This is a division that has represented the NFC Conference in the last two Super Bowls. Unfortunately for the Falcons and Panthers, they ended up on the wrong side of memorable losses. The Saints are trying to give coach Sean Payton and veteran QB Drew Brees “one more run” and the Buccaneers are a team definitely on the come up. . .
Finished 2016 with a 6-10 record
Def Yards: 21st Off Yards: 19th
When you’re below average in offense and below average in defense, it’s easy to see you’re a team that has issues. In Free-Agency they brought back defensive end Julius Peppers, who is somewhere in the range of 55-65 years old, second year man Devin Funchess’ supposed break-through season, ended up being a bust and Cam Newton was the NFL’s punching bag, literally and figuratively last season.
This is a situation in which you try to figure are you better off giving Cam Newton a chance out there, or do you start to rebuild a defense? If you’re Ron Rivera and the Panthers brass, you’ve got to hitch your ride on Cam Newton. Cam was the league two seasons ago and they’ve got to rebuild that confidence, because the entire team goes off of his vibes. This is why with the 8th pick in this draft the Panthers should select Clemson wide-receiver Mike Williams. We already mentioned the disappointing season had by Devin Funchess, but the number one option Kelvin Benjamin couldn’t record 1,000 receiving yards (that went to the tight end of the team, Greg Olsen). Williams is a 6’3″ 205 pound man-child, who is a strong receiver who out-muscles defenders and is an excellent red-zone target. The Panthers offense isn’t too difficult which is a perfect situation for any rookie wide-out, but Williams has the potential to be a top-10 receiver in the league, some where down the line, and he could end up being Cam’s new number one by the end of the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Finished With a 9-7 Record
Def Yards: 23rd Off Yards: 18th
When your starting safety is Chris Conte, it’s pretty obvious where you should go in the first round. Bad news is, the top three safeties might be gone by the time the clock starts ticking on the Bucs’ 19th overall pick. Adams, Hooker and Peppers might very well be gone, which leaves the Bucs to choose from UConn’s Obi Melifonwu and Utah’s Marcus Williams. Melifonwu is more of the physical type, while Williams is the more skill-base-type of safety. Williams might be a bit of a stretch this early, so if this is who the Bucs want, they might try to trade further back into the first round and take him, but Williams is a player who came out of a very good defensive school, in a division that has high-powered offenses. The Pac-12 is a conference that loves to throw the ball around and he did exceptionally well against that. He has a great knack for being around the ball and can help a defense that gave up 250 passing yards a game last year.
Finished with a 11-5 Record
Def Yards:25th Off Yards:2nd
Without depressing Falcons fans (and Patriots haters) on how the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. . . ugh, how can we ignore that? What a debacle. Bad play-calling, decision-making and effort all rolled into one of the most classical “choke-jobs” in professional sports history. . . but ANYWAY. . . the Falcons have no use for drafting anything offensively, and although their defense finished 25th in total yardage, towards the end of the season, this unit seemed to be getting it altogether. . .until the end of the Super Bowl. Getting to the quarterback is what the Falcons needed to do more of against Tom Brady and they failed. Vic Beasley is the only consistent pass rusher on this defense and with the 31st pick of the NFL Draft, the Falcons might luck in and be able to grab Takkarist McKinley, of UCLA. McKinley is an outside linebacker who can also play as a defensive end if needed. He has a good burst off the line and has the ability to become a nuisance off the edge and through the gut.
New Orleans Saints
Finished With a 7-9 Record
Def Yards:27th Off Yards: 1st
When looking at the defensive and offensive yardage rankings between the Falcons and the Saints, it’s hard to believe that one team was dominant during last season, and the other was the Saints. Of the Saints 9 losses, only two of those games were determined by double digits, and six of those games were determined by five or less points. The Saints are painfully mediocre with a stellar offense – it’s a tough place to be. . .or even end up at, if we’re being honest. With Brandin Cooks now in New England (where he will be an amazing addition) it only makes sense that the Saints go after the speedster out of Washington, John Ross. Ross was the talk of the NFL Combine for running a 4.22 forty-yard-dash and he is the natural comparison to Brandin Cooks. A small, shifty receiver, with good route running skills and the ability to stretch the field. The Saints know that with their veteran quarterback Drew Brees, they can’t have him lack a weapon he used as often as he did last season. If all goes well, it should be a perfect fit and the Saints would not lose a step in their offensive attack.