NFL Draft 2021: NFC South Team Needs
The New Orleans Saints fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round of this past season’s playoffs, and they’ll have to find a way to reload without longtime franchise quarterback Drew Brees. The Buccaneers of course will try to get back to the promised land for the second year in a row, while the Panthers continue to build under head coach Matt Rhule and the Falcons decide whether to reset or push towards the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at some of the draft needs for every team in the NFC South.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Though they didn’t win the division, largely because of an 0-2 regular season record against the rival Saints, let’s start by looking at what holes the Bucs need to fill to get yet another Lombardi Trophy for Tom Brady.
This team is loaded with talent at most every position, and has largely retained it. Still, there are positions where Tampa Bay could benefit from added depth.
The defensive line was key to defeating Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl, and some of the key players on that unit are aging. An additional piece at defensive tackle could help alongside Vita Vea. At the end of the first round, the Bucs could draft Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore, an incredibly talented but raw player who could grow into a starter’s role.
Right guard Alex Cappa has a year left on his deal and is coming off of a broken ankle, so a developmental interior offensive lineman may be a strong option for the Bucs early in the draft.
Protecting Tom Brady will be key to continued success.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints team will look very different as they move on from Brees and start to retool around whoever the new starting signal caller ends up being. The defense, especially the secondary, isn’t quite what it's been in years past. Cornerback Greg Newsome from Northwestern is big and has good skills, and could serve as an option to play opposite Marshon Lattimore.
Age and lack of production make the number two receiver spot a question mark also. New Orleans has Michael Thomas to rely on if he stays healthy in 2021, but Rashod Bateman from Minnesota could be there in round one to create a new dynamic receiver pair.
The Falcons are at a crossroads. New head coach, franchise quarterback in his mid-30s and a decision whether to rebuild or run it back with Matt Ryan.
Ryan, who will be 36 next season, hasn’t been the main problem for this team recently, so much as a bad offensive line and porous defense.
Picking at No.4 overall, the Falcons could pick their successor at quarterback and start anew, but this writer thinks they should give their current passer some help and take a lineman. Penei Sewell out of Oregon and Rashawn Slater of Northwestern are both great options, and they should take the player who they like best of the two.
As previously mentioned, the defense has seriously held this team back from returning to the playoffs since Super Bowl LI, so getting a secondary player or pass rusher makes sense as well, possibly in round two.
If Atlanta gets really lucky, Penn State edge rusher Jayson Oweh might slide to their pick at 35 overall, and if he does they have a chance to get a raw player with bounds of upside.
Carolina is continuing to build under Rhule’s stewardship, and it may look to give new acquisition Sam Darnold some protection, assuming they want him to start this year. If Penei Sewell is gone, at No. 11 the Panthers could take Slater instead, putting a legitimate piece on that offensive line.
Beyond that, the Panthers are somewhat thin at corner. It’s unlikely, but they could look to take Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II in round one, solidifying their secondary.
Jeremy Ganes is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.