Thursday, 07 May 2015 00:00

Draft Grades: NFC South

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My second installment of the Fantasy Football Helpers Draft Grades features one of the more peculiar divisions in the NFL, the NFC South. Like many of you know the NFC South was the only division in football to not have a team finish the season above .500

Atlanta Falcons

Players Drafted

1 (08). Vic Beasley LEO/Clemson

2 (42). Jalen Collins CB/LSU

3 (73). Tevin Coleman RB/Indiana University

4 (107). Justin Hardy WR/East Carolina

5 (137). Grady Jarrett DT/Clemson

7 (225). Jake Rodgers OT/Eastern Washington

7 (249). Akeem King FS/San Jose State

While the Atlanta Falcons did not do as much to protect franchise quarterback Matt Ryan as I would have liked, I absolutely love what they were able to acquire on the defensive side of the football. With three defensive players selected in the team's first five picks it is clear that former Seahawks defensive coordinator, and new Falcons Head Coach, Dan Quinn has made it his objective to fix one of the league's worst overall units. 

There was some hype early on in the week prior to the draft that the Falcons may actually invest a top-10 pick on Georgia running back Todd Gurley. While I believe Gurley is one of, if not the best players, available in the 2015 NFL Draft the Falcons have more pressing needs than running back. Turns out Dan Quinn was awarded a toy for his new defensive scheme when the team selected Clemson EDGE rusher Vic Beasley. While Beasley alone does not possess much value in standard leagues he will add some juice to a group of pass-rushers that managed only 22.0 sacks as a team, ranking 30th in the NFL. 

In addition to adding the former Clemson Tiger, the Falcons invested their second round pick on LSU CB Jalen Collins, a personal favorite of mine in this cornerback class. There is no doubt that Collins was inconsistent in his time in Baton Rouge, Collins possesses the size (6'1", 203 lbs) and speed (4.4) that it takes to excel in Quinn's press-man defensive scheme. If Collins is able to overcome a foot injury that will cost him some of the offseason training program, there is the possibility Collins could be starting day 1 as the compliment to third-year cornerback Desmond Trufant. 

While the Falcons did a lot too address their putrid excuse for a defense they could not help themselves from investing on some young, offensive talent. Third round selection Tevin Coleman is a player that I expect to have a major impact during his rookie season. With Steven Jackson officially out of town there is a gaping hole in the Falcons that is just waiting to be filled by either the aforementioned Coleman or Devonta Freeman, who the team invested a 4th round pick in last season. If Coleman is able to win the starting running back job during training camp/pre-season I believe he has the ability to reach every week RB2 value in Kyle Shannahan's zone-run scheme. 

Grade: A


Carolina Panthers

Players Drafted

1 (25). Shaq Thompson OLB/Washington

2 (41). Devin Funchess WR/Michigan

4 (102). Daryl Williams OT/Oklahoma

5 (169). David Mayo ILB/Texas State

5 (174). Cameron Artis-Payne RB/Auburn

While the Panthers did not do lot from a quantity perspective, the Panthers added some very intriguing pieces that possess some sneaky fantasy potential next season. The Panthers made it clear they wanted to add some youth to their linebacking corps, adding Washington Husky S/OLB hybrid Shaq Thompson. While it is unclear how Thompson will be used, he possesses a unique skill-set with the ability to be a major asset in nickel and sub packages.

Second round pick Devin Funchess is one of the most intruiging draft picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. Equipped with a massive frame the thought is that Devin Funchess is going to plug in immediately as the Panthers no. 2 receiver, however I expect the team to find more creative ways to use the athletic playmaker. The former Wolverine was used both inline as a tight end, flexed out in the slot, and out wide as a boundary receiver during his college career. While Funchess was held back by suspect quarterback play, he still displayed improved route-running, the ability to be a red-zone mismatch, as well as improved body control with the ability to make contested catches. 

The best pick, and the one that I believe fantasy football owners need to take note of is the Panther's second 5th round pick Cameron Artis-Payne, the running back out of Auburn. While slightly undersize (5'10, 212 lbs), I believe Payne is in a position to see major playing time during his rookie season. However I believe Artis-Payne will be forced into action due to the inability for veteran running back Jonathan Stewart to stay healthy. During Stewart's 7-year career he has only been able to stay healthy for all 16 games four times, and has never carried the ball more than 225 times in any season. For fantasy owner's looking for a late round stash in re-draft formats this is a guy that I would take the gamble on, for the price, over guys like Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon

While the Carolina Panther's did not make the biggest splashes during the draft, they were able to add some quality pieces that should contribute sooner-rather-than-later. Thompson should fit in immediately next to Thomas Davis as the team's WLB, and should prove to be a major asset in nickel and sub packages in the pass-happy NFC South, while 5th round tackling machine David Mayo should make an impact on special teams. 4th round pick Daryl Williams will likely battle with veteran Mark Remmers for the starting right tackle spot, and could potentially kick inside to guard if needed. 

Grade: B-


New Orleans Saints

Players Drafted

1 (13). Andrus Peat OT/Stanford

1 (31). Stephone Anthony ILB/Clemson

2 (44). Hau'oli Kikaha OLB/Washington

3 (75). Garrett Grayson QB/Colorado State

3 (78). P.J. Williams CB/Florida State

5 (148). Davis Tull OLB/Chattanooga

5 (154). Tyeler Davison DT/Fresno State

7 (230). Marcus Murphy RB/Missouri

This was a very interesting offseason for the Saints. In the middle of "cap hell" the Saints were forced to make some head-scratching moves, including the trade sending All-Pro Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks in exchange for a first-round pick in 2015 and center Max Unger. With Drew Brees getting another year older, and the team making it an emphasis to improve an offensive line unit that was decimated by injuries, the Saints could potentially make the switch to a run-based offense.

In my opinion, the three biggest needs that the Saints needed to address this offseason was the offensive line, defensive back, and linebacker. The Saints started off the draft with the selection of Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat, a massive tackle that possesses road-grading run blocking ability that needs to improve as a pass blocker. Peat's outlook is likely protecting a team's blindside, but I believe Peat could supplant veteran Zach Strief as the team's starting tight tackle during his rookie season. 

The Saints used their second first-round pick on Stephone Anthony, an athletic middle linebacker out of Clemson University. While Anthony was overlooked by prospects like Paul Dawson and Eric Kendricks, Anthony was considered by some to have the highest ceiling out of the 2015 linebacker class due to his elite athleticism, and ability to stay on the field in nickel and sub packages. 

Perhaps the most perplexing pick the Saints made was 3rd round selection of Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson. While I like Grayson's skill-set he will likely not see the field unless Brees' suffers an injury, or retires for some reason. 

Overall I thought that the Saints had a very good draft. While the selection of Washington Hau'oli Kikaha was perplexing due to his lack of measurables and potential injury red flags, the Saints clearly wanted to add some youth to one of the oldest defensive units in the NFL. 

Grade: B-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Players Drafted

1 (1) Jameis Winston QB/Florida State

2 (34) Donovan Smith OT/Penn State

2 (61). Ali Marpet OG/Hobart

4 (124) Kwon Alexander OLB/LSU

5 (162) Kenny Bell WR/Nebraska

6 (184) Kaelin Clay WR/Utah

7 (231) Joey Iosefa FB/Hawaii

With the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston, the former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Florida State University. While Winston possesses some of the most pro-ready talent of a quarterback prospect in recent memory, Winston also come with some interesting off-the-field maturity issues leading people to question whethe or not Winston can be trusted as the face of an NFL franchise. 

Aside from adding my no. 1 quarterback prospect, the Buccaneers did a great job adding some talent to one of the worst offensive line units in the NFL. The re-build started when the Buccaneers invested the 34th overall pick on Penn State tackle Donovan Smith. While Smith battled some inconsistencies with pass protection in college, he possesses the frame and athletic ability to be a starting left tackle at the NFL level. The Bucs did not stop their when adding offensive line depth, as they added one of the most popular players for #DraftTwitter in DIII Hobart's Ali Marpet. Although Marpet played his college football against weaker competition then most prospects, Marpet was able to prove himself as one of the top interior lineman prospects during the Reese's Senior Bowl. With the addition's of Marpet and Smith, the Buccaneers offensive line took a positive step in the right direction if they want Winston to develop into the quarterback they envision. 

The most underrated draft pick by the Buccaneers, in my opinion, came from the team's 5th round selection Kenny Bell. During Bell's time at Nebraska he was regularly held back by the quarterback play of Taylor "T-Magic" Martinez and Tommy Armstrong, but was still able to flash legitimate deep play ability and an underrated ability to run a full NFL route tree. With the twin towers of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson drawing the attention of defenses down the field, Bell is in a great position to see single coverage on a weekly basis. If Bell is able to win the job as the team's slot receiver I would not be surprised to see Bell reach low WR3-WR4 value in new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's pass based offense.

Grade: B


Catch up on all of our NFL Draft Grades by clicking on the links below:

NFC North


Photo Courtesy of MGoBlog Flickr Page

Last modified on Sunday, 10 May 2015 18:09

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