NFC SOUTH DRAFT GRADES

BY ADAM GREENE

We’re in the home stretch with our NFL Draft Grades, focusing the stink eye on the NFC South and man, did they deserve it.

It’s the exact opposite of the NFC East, which saw every team pass with flying colors. The South is no danger of rising again, with only one team in this group avoiding academic probation.

The ground rules remain the same.

1. For a team to receive an “A” rating, they must have at least one first round selection. That doesn’t mean they can’t nail the other rounds of the draft or steal players on Day Three. Super Bowl teams are built on rosters like that. I can only judge a draft based on the perceived impact this draft will have on these teams sooner rather than later. But none of these teams got a grade that high anyway, so that’s nothing to worry about.

2. I am basing my Draft Grade on the players selected and how each player performed in college. I do not care how well they exercised at the NFL Combine. If they couldn’t put up serious numbers against college opponents, especially in smaller conferences, how in the hell are they going to do it in the NFL?

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Selections: No. 11: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State — No. 19: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa — No. 49: Alontae Taylor, CB, Tennessee — No. 161: D’Marco Jackson, LB, Appalachian State — No. 194: Jordan Jackson, DT, Air Force

GRADE: B+

As I say in the preamble, the draft grades are primarily delivered on a team’s picks in the first three rounds. Since New Orleans didn’t have a third, they just had three qualifying guys and all look like hits to me. The Saints will place Olave outside with fellow Buckeye Michael Thomas and then slide Jarvis Landry into the slot. That sounds pretty deadly to me. Penning, coming from the FCS, might need to develop for a while and, frankly, the bust potential is high, but against FCS competition, Pro Football Focus gave him a 99.9 grade as a run blocker, the highest anyone’s ever received.

Taylor survived the Jeremy Pruitt Tennessee nightmare to flourish on a more national stage under Josh Heupel. He continues a recent tradition of New Orleans stealing players later in the draft that were buried on bad Volunteers teams.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Selections: No. 8: Drake London, WR, USC — No. 38: Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State — No. 58: Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State — No. 74: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati — No. 82: DeAngelo Malone, Edge, Western Kentucky — No. 151: Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU — No. 190: Justin Shaffer, OG, Georgia — No. 213: John FitsPatrick, TE, Georgia

GRADE: C+

There’s a lot of “we’re smarter than everyone else” in this draft. London was a first rounder, but should he have been the first wide receiver off the board with Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams (even hurt) still there? We’ll have to see, but I don’t think anyone outside of the Falcons’ war room had London ranked as the top WR. Ebiketie is a good second round pick and will likely be a day one starter. After that is where we go off the rails.

Andersen from Montana State seems like a huge reach, especially with so many quality linebackers taken after him.  Ridder is fine there in the third and one of only two QBs I actually think might have a real future in the league (none of them are named Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis). Malone out of Western Kentucky managed a lot of tackles for a loss, 17.5, with Western Kentucky but just had eight sacks in 14 games against that schedule. There’s nothing here past London and Ebiketie to be excited about.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Selections: No. 6: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State — No. 94: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi — No. 120: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State — No. 189: Amare Barno, Edge, Virginia Tech — No. 199: Cade Mays, OG, Tennessee — No. 242: Kalon Barnes, CB, Baylor

GRADE: C-

Ekwonu is another outsmart yourself pick, just like Travon Walker taken at No. 1. Evan Neal was sitting right there and you took a guy that exercised really well at the NFL Combine over a guy that faced every elite pass rusher in the NCAA. No second rounder hurts and I like the Corral pick in the third. He and Ridder are the only QBs in this draft I feel have any real pro potential past lifelong back ups.

Not a lot of chances taken later in the draft, which I can appreciate. Mays might turn into a starter in a couple of years so there’s some value there. For a team with a lot of holes and maybe the worst overall roster in the league, they did nothing to really help themselves in the draft.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Selections: No. 33: Logan Hall, DE, Houston — No. 57: Luke Goedeke, OG, Central Michigan — No. 91: Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State — No. 106: Cade Otton, TE, Washington — No. 133: Jake Camarda, Punter, Georgia — No. 157: Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston State — No. 218: Ko Kieft, TE, Minnesota — No. 248: Andre Anthony, LB, LSU

GRADE: C-

It’s a good thing the Buccaneers didn’t have a lot of roster holes, because they did absolutely nothing to upgrade their team in this draft. Hall looks like a rotational player at best. He did have 13 tackles for a loss for the Cougars last season, but only six sacks. And against an AAC schedule? That doesn’t look like a second round pick to me, especially the first pick of the second round. Goedeke will be a good player for a long time and even though Tampa already has its offensive line, I have no issue adding a player of that caliber when they fall into your lap.

White is just another guy at running back and it wouldn’t shock me if most of these guys taken from the fourth round on weren’t on the team in three years.

Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.

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