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PFT's NFC South Draft Need's Write Up


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"Ted Sundquist’s NFC South Draft Needs

Posted by Mike Florio on April 22, 2009, 10:05 p.m. EDT

[Editor’s note: Former Broncos G.M. Ted Sundquist continues his look at the primary needs of each NFL team, by division. The NFC South appears below.]

The NFC South experienced a massive turnaround in ’08, with the emergence of Atlanta’s rookie quarterback, Matt Ryan. All four teams finished at .500 or better, which eclipsed even the NFC East. But Arizona took care of both playoff entries (Carolina and Atlanta) and the South never rose to a postseason run. Tampa Bay chose to clean house and shift their emphasis toward rookie head coach Raheem Morris and the defense, while New Orleans is trying to regain the form that won the division just two seasons ago. The division is picking from just about the middle backwards and Carolina doesn’t even have a first-round pick (traded to Philly), so careful study and perhaps a trade or two will be needed to maximize opportunity.

Atlanta Falcons

Primary Need: Outside Linebacker

To keep up with RB Michael Turner and second-year QB Matt Ryan the defense will have to improve. Overall analysis by Football Outsiders shows the Falcons sitting in the bottom third of total defense (23rd). Pass defense was just under the midway mark (18th) and run defense on all downs was a crippling 25th. G.M. Thomas Dimitroff went right to work at the close of the season and began to revamp the “D”.

Gone is local favorite LB Keith Brooking, as well four other starters. Atlanta must find a way to shut down the second-level routes (TE & RB). F.O.’s studies ranked the Falcon defense as 28th and 29th in the League at doing so and this weakness eventually contributed to the end of their season. Heavy emphasis will be placed on upgrading the linebacker corps and at #24 the Falcons could be looking at some solid help. To contribute in both the run/pass defense, look for focus to be on acquiring a SAM to set the edge vs. the run, as well as hang with the TE downfield. Aaron Curry is the best at the position, but these three have the size and athletic ability to excel over the TE as well.

Possible targets: linebacker Brian Cushing (USC); linebacker/defensive end Cody Brown (UConn), linebacker Clay Matthews (USC).

New Orleans Saints

Primary Need: Safety

Balance is key, both in life and in football. The pendulum swings heavy to the offensive side in New Orleans. It was hard to find a more explosive unit in 2008. The Saints were ranked #1 in the F.O. statistical analysis on offense, while the defense was 24th. Little wonder then that for all their efforts in points and yardage the team finished at 8-8. Third downs were brutal on the Saint defense (18th vs. the pass, 30th vs. the run).

New Orleans needs a centerfield playmaker and those can be the hardest to find. Coaches want the deep range vs. the pass and the ability to fill the box vs. the run. That takes a special player, both in body type and ability. If there’s a safety that shows this dual capability then go get him (regardless of your pick position). This year’s crop appears to have one legitimate prospect and then some projections at the position.

Possible targets: Safety Louis Delmas (Western Michigan), defensive back Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State).

Carolina Panthers

Primary Need: Defensive Line

For the purpose of this look the Panthers are starting behind the “eight ball” with their initial selection not coming until the 59th pick of the 2nd round. The majority of positions on two-deep rosters are made up of 1st and 2nd round selections, the remaining percentage coming predominantly from undrafted free agents. So Carolina has an opportunity to add an impact playmaker on their defensive front, the odds just shrink quite a bit that he’ll be ultra productive (11.1%).

Look for G.M. Marty Hurney to emphasize run-stopping ability. The Cats were rated 31st in adjustws line yards when run at between the guards. They were 25th overall when run at on 3rd/4th down. Too much is giving in the middle and Carolina needs an inside anchor. Raji, Hood, and Jerry most likely will be off the board by then, so look for the Panthers to turn to the second tier and take a shot at “upside”.

Possible targets: defensive tackle Ron Brace (Boston College), defensive tackle/defensive end Jarron Gilbert (San Jose St.), defensive tackle Fili Moala (USC).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Primary Need: Linebacker

Look for defensive emphasis from rookie head coach Raheem Morris and new defensive coordinator Jim Bates. The Bucs gutted their LB corps and must find replacements fast in order to implement Bates’ scheme. Many have Tampa looking towards a QB in the first round, especially if USC’s Mark Sanchez slips down to #19.

F.O.’s numbers point to trouble at the second level of the defense with a high number of 10+ yard carries (ranking 28th in the NFL) but pretty solid play upfront with an 11th rank in adjust line yards (a good indicator of D-Line play). Roster-wise there doesn’t appear to be a presence at the position with the departure of Derrick Brooks and Cato June. The veteran Barrett Ruud has held down the inside and I would imagine Bates loves his physical presence in the middle. Look for speed to be added to the perimeters. With Denver now at #18, Tampa would probably have to trade up to ensure a QB.

Possible targets: Linebacker Clint Sintim (Virginia), linebacker Clay Matthews (USC), linebacker/defensive end Aaron Maybin (Penn State)."

I think DE is a bigger need. The best would be an OLB/DE hybrid I guess. But it's pretty close to what everyone was thinking. And who the heII is Cody Brown?

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i don't see how OLB is our biggest need considering our nose tackle is coming off of knee surgery. OLB is important, but lol it's nowhere close to NT.

I would think because OLB's play just about every down, and are usually harder to get quick starters from. NT's can be had in plenty of spots, and rotate anyways. Not saying you can get an impact NT in the 6th round (even though we did with Lewis anyways), but it's rare to draft a 4-3 NT in the first round. I think the assumption is you are based around the position. We could have no FB on the roster, but it wouldn't be our biggest need, because we could pick up a number of UDFA's or late round picks.

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