Offseason Grades: NFC South

  • Atlanta Falcons
    • Best Draft Pick – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
      • With Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, and now Ridley, the Falcons have gotten back to having the elite receiving core they had during their Super Bowl run. Justin Hardy had been slotted in as the third receiver before this pick, but he is definitely better fitted for the number four spot.
    • Worst Draft Pick – Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss
      • Smith had great college production and quality testing numbers. However, at only 5’9” 200 lbs., his ceiling isn’t much more than a quality third-down back. In the fourth round, there were better running backs available.
    • Best Signing – Justin Bethel, CB
      • The Falcons didn’t make very many signings outside of their organization. Bethel could be a quality depth defensive back this season.
    • Worst Loss – Dontari Poe, DL
      • Poe is a very inconsistent nose tackle with a very high ceiling. Grady Jarrett paired with Poe was dominant on the interior defensive line last season, combining for 57 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
    • Grade: B-
  • Carolina Panthers
    • Best Draft Pick – Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
      • Jackson was a great pick in the second round. With 4.32 speed and quality tape from LSU, he provides an immediate quality presence at the slot cornerback position with the potential to develop into an elite inside-outside corner.
    • Worst Draft Pick – Andre Smith, LB, North Carolina
      • Smith is very athletic, he just hasn’t shown a ton of skill on the football field.
    • Best Signing – CJ Anderson, RB
      • I understand why the Broncos cut Anderson. He’s only a few years away from being old for a running back, and Denver wanted to start giving major carries to Devontae Booker and Royce Freeman. On the other hand, Anderson is a perfect fit for the Panthers, who needed a new big, tough, workhorse back to pair with the elite change-of-pace skills of Christian McCaffrey.
    • Worst Loss – Andrew Norwell, OL
      • Norwell was the rare offensive lineman worth enough to be in the conversation for the franchise tag. Alas, the Panthers let go of the only consistently elite player on their offensive line.
    • Grade: C+
  • New Orleans Saints
    • Best Draft Pick – Will Clapp, OL, LSU
      • Taking Clapp with their last pick was the best possible way the Saints’ could’ve ended a horrendous draft. I had a day-two grade on Clapp, and he could start as a rookie. His pass-blocking needs a little bit of work, but he can step in as a quality run-blocking guard or center immediately.
    • Worst Draft Pick – Marcus Davenport, DL, UTSA
      • Davenport was clearly worth the pick at 14. What he wasn’t worth was giving up a future first for. I was expecting a nasty rookie season for him anyway, as he adjusts from Conference USA competition to the NFL. A future first is just way too much to give up for a player who isn’t going to be elite immediately.
    • Best Signing – Cameron Meredith, WR
      • I feel confident that Meredith can be a number-one receiver in this league. Nonetheless, he is recovering from a major injury, and the Saints have no good receivers left other than Michael Thomas. If they want to have a good season, they need big seasons from both of their top receivers.
    • Worst Loss – Coby Fleener, TE
      • Fleener provided them with something they now lack – a second chain-mover to Michael Thomas. In terms of the passing game, defenses can key on Thomas a lot more now because they don’t have to worry about the vertical stretch that a quality tight end provides. This position is arguably the Saints’ biggest weakness now.
    • Grade: F
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    • Best Draft Pick – Vita Vea, DL, Washington
      • Vea was clearly the best interior defensive lineman in the draft this year. He is a monster of a man at 6’4” 350 lbs. with 41 bench press reps. He will demand double and triple teams on every single play, opening up opportunities for Gerald McCoy, newly acquired Jason Pierre-Paul and new signing Vinny Curry.
    • Worst Draft Pick – Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin
      • This was clearly a boom-or-bust pick. If Cichy can recover from his torn ACL fully, he could be one of the better players from this draft. However, it doesn’t look like he will be ready for training camp or even the beginning of the season, so his rookie season will probably be a redshirt year.
    • Best Signing – Chandler Catanzaro, K
      • I know that kicker isn’t the splashiest signing the Bucs could’ve made, but after the disaster that was Roberto Aguayo, Nick Folk proved to be even worse. Catanzaro has made 84% of field goals and 94% of extra points in his career. He should finally provide stability for Tampa at this spot.
    • Worst Loss – Doug Martin, RB
      • In six NFL seasons, Martin has produced two seasons with 1400 yards, and four seasons with 200. In the two 1400-yard seasons, he averaged 4.6 and 4.9 yards per carry, respectively. In the other four seasons, he’s averaged 3.6, 3.7, and 2.9 yards per carry twice. Some interesting facts about Martin: His two big seasons were the only seasons in his career where he has played all 16 games. Also, the last two seasons he has averaged 2.9 yards per carry both years. I agree that the Bucs needed a new workhorse back, but with over 1,000 career carries, Martin has the experience to have been a nice mentor to the new starter.
    • Grade: B+

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