For the NFC South, we saw a plethora of defensive selections and a kicker in the second round!
R1 (17) Keanu Neal- SS – Florida
R2 (52) Deion Jones- OLB – LSU
R3 (81) Austin Hooper – TE – Stanford
R4 (115) De’Vondre Campbell – OLB – Minnesota
R6 (195) Wes Scheitzer – OG – San Jose State
R7 (238) Devin Fuller – WR – UCLA
Safety was a position of need with the Falcons and they rectified that situation by selecting the hard hitting Keanu Neal with their first pick. An athletic player with quick speed and a vicious hit, Neal is a sure fire bet to improve the secondary and should be kept on his toes in the pass happy NFC South.
Falcons, understandably, have had difficulty replacing Tony Gonzalez at the Tight End position and selected, from Stanford, 6’4″ Austin Hooper. Hooper has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL with good hand-eye co-ordination and route running ability, Hooper will give Matt Ryan a big target to hit.
The Falcons seemed to lack speed at the Linebacker position but rectified that with two out of their first four picks being spent on fast Linebackers in Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell. Jones should be an immediate starter in Atlanta possibly in special teams initially to increase his playing experience as he was understudy to the Bucs Kwon Alexander LSU for three years. Look for Campbell to play initially on Special Teams also due to his raw speed.
R1 (31) Vernon Butler- DT – Louisiana Tech
R2 (62) James Bradberry – CB – Samford
R3 (77) Daryl Worley- CB – West Virginia
R5 (141) Zack Sanchez- CB – Oklahoma
R7 (252) Beau Sandland – TE – Montana State
The Panthers believe the game is won or lost in the trenches so true to form, they selected Defensive Tackle Vernon Butler in the first round. A big bodied powerhouse with an appetite for stuffing the run, Butler will add to the already impressive Panthers front seven.
As far as the Panthers next three picks were concerned, one can only assume that the removal of the franchise tag from Josh Norman led to them choosing not one, not two but three Cornerbacks in succession. Each one has their own strengths whether it be quick movement (Bradberry) outstanding ball skills (Worley) or play recognition (Sanchez) and will be interesting to see how many of the three CB’s get game time and in what position.
New Orleans Saints
R1 (12) Sheldon Rankins- DT – Louisville
R2 (47) Michael Thomas- WR – Ohio State
R2 (61) Vonn Bell – FS – Ohio State
R4 (120) David Onyemata – DT – Manitoba
R7 (237) Daniel Lasco – RB – California
There was no getting away form the fact that the Saints were pretty bad on Defense last year. With their first pick, The Saints picked Defensive Tackle Sheldon Rankins who was one of the best interior pass rushers in the draft. Athletic, strong, quick with very good technique, Rankins should be an immediate starter for the Saints and is an instant upgrade at the DT position.
With only Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead as recognised Wide Receivers, the Saints next pick was spent on WR Michael Thomas. Thomas has the size and potential to be an effective WR in the NFL who excels in yards after the catch. With The Saints seemingly moving from their traditional pass game to running the ball, a big target like Thomas should still see plenty action from Brees’ right arm.
Vonn Bell was an excellent pick at Free Safety at the tail end of round 2. Actually thought he would have been selected by the Bucs if still on the board, however, the Bucs had other ideas (hint……….kicker!). Bell has played Corner and Free Safety in college and has great vision and excels in man cover. Again, another rookie who should see plenty action when the guys air it out in the NFC South.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
R1 (11) Vernon Hargreaves- CB – Florida
R2 (39) Noah Spence- DE – Eastern Kentucky
R2 (59) Roberto Aguayo- K – Florida State
R4 (108) Ryan Smith – CB – North Carolina Central
R5 (148) Caleb Benenoch – OT – UCLA
R6 (183) Devante Bond – OLB – Oklahoma
R6 (197) Dan Vitale- FB – Northwestern
Since the last two drafts have been focused on Offense, it was obviously time for the Defensive side of the ball to feel the love this time around.
When discussing the Bucs draft, there is only one place to start; their 3rd pick, from Round 2, Florida State Kicker and most accurate college kicker in football history Roberto Aguayo. The Bucs greatest need in the draft was upgrading the Cornerback position and adding a Pass Rushing Defensive End which they did with the first two picks in the draft. With these two positions in the bank, the Bucs decided to get their Kicker. To move up from the 3rd round to the 2nd round to ensure they got Aguayo, the Bucs traded a 3rd and 4th rounder to the Chiefs. Yes, trading two picks for a kicker may seem a stretch, however, it is worthwhile mentioning that the 4th round pick used in the trade was received from the Bears when they traded with the Bucs when moving up in the first round. With the 11th pick, the Bucs selected Vernon Hargreaves III who they would have selected with the 9th pick so the Bucs got their man and an extra 4th round selection which was then used to get Aguayo. Will Aguayo prove to be worth such a high pick? Only time will tell but with the Bucs losing 14 of their last 32 games by one score or less the importance of a kicker cannot be understated.
The selection of Vernon Hardgreaves III in round 1 was almost guaranteed. A Tampa native and athletic Corner Back, VHIII should be an instant upgrade on the position. Biggest concern from the experts appear to be focused on his size. It is worthwhile pointing out at this stage that he is the same height as Future HOF CB Ronde Barber………..
Pass Rush was another area of need and the Bucs rectified this when they selected Defensive End Noah Spence in the 2nd round. Spence’s speed and endurance abilities should enable the Defense to get more pressure on opposing QB’s. Spence has previously had off the field issues, however,after choosing not to join the 2015 Draft and instead transferring to Eastern Kentucky where he had a standout season, the Bucs will be hoping that his off the field issues are well behind him.
Ryan Smith in the 4th round could be an absolute steal. Although listed as a CB, he has the potential to play Safety. Due to his speed and college kick-off return average, expect Smith to be a key member of the Special Team.
Stuart is a big NFL fan who loves the roller coaster of emotions that comes with being a Buccaneers fan. When he isn’t watching the NFL he is busy daydreaming about spending the rest of his days on Clearwater Beach with a Tampa Bay Cheerleader. P.S. Don’t tell his wife that. Stuart can be followed on Twitter @stuarty1973.