With much of the world focused on Sunday’s Super Bowl, we in the NFC South are reduced to looking ahead to the NFL draft.
That’s not a bad thing because it’s the next big event for each of the four division teams. Between now and April, the mock drafts are going to change repeatedly. But I’ve just spotted a new one, so let’s take a look and focus on the NFC South picks.
This mock is by FoxSports.com’s Peter Schrager and it comes after the week of Senior Bowl practices, which shed some light on the seniors in the draft.
With the No. 1 overall pick, Schrager has the Carolina Panthers taking Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers.
My take: Bowers is entirely possible here. He’s the best pass-rusher in the draft and maybe the best athlete. But I think Carolina has bigger needs at defensive tackle and quarterback. At this point -- and we’re not even to the scouting combine yet -- I say the Panthers go with Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley. But I’m also not ruling out a quarterback and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert could be the guy. He’s going No. 8 to Tennessee in this mock and I’ve seen him crack the top five in some others. Lots of people say Gabbert isn’t worth the No. 1 pick. But if the Panthers do their homework and see him as a franchise quarterback, what’s the difference between him going at No. 1 or No. 5?
My take: I’m in total agreement on this one. The Bucs spent last year working on the interior of their defensive line. Now, they need to focus on the outside and develop a pass-rusher. Clayborn fits the profile. The only real question will be if Clayborn is available when the Bucs pick. If he’s not, there’s a cluster of other defensive ends, including Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, Missouri’s Aldon Smith and California’s Cameron Jordan and any one of them could help the pass rush.
At No. 24, Schrager has the New Orleans Saints taking Kerrigan.
My take: Kerrigan, or any of the defensive ends mentioned above, would be strong possibilities if available. The Saints need another pass-rusher to go with Will Smith. But you can’t lock onto one position when picking this late in the draft. Outside linebacker and running back also are possibilities.
My take: I like the player, but I’m not sure an interior lineman is what the Falcons need with their first-round pick. Yes, center Todd McClure is getting older and Harvey Dahl can become a free agent, but the Falcons prepared for that by taking two linemen in last year’s draft. I’d rather see them get a receiver like Maryland’s Torrey Smith or Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin. But here’s one other idea and it goes back to the offensive line: Left tackle Sam Baker hasn’t developed into the force the Falcons hoped for. Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo is likely to be available. Might be a good idea to get one Boston College guy to protect another -- quarterback Matt Ryan.