Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft Needs – Pick 13
Secondary: After ridding of Aqib Talib during the season, the Buccaneers’ concern immediately became the secondary. There is no doubt the Bucs will continue to push for the Jets’ Darelle Revis up until, and during, the 2013 NFL Draft. But if a deal for Revis is unable to get done, the Bucs are surely bound to draft a cornerback. Xavier Rhodes would be ideal, but Desmond Trufant is also on the Bucs’ radar.
Linebacker: If the Bucs trade for Revis they may or may not give up a 2013 first round pick. Assuming they do not, the Buccaneers can go after a linebacker. Barkevious Mingo is an option, but Georgia’s Alec Ogletree is also a potential selection.
Tight End: With Dallas Clark not living up to high expectations last season the Bucs could use an upgrade at tight end. If the Bucs do develop a tight end, they will not find a tight end valuable enough to take at 13. Look for the Bucs to take a tight end in the second or third rounds.
Projection: I really think that the Bucs will draft Xavier Rhodes whether or not they trade for Revis. Their other needs are not too glaring, and Rhodes can obviously learn a lot from Revis. As an added bonus, in drafting Rhodes, the Bucs disallow other teams in their division to take a defensive back, the NFC South’s biggest collective positional need.
Carolina Panthers Draft Needs – Pick 14
Defensive Tackle: The Panthers’ most obvious need is at defensive tackle. They will be looking at 4-3 d-tackles, contrary to speculation that they are looking to transform their defense into a 3-4 scheme. Star Lotulelei of Utah and Sheldon Richardson of Missouri are good options for the Panthers. Carolina is also a candidate to trade down. In that case, I could see them selecting Sylvester Williams of North Carolina.
Wide Receiver: Lets face it, the Panthers have done pretty much nothing to surround Cam Newton with receiving talent. Sure, Greg Olsen is decent, but he is not single handedly going to help Cam Newton progress into an MVP-caliber quarterback. Furthermore, with Steve Smith on the brink of retiring, Brandon LaFell simply will not cut it as a number one receiving option. The Panthers can draft Cal’s Kennan Allen, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, or if they trade down to the end of the first round, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins.
Projection: West Virginia’s Tavon Austin may be the pick. His speed can stretch defenses, giving Newton more room to operate. The Panthers haven’t made any notable singings at wide receiver since Cam was drafted, and it is essential the Panthers invest in the right playmakers now. Before it is too late, they need to assure that Cam continues to grow as a quarterback.
New Orleans Draft Needs – Pick 15
Linebacker: The Saints’ defense was statistically the worst in NFL history, and it is safe to say that they can use all the help they can get in that department. Rob Ryan will hope to change things around and will pick based on value. However, Ryan is certainly looking at linebacker (remember, it was Demarcus Ware who led the Cowboys defense during Ryan’s tenure in Dallas). Jarvis Jones of Georgia and Barkevious Mingo of LSU are big time names that would provide the Saints with a bigger and better front seven.
Nose Tackle: The Saints have played a 4-3 for as long as I can remember. But if Ryan plans to change their scheme to a 3-4, it is essential that the Saints get a plug in the middle who can open things up for the rest of the defensive core. Nosetackle Jesse Williams of Alabama and NT Johnathan Hankins of Ohio State are certainly on New Orleans’ radar.
Secondary: To round up New Orleans’ (defensive) needs, the Saints will need a solid secondary if they hope to compete with the Falcons, Packers, Giants, and even the 49ers. Even though New Orleans’ needs are so vast in the front 7, they can take Xavier Rhodes, if he falls, or standout safety Kenny Vaccaro from Texas. Otherwise, their other needs are just too overwhelming to draft in the secondary.
Projection: LSU’s Barkevious Mingo should be the pick. He has the size and the motor to be a great NFL playmaker. It will take him, and a lot more, to make this defense respectable.
Atlanta Falcons Draft Needs – Pick 30
Cornerback: The best regular season team in the NFC does not have any blaring needs. Yet cornerback is certainly their top priority after losing both Dunta Robinson to the Lions, and Brent Grimes to the Dolphins. Although they still have Asante Samuel, I could see the Falcons using their first round pick on Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant, or Mississippi St. corner Johnthan Banks. The Falcons could also make a play to move up further in the draft if Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes falls to the middle of the first round.
Defensive End: Last year, only one Falcon recorded more than four sacks. That Falcon was John Abraham, who is testing free agency. Pass rush is pivotal in this era of football, especially in the NFC, where many of the league’s mobile quarterbacks compete. A consistent pass rush is also necessary considering the lack of depth of the Falcons’ secondary. The Falcons could draft Alex Okafor from Texas or Cornellius Carradine of Florida State.
Tight end: Another Falcons need, if you want to call it that, is tight end. With Tony Gonzalez coming back for one more year, the Falcons can draft a tight end that can learn from the best. Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert is the highest ranked tight end in this draft class and will likely fall to the 30th pick. Another possibility is Stanford tight end Zach Ertz.
Projection: The Falcons are a team I can see moving up in the draft, even if it is just a few picks, to assure themselves a quality cornerback. I think Desmond Trufant is their move.