2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC South Edition

Mandatory Minicamp has just concluded, and school is over for me.  So today, I’ll be resuming my NFL Draft Report Card series with the NFC South.  Teams in the NFC South either thrived in this draft or struggled mightily.  Which teams do I think benefitted the most?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

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NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

Overall, this was a pretty solid draft for Carolina.  They found a high upside WR in Round 7 to replace Devin Funchess.  They filled their needs at tackle and edge early.  They even took a QB in case Cam Newton fails to stay healthy.  Will Grier is a big upgrade for Carolina at backup QB as opposed to Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen.

The Panthers did have a lot of needs going in, and with just 7 picks, it was hard to fill them all.  But they could’ve traded down at some point, and they could’ve taken a corner to play across from Donte Jackson as opposed to RB Jordan Scarlett.  Christian McCaffrey is a long term solution for Carolina at RB1, and they are set if he gets hurt thanks to Cameron Artis-Payne.  It’s somewhat smart to add depth there in case multiple injuries occur, but they needed a corner more, and McCaffrey has not been terribly injury prone.  Despite a couple mistakes in the later rounds, this was a pretty good draft, and it would’ve been hard for Carolina to do much better.

nosaints New Orleans Saints

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

It was hard for the Saints to succeed with only 5 picks, 4 of which were on Day 3.  But unlike Philadelphia, who was also limited to 5 picks, the Saints found a way to fill a few needs early on and make the most of their draft situation.  They drafted Erik McCoy in Round 2 to fill their biggest need as he replaces the retired Max Unger at center.  They also snagged a top safety, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson with their 2nd pick.  They could have looked for a receiver later on, and some of their later picks were reaches, but the Saints got off to a strong start and should be able to look back and admire this draft class in a few years.

tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Overall Grade: C+

Analysis:

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Analysis:

The Buccaneers had some really strong picks, and some questionable ones.  The team will have flexibility on defense after drafting LB Devin White in Round 1 and edge rusher Anthony Nelson in the 4th.  But beyond that, the Bucs struggled in this draft.  They didn’t really fill many of their needs.  I would think they would draft a running back after the Year 1 struggles of Ronald Jones II, but maybe they need to give RoJo more of a chance before giving up on him, something other teams neglected to do for their rookie and second year busts.

The team also could’ve used more depth at WR beyond Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but they chose not to draft anyone until Round 6, when they reached for Scott Miller of Bowling Green.  They did sign Breshad Perriman, but I don’t know if that will be enough.  Expect to see a lot of 2 TE schemes with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate on the roster.    The team also reached for a kicker once again.  This team didn’t have that many huge needs, so I would’ve thought they would fill more of those as opposed to drafting three unnecessary defensive backs and reaching for some other players.

atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons

Overall Grade: C

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

The Falcons really needed some depth at linebacker with Vic Beasley playing defensive end, but they didn’t end up drafting one.  Who will be lining up on either side of Deion Jones come Week 1?  I can’t name anyone definitively right now.  They did get o-line help, but both o-linemen they drafted in Round 1 may have been found available in Round 2, or at least someone almost as good as them.  The team did draft some secondary depth and a couple RBs to backup for Devonta Freeman, but those picks were also reaches.  All of their picks were either a reach or an unnecessary pick.  I would’ve expected a couple spot on selections.


 

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  In my next post, I’ll be reviewing the NFC West’s draft classes.  Which NFC West teams stood out the most in this year’s draft?  Stay tuned for my next post to find out.

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2018 NFL Week 8 Picks & Previews: Could be Exciting Sunday with Many Close Games

Welcome to my NFL Week 8 Picks and Previews.  Last week I went 8-6, putting my overall record at 61-44-2 (62-44-2 including Week 8 TNF).  I’m hoping for at least 9 or 10 wins this week to get ahead of the ESPN and CBS Sports experts I am trying to compete with.  I am ahead of just 1 expert from each website.  This week, expect a lot of close, exciting games.  Even Vegas is predicting this, as many of their NFL point spreads this week are under 4.  But with lots of close games comes lots of surprises.  Who will pull a shocking upset?  Who will stand strong and win as expected?  Read below to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week (MNF)

Stay tuned for a potential video preview closer to the game!

There are not many locks this week, but the Patriots should be able to take down the QB Josh Allen-less Bills with ease.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in Buffalo, and it doesn’t matter that it’s Monday Night Football.  Expect QB Tom Brady and the Pats to dominate here, taking an early lead and running with it.  The Patriots defense isn’t going to go from shaky to shut down in a week, but it should hold a struggling, banged-up Bills offense to 20 or less points. One thing this offense does have on the New England is a strong run game.  New England has continued to struggle against strong run games this year.  But I don’t expect much else from the Bills offense, and the Pats should end up winning by 10 or more.

Upset of the Week

This would be a shocker given Kansas City’s performance in Denver and Denver’s tendency to perform far better at home.  But it’s hard to beat the same team twice, especially when they are riding the momentum of a 45-10 victory including a spectacular defensive game.  I understand that it was the Cardinals, but momentum is momentum. Thanks to this momentum, I think Denver’s D will do surprisingly well in stopping Kansas City’s dominant offense.  This all-offense Chiefs team will struggle against a Broncos offense that has improved from 2017. TE Travis Kelce will catch Kansas City’s lone TD as the rest of the offense is overwhelmed by the Denver D in an upsetting loss.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night)

Expect a low scoring game as the Texans shut down defense overwhelms QB Brock Osweiler and the young Miami pass offense.  Expect the Dolphins backfield to struggle as well, with Houston’s defense holding them under 50 yards combined. I don’t see the Texans dominating on offense, but it will be enough thanks to a strong game by WR DeAndre Hopkins and the front seven’s performance.
Sunday, 9:30 AM EST (Posted to Twitter before the game)

I don’t think Jacksonville’s defense will look as sharp as usual in London, especially after 4 Jaguars defenders were arrested last night.  But they will improve from the surprising struggles of the last couple weeks.  Look for QB Blake Bortles to regroup and rebound after being replaced last week, leading the Jags to a surprising London victory.  But Philly should keep it close with strong run defense against the troubled Jags run game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

In this battle of two of the league’s rising defenses, don’t expect much from either young QB.  QB Mitch Trubisky and his receivers will put up a dud against New York’s amazing secondary. But the Jets offense won’t be looking any better with RB Bilal Powell and most of their best receivers hurt.  Chicago’s defense should come up clutch, holding the Jets under 10 and saving Chicago the game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Browns tied the Steelers in Cleveland, but don’t expect as close a game in Pittsburgh.  The Steelers will make up for RB Le’Veon Bell’s continued absence with a dominant day by WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.  Pittsburgh’s D should also appear surprisingly better, holding the Browns young offense under 20.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Jameis Winston and his TE duo to lead Tampa to victory against a Bengals defense left with holes after losses in free agency.  QB Andy Dalton and his receivers should make this close, but the defensive problems will begin to stab them in the back. The Bucs will win on the road thanks to another big day on offense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a strong game out of QB Cam Newton and the Panthers offense.  But the Ravens versatile defense should slow them down significantly.  However, Baltimore’s receivers will still struggle to keep up as Newton’s multi-TD game is enough to lead Carolina to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

I know most people would call me crazy for expecting 34 points out of the Giants.  But this is a team that beat the 5-3 Houston Texans.  I don’t think the G-Men are really as bad as they seem.  Even the GM has given up.  But I think the Giants will turn it around and win a few games before the season ends.  They have a talented, star-studded offense.  All they need is a QB who can manage that.  If QB Eli Manning cannot, maybe another QB on the roster is the answer.  WR Odell Beckham Jr. will be kept busy against CB Josh Norman, but you can expect strong games out of RB Saquon Barkley and New York’s other offensive weapons. The Redskins will make this close with a clutch offensive performance, but I have them falling just short.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Matt Patricia’s Lions to win another one on home turf as they begin to look like legitimate contenders.  The Seahawks should be able to overwhelm the Lions D, one of Detroit’s biggest flaws this year.  But QB Matthew Stafford’s 3 TD game should be enough for a Lions home victory.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Colts should make this close with a surprisingly strong offensive performance led by QB Andrew Luck and WR T.Y. Hilton.  They will take advantage of a weak, rebuilding Raiders D.  But expect Oakland to shine on offense against Indy, who has one of the worst defenses in the league.  It doesn’t matter if WR Amari Cooper is here or not. The Raiders will miss Cooper and injured RB Marshawn Lynch, but should still manage to win. If they can beat the Browns in Oakland, they can do the same to Indy.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST
I was tempted to pick the Packers in an upset as the Rams offense struggles without injured WR Cooper Kupp.  But this versatile Rams defense is just too good to allow 20+ points to a Packers offense that lacks WR depth despite an amazing QB in Aaron Rodgers.  Defense will win the Rams this game as they remain undefeated.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Arizona’s only win so far this year was in San Francisco.  I think they can beat the QB Jimmy Garoppolo-less 49ers again in Arizona.  They will be led by strong games out of young QB Josh Rosen and RB David Johnson.  The Niners should look decent on offense and make this close.  But I think the Cardinals will hold on on home turf.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

 

I think Minnesota’s offense will be slowed by a young Saints D that just added CB Eli Apple.  But the Vikings defense should look even better, holding the Saints under 20 points and to just 1 TD.  This shut down defensive performance should lead the Vikes to victory.

That’s all for my picks and previews this week.  Stay tuned for more NFL posts soon, including my midseason report next week.