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NFL Draft: Team Needs - NFC South
John Tuvey
April 1, 2008
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Atlanta Falcons

Primary Needs
The good news is, the Falcons have four of the first 48 picks and seven selections in the top 103. Offsetting that is the fact that Atlanta has at least as many holes in their lineup to be filled. With Atlanta’s largest needs being a quarterback and several widebodies to protect him, it doesn’t take Shakespeare to write the script for the Falcons’ first day of drafting. The trade of DeAngelo Hall creates a need in the secondary as well, as does the free agency departure of Alge Crumpler.

Fantasy Impact
Michael Turner will make the biggest splash in Atlanta’s fantasy fortunes, but a new quarterback would certainly factor into the starting mix with Chris Redman and Joey Harrington. One or more early picks spent on offensive line help would bode well not only for a new quarterback but also for Turner and whatever table scraps are left for Jerious Norwood. And Ben Hartsock could use some help filling Crumpler’s shoes.

Potential Targets
In a worst-case scenario, Jake Long and Matt Ryan will be off the board and the Falcons would have to “settle” for Glenn Dorsey. Three second-round picks could be directed towards a next-tier quarterback such as Chad Henne and more help up front like Virginia’s Branden Albert, USC’s Sam Baker, or (heck, maybe “and”) Gosder Cherilus of Boston College. Last year’s fourth-round pick, tight end Martrez Milner, could be joined by Tennessee’s Brad Cottam or Michigan State’s Kellen Davis.

Carolina Panthers

Primary Needs
It’s not as if Carolina’s roster is riddled with holes, but they have plenty of directions they could go with four of the first 74 selections. A deep second-tier of quarterbacks—or perhaps even a top-tier signal-caller who slides—could yield an heir to Jake Delhomme. The Panthers franchised Jordan Gross and signed Keydrick Vincent, but again the depth of this year’s draft class could allow them to find quality 60 picks deep. The Panthers believe they’ve addressed the gaping yaw opposite Steve Smith by bringing back Muhsin Muhammad, but with Drew Carter and Keary Colbert both gone and Dwayne Jarrett hardly a proven commodity Carolina could pluck a third receiver out of this year’s class. There’s still a need at safety, and if there’s any truth to the rumors of Carolina shopping Julius Peppers they’ll need to add a pass rusher.

Fantasy Impact
Unless the Panthers have one of the top two quarterbacks fall into their laps and Delhomme suffers yet another serious injury, Carolina’s fantasy factors are already on their roster. Offensive line help could boost the fantasy potential of DeAngelo Williams and also positively impact Smith and Muhammy by keeping Delhomme upright, but that’s a subtle effect many fantasy folks don’t take into account. There’s a possibility Carolina could draft a running mate for Williams; unless you enjoyed the fantasy quagmire the Double De’s situation presented last year you’re not exactly hoping for a redux.

Potential Targets
Despite the need at safety, the 13th overall selection is a bit early for Kenny Phillips. Linemen such as Chris Williams and Branden Albert should still be on the board, as well as defensive ends like Derrick Harvey and Calais Campbell. Brian Brohm might slip down the board as well, or the Panthers could wait until the second round and groom Delaware’s Joe Flacco. Third-round picks used to fill needs not addressed earlier could focus on defensive end Darrell Robertson of Georgia Tech; Cal safety Thomas Decoud; or linemen such as Oregon State’s Roy Schuening or Tony Hills of Texas. 

New Orleans Saints

Primary Needs
The assumption last year was that New Orleans would address needs along the defensive side of the ball—so of course they took wide receiver Robert Meachem with their first pick. They wouldn’t do that again, would they? Not with so many needs on defense they won’t. Yes, they added Jonathan Vilma, Randall Gay, and Bobby McCray via free agency but there are still needs at corner (anything to keep Jason David off the field) and along the interior of the defensive line. The Saints’ offensive line has played well the past two seasons but lost center Jeff Faine and would benefit from additional depth as well.

Fantasy Impact
Unless the Saints decide they’ll try to win games 49-42 they won’t be paying much attention to their offense on draft day. Any moves they do make on that side of the ball will come up front or for depth, leaving the heavy fantasy lifting to the existing core of skill position players.

Potential Targets
The name that pops up in most mock drafts when the Saints select at No. 10 is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie; if he’s gone that probably means Leodis McKelvin is still available. Arizona State’s Mike Pollak is regarded as the top center in this draft and may still be on the board in the third round; if he’s not, Steve Justice of Wake Forest and Notre Dame’s John Sullivan are hardly consolation prizes. In later rounds the Saints should target secondary depth in the form of Connecticut’s Tyvon Branch or Auburn’s Jonathan Wilhite.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Primary Needs
For a team that won its division last year the Bucs have plenty of issues to address on draft day. The signing of Jeff Faine addressed a need at center, but if Carnell Williams’ injury is career-threatening and the Bucs don’t think Earnest Graham can repeat last year’s performance there’s a big need in the backfield. Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard are hardly the future at wide receiver, and the signing of Antonio Bryant still leaves work to be done at the position. Tampa Bay’s defense could use some bulk in the middle, and Ronde Barber isn’t getting any younger. Finally, don’t forget how Jon Gruden loves to collect quarterbacks.

Fantasy Impact
With Cadillac up on blocks, there is a distinct possibility the Bucs draft a back to complement, compete with, or maybe even usurp Graham in the ground game. A rookie receiver would have to fight through plenty of flotsam and jetsam (Bryant, Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall) just to line up in the slot. If Gruden indulges his quarterback obsession it will be purely on the developmental level.

Potential Targets
Tampa Bay could tweak the Cowboys by snagging Felix Jones before Jerry Jones could scratch his Razorback itch. Or they may find a speedy replacement for Galloway in the form of Cal’s DeSean Jackson. A pass rusher like Florida’s Derrick Harvey may be too good to resist, forcing the Bucs to use later selections to address offensive needs. Running backs such as Georgia Tech’s Tashard Choice or Matt Forte of Tulane might make their way to Tampa; wide receiver alternatives include Andre Caldwell of Florida or Houston’s Donnie Avery.


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