The NFC South is one of the more stable divisions in the NFL. All of the four teams have a Quarterback that has been with the team for a while. Aside from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers undergoing a change at Head Coach, there haven’t been any recent regime changes either. But in the 2019 NFL Draft, we could see two of the teams lay the foundation for a rebuild after this season, and at least two load up in an attempt to make another Super Bowl. Here’s what each team needs heading into the draft.
The Falcons suffered through parts of 2018 due to injury, and will be looking to shore up the middle of the Defense. They finished 28th in the league in yards allowed per game, and were 25th and 27th in rushing and passing yards allowed, respectively. Depending on how the first round unfolds, they may look at taking a versatile Defensive Lineman that can play inside or on the edge with their first round pick. However, they can afford to wait until the middle rounds if they want.
Devonta Freeman is ready to grind 🍽 pic.twitter.com/JfmmCVIDhV— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) April 15, 2019
Should they ignore the DL in the first round, the Falcons could go in a few directions. If they like one of the Linebackers enough, particularly a pass rushing LB, that is a major need that needs filling. Alternatively, Offensive Tackle and Tight End could be better fits depending on players available. Ultimately, OLB, OT, TE and DL will be their focus for the majority of their picks over the first half of the draft.
Where the Falcons might look to strengthen their roster beyond immediate needs is at Safety, Cornerback, and the interior of the Offensive Line. Finding an upgrade at nickel Defensive Back will make the Defense more dynamic, and both Safety and CB need greater depth. However, the Falcons were below average in sacks allowed in 2018, and protecting QB Matt Ryan could take priority. In fact, don’t be surprised to see the Falcons draft a QB, as they are in desperate need of a better backup QB.
The Panthers were in a state of flux in 2018. At times, they looked competitive and like a playoff team. At others, they were dismal and struggled to get stops on Defense, as well as misfiring in the passing game. While they have added Free Agents to reduce their holes, their draft will need to address both sides of the ball for them to stay in touch with their divisional rivals.
Football is coming. pic.twitter.com/cZCT97qETa— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) April 15, 2019
Currently holding the 16th overall pick, Carolina could go in any number of directions in the first round. They need an OT, TE, DE, OLB, CB and Safeties, and could also look at depth at WR and RB. The first round will most likely be spent on the Defense, adding an edge rusher, and the next few rounds will then target an OT and offensive weapon.
With just seven picks in the draft, the Panthers can’t solve all of their problems at once. While they may trade down, most of the needs are not desperate. They already have starters at each spot, but need either depth or upgrades at most, and this is what they will be drafting.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have few urgent needs in the draft, and are loading up for another tilt at a Super Bowl. They have only a year or two with Drew Brees at QB, and in that time are focusing everything on winning another title. Their Offense is virtually complete, after replacing Center Max Unger with Nick Easton, and adding RB Latavius Murray to supplement Alvin Kamar. Although they could draft a young TE, it’s unlikely when they need more defensive firepower.
The myth about Drew Brees' success coming because of his home field being a dome is just that – a myth.— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) April 12, 2019
Brees has an elite career grade both indoors and outdoors.#WhoDat ⚜ #Saints pic.twitter.com/2iqNuiTuvv
The Saints’ LBs struggled in the playoffs last season, and this is where they will focus their draft strategy. They need upgrades and depth, especially at MLB, and finding better LBs that can help in pass coverage. Elsewhere in the front seven, adding rotational players along the DL is the other major concern for the Saints.
The DBs are also where the Saints are investing this offseason. They’ve added CBs Eli Apple and Marcus Sherels, but still need to look at their Safety depth. Although incumbents Chris Banjo and Vonn Bell are decent starters, the Saints can’t afford to miss a step if they truly are loading up for a Super Bowl tilt.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs are the biggest question mark in the division in 2019. There is interest in whether they will stay with QB Jameis Winston beyond the season, as well as whether new HC Bruce Arians will want him beyond the year. This draft will focus on laying the foundation for his 2020 season, rather than 2019.
This means until Tampa decide who will be their QB beyond this year, the Defense will be how they focus their efforts. Alongside this, a few picks will be used on Offense to ensure it is working, but if a change in QB is imminent, the other pieces need to match. Aside from a deep threat WR and OT, Tampa Bay are unlikely to add any other players on Offence until late in the draft.
Instead, the early focus of the draft will be on adding an OLB and depth along the DL. While they have quality players at some of these spots already, the Bucs need to get younger on Defense. In the secondary, beyond Vernon Hargreaves at CB, every other position needs addressing. Day 2 of the draft will target the DBs, readying for 2020.