The NFL Draft is the staple for building a winner in the NFL. While the process isn’t an exact science, the draft is the most important part of the offseason. Flushing your system with young talent can go a long way into defining a winning culture. Missing in the draft often times costs people their jobs. Now that the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books we can look at who did well. We start with the NFC South that is compiled of the Buccaneers, Panthers, Falcons, and Saints. Of those four teams, it’s time to look at the winners and losers. Who won the 2017 NFL Draft in the NFC South?
Atlanta Falcons: Draft Grade B
- Round 1, Pick 26 (No. 26 overall) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
- Round 3 Pick 11 (No. 75) Duke Riley, LB, LSU
- Round 4, Pick 30 (No. 136): Sean Harlow, G, Oregon State
- Round 5, Pick 5 (No. 149) Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State
- Round 5, Pick 12 (No. 156) Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming
- Round 5, Pick 31 (No. 174) Eric Saubert, TE, Drake University
In what is such a deep defensive draft, I hated to see the Falcons move up for Takk McKinley. McKinley has a chance to be a stud at the next level as a terrific athlete. To me, Takk is a boom or bust prospect as a high motor pass rusher that really needs to polish his technique. He could be a nice compliment to Vic Beasley in Atlanta.
Who didn’t see the Duke Riley to Atlanta pick coming? Riley replaced Deon Jones at LSU and will now get to play next to him with the Falcons. This is exactly what Dan Quinn looks for; an undersized linebacker with big time speed. Riley led LSU in tackles this past season and really shined at the Senior Bowl. Look for Riley to play outside linebacker with Atlanta flying around the football.
I was also a big fan of the Damontae Kazee and Eric Saubert pick. Kazee has big-time ball skills and will likely be used as a slot corner. Saubert is a really athletic tight end that is worth the flier.
Carolina Panthers: Draft Grade B
- Round 1, Pick 8 (No. 8 overall) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
- Round 2, Pick 8 (No. 40) Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State
- Round 2, Pick 32 (No. 64) Taylor Moton, G, Western Michigan
- Round 3, Pick 13 (No. 77) Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M
- Round 5, Pick 8 (No. 152) Corn Elder, LB, Miami
- Round 6, Pick 8 (No. 192) Alex Armah, FB, West Georgia
- Round 7, Pick 15 (No. 233) Harrison Butker, K, Georgia Tech
Don’t forget to factor in the silly move to give up on Kony Ealy into this draft grade. Otherwise, I liked what Carolina did. The Panthers made it imperative to give Cam Newton more tools to work with. Christian McCaffrey at 8 is a little high for my liking but he is a heck of a player. He is also the best receiver in the draft. The multi-faceted McCaffrey has crazy short area quickness that makes him fail proof in the NFL. Adding his rushing, receiving, and return ability into the equation, it’s easy to see why he was worth the price of admission.
You also have to love the Curtis Samuel pick who I’m really high on. Samuel is really similar to McCaffrey who can be used as a running back and a receiver. Samuel also showed off his big time speed at the Combine. it’s hard to not be afraid of the addition of Samuel. He averaged 7.9 yards per carry on the ground and 8.6 yards per catch in college for Ohio State and was never used as much as he should have been.
Taylor Moton, Daeshon Hall, and Corn Elder round out a really nice draft class. Moton might end up being the best offensive lineman in the entire class. Originally thought of as a guard, he really impressed me with his movement skills at the combine. He could end up being a really special right tackle for Carolina. Daeshon Hall was the counterpart to Myles Garrett at Texas A&M. Hall is a really good player that has some of that quick twitch pass rush that you look for. He’s got a really nasty spin move off the line of scrimmage. Corn Elder is one of those long corners you hope you can turn into something.
New Orleans Saints: Draft Grade C
- Round 1, Pick 11 (No. 11 overall) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State:
- Round 1, Pick 32 (No. 32) (From New England) Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
- Round 2, Pick 10 (No. 42) Marcus Williams, S, Utah
- Round 3, Pick 3 (No. 67) Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
- Round 3, Pick 12 (No. 76) Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida
- Round 3, Pick 39 (No. 103) Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic University
- Round 6, Pick 12 (No. 196) Al-Quadin Muhammad, LB, Miami
I loved the Brandin Cooks trade from the Saints perspective until they made some questionable calls on draft day. Now that Cooks trade doesn’t look so good. First, the Saints took Marshon Lattimore who is far from a sure thing. Lattimore has serious hamstring issues and wasn’t even the best corner on his college team. One-year starters that play on a defense where the surrounding talent is loaded scares me. The other first round pick was spent on Ryan Ramczyk. I’ll never criticize the usage of picks on offensive lineman but Ramcyzk doesn’t have too high of a ceiling. Best case is he is a run dominant right tackle that takes after Rick Wagner. Is that acceptable for Brandin Cooks? Probably not.
Then the Saints took Marcus Williams despite already having Kenny Vaccaro, Vonn Bell, and Jairus Byrd. Williams might end up being an alright player but I have no idea when they will ever use him. He did look smooth at the combine and they may have envisioned using him as a corner but the pick makes little sense at the moment.
The Saints had three 3rd round picks. Alvin Kamara is a running back from Tennessee that I wasn’t very high coming out. He couldn’t make Alabama’s team and only barely flourished at Tennessee because Jalen Hurd suddenly decided he wanted to become a tight end. To give up a next year’s 2nd round pick for Kamara is a horrible decision. He didn’t crack my top ten running backs coming out. Alex Anzalone is one of those undersized linebackers. He can make plays but really struggles to stay on the field with durability concerns. Trey Hendrickson was my favorite pick of the bunch who had one of the best 10 yard splits at the combine. He can really be a sack artist in the 4-3 and dominated the East-West Game. Look out for the Florida Atlantic defensive end who really saves this shaky draft class.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Draft Grade B+
- Round 1, Pick 19 (No. 19 overall) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
- Round 2, Pick 18 (No. 50) Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M
- Round 3, Pick 20 (No. 84) Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
- Round 3, Pick 43 (No. 107) Kendell Beckwith, LB, LSU
- Round 5, Pick 18 (No. 162) Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State
- Round 7, Pick 5 (No. 223) Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DT, USC
Tampa Bay got the stud O.J. Howard late in the first round. Howard gives Jameis Winston a really reliable target in the middle of the field. The hope is that Howard develops into the next Gronk but there is also a chance he is the next Eric Ebron. The good news is while Howard’s catching prowess isn’t all the way there, he is already an elite blocker. For more on Howard leading up to the draft, his combine analysis can be seen here.
The Chris Godwin and Kendell Beckwith picks really stood out to me. Godwin gives the Bucs another target for Winston. Tampa has a dangerous receiver group. Godwin, a Penn State product, has great speed and wins a ton of 50/50 balls in the air. Go watch the Rose Bowl, this guy is a baller. Beckwith comes in as another steady linebacker. Beckwith comes from LSU as a part of their dangerous defense. Beckwith would have gone much higher if it weren’t for a torn ACL, this guy’s really an instictive football player.
Jeremy McNicols figures to be a part of the Bucs rushing attack that is very much in shambles right now. Stevie T from USC is a run stuffer in the middle of the defensive line. On run downs, this guy will push the pocket with the best of them.