams out of LSU, or trade down for him. The safe pick here is an offensive lineman or defensive lineman. Christian Wilkins of Clemson could be the defensive lineman available, or Andre Dillard of Washington State could be the offensive lineman available.
They're a far cry from the team that was close to beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. They have work cut out for them, but they're still one of the better teams in the NFC.
NEED: Defensive backs!
WANT: Devonta Freeman from 2015 back.
QUESTIONS: How long can Matt Ryan carry this team on his back, and will Calvin Ridley become a marquee receiver?
The Panthers need to protect Cam Newton at all costs, and they'll look to add an offensive lineman in the draft. Another need they can target would be a wide receiver after losing Devin Funchess, but that seems like a reach judging by the talent of the wide receivers and the fact the Panthers hold the #16 pick. They also need help in the secondary, as is a common theme among NFC South teams.
There are many different ways they can go, if there is a reasonable offensive lineman pick available, they'll take him. However, they could go with the rest of the crowd and take a defensive player like Clelin Ferrell of Clemson. The other defensive player they'd look at would be Byron Marshall of Washington, a nice cornerback piece.
NEED: Protect CAMERON NEWTON AT ALL COSTS
WANT: Some nice defensive backs to get the ball back to the offensive side.
QUESTIONS: The Panthers started strong and finished weak, how can they change that going forward?
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints don't own a first-round pick, a third-round pick, or a fourth-round pick. They're going to have to use this draft to shore up their already win-now mode team, and they can do it by selecting the best player available. They can target a cornerback late, which would be a big help. They can also find a nice wide receiver for their entertaining offense that manages to find talent out of seemingly nowhere. This isn't the draft for the Saints, so they'll do what they can to improve.
NEED: Sustain excellency!
WANT: The only future hole they'll have will be at quarterback, it's just a matter of time.
QUESTIONS: Drew Brees is 40. How many years will the Saints get out of him?
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
ARR, WE BE HERE. The final team to cover before the draft. This one hits home, as it is my favorite team. It's been a rough ...many years to be a Buccaneers fan. Last season looked great at first, the players were firing on all cylinders in the first two games and the team looked great. It crumbled fast. Ryan Fitzpatrick came back down to earth, the running game was non-existent, and the defense, oh god, the defense. It surprises me that a team with so many talented individuals had such a bad defensive presence throughout the season. It did not help that many players got hurt on that side of the ball, but largely the players weren't out for too long. Kwon Alexander was out for a majority of the season, and he was a good piece of the linebackers.
This season is Jameis Winston's last chance. He needs a big season under new head coach Bruce Arians in order to earn his next contract. We've seen the potential, but he couldn't pull it together the last two seasons. The running game needs improvement as well, but the Buccaneers took Ronald Jones in the first round last year, preparing him for the future.
I've said the Buccaneers need to improve their defense, and with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves returning and malcontent corner Brent Grimes not, the secondary will still be reasonably weak. The Bucs will need to select the best edge rusher or lineman available, and it's looking like that will either be Josh Allen or Devin White.
It's hard to be a fan of a team in the opposite corner of the United States, but it is easier when I do not have to see news about them constantly. Regardless, I'll be in Seattle on November 3rd to cheer them on, as a great fan always does. Siege the day!
NEED: Any defense. Anything. Also a running game.
WANT: Recapture the glory of 2002
QUESTIONS: When will the Buccaneers make the playoffs again? Is Arians the answer?
I've come to the end! Mock draft incoming, as well as a guest mock draft! Stay tuned.