2015 NFL Draft will be largely influenced by NFC South


The Carolina Panthers became the first team in NFC South history to repeat as division champions this past December, but it was the 7-9-1 record that the Panthers carried into the playoffs that confirms the importance of this year’s draft for the division as a whole. The race for the NFC South came down to the final weeks of the 2014 season and whichever team comes out of this year’s draft as winners, could gain an immediate and long-term upper hand.

All four teams have their own needs to fulfill and are in position to do so. The Tampa Bay Bucs have the No. 1 overall pick at their disposal but the Saints can make some serious noise as well with five draft choices in the first 78 picks. The Falcons will be looking for a pass rusher for the present and future to lead the franchise with the No. 8 pick and the Panthers can shore up the cornerback position and look for more protection for Cam Newton on the offensive line with its picks that includes three in the fifth round.

The Saints window is closing as Drew Brees sits at 36-years-old and they will be looking to draft guys that can come in and help right away. The team traded tight end Jimmy Graham, wide receiver Kenny Stills and guard Ben Grubb and also cut linebacker Curtis Lofton, running back Pierre Thomas and cornerback Corey White. However, running back Mark Ingram was re-signed to a four-year, $16 million contract and C.J. Spiller was brought in to join him after five seasons in the Buffalo backfield. Brandon Browner was picked up at corner and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe comes in to fill the void left by Lofton. Pro Bowl center Max Unger came from Seattle with the Graham trade and the offensive line will be built around him. The Saints are looking for a cornerback and a middle linebacker but it looks like finding a corner is the top priority. Once the Saints get their top pick in, do not be surprised if they trade up, as the plan is clearly to build the strongest possible team now while Brees is still playing at a high level.

Tampa Bay has the longest list of current draft needs, but none are more important than finding a franchise quarterback and that is almost certainly where the No. 1 pick will go. They added defensive depth this offseason through free agency but primarily, the focus has been on that No. 1 selection. Linebacker Bruce Carter, defensive tackle Henry Melton and safety Chris Conte were added in mid-March and the following week cornerback Sterling Moore was signed. All four of these signees spent last season on the Dallas Cowboys. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are the top 2 quarterback prospects on the radar for the top pick and although there might be more talented players in the draft at the less glamorous positions, teams in need of a franchise quarterback cannot pass on these guys, especially when you look at the list of less-impressive quarterbacks that will enter next year’s draft. When you have the No. 1 overall pick, it is either going to set up the franchise for the next couple years, or it can set the franchise back another couple years and that is what Tampa Bay will be drafting to avoid.

Carolina’s free agency has been directed towards finding guys that can help improve one of the worst special teams units in the NFL. Offensive tackles Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin were not signed for that purpose but they will certainly provide a boost in the trenches. Ted Ginn Jr. is back with the Panthers after getting sent to Arizona following the 2013 season and will serve as the team’s return man.

Defensive backs Kurt Coleman and Teddy Williams were signed as early free agents and can handle special teams duties on the coverage teams and on punt and kickoff return.

Running back Jordan Todman was signed after establishing himself as one of the league’s most consistent kick returners last year in Jacksonville and eight-year veteran linebacker Jason Trusnik was added to provide depth on defense but also for his reputation as a “special teams ace”.

Carolina will be looking for a pass rusher to replace now Dallas Cowboy Greg Hardy. Hardy’s absence is not the gigantic loss most people assume it is because of his domestic violence case that could result in more missed games. The Panthers were not going to have much of choice besides turning the page and starting a new chapter. Carolina gutted its receiving corps last offseason but ended up striking gold in the draft with the towering Kelvin Benjamin and will be looking to continue building a young group of targets for quarterback Cam Newton through the draft. Speaking of Newton, he has ranked as one of the most-hit quarterbacks over the past few seasons so expect Carolina to add to the offensive line that improved with Martin and Oher through free agency. Carolina has the No. 25 overall pick but it could be what the team does with its three fifth round selections that determines the success of this year’s draft.


2015 NFL Draft

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
Rd. 1 (No. 1)
Rd. 2 (No. 34)
Rd. 3 (No. 65)
Rd. 4 (No. 109)
Rd. 5 (No. 162)
Rd. 6 (No. 184)
Rd. 7 (No. 218)
Rd. 7 (No. 231)

Atlanta Falcons
Rd. 1 (No. 8)
Rd. 2 (No. 42)
Rd. 3 (No. 73)
Rd. 4 (No. 107)
Rd. 5 (No. 146)
Rd. 6 (No. 185)
Rd. 7 (No. 225)
Rd. 7 (No. 249)

New Orleans Saints
Rd. 1 (No. 13)
Rd. 1 (No. 31)
Rd. 2 (No. 44)
Rd. 3 (No. 75)
Rd. 3 (No. 78)
Rd. 5 (No. 148)
Rd. 5 (No. 154)
Rd. 6 (No. 187)
Rd. 7 (No. 230)

Carolina Panthers

Rd. 1 (No. 25)
Rd. 2 (No. 57)
Rd. 3 (No. 89)
Rd. 4 (No. 124)
Rd. 5 (No. 161)
Rd. 5 (No. 169)
Rd. 5 (No. 174)
Rd. 6 (No. 201)
Rd. 7 (No. 242)


Tags: , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply