NFC South mini-mock draft

Some good news to share with you. The ESPN Blog Network will be doing its own mock draft, which each blogger making the picks for his division.

I won’t give you the exact date just yet, but it will be coming the week of the draft. This something many of you have been asking about and I’d been pitching it to the Boys in Bristol that make the big decisions. I think some of my colleagues may have been doing the same. Anyway, we just found out we’ve been cleared to do it.

Again, this is down the road a bit. So, to help pass the time, I’ve decided to do a preliminary mock draft for the NFC South teams. Obviously, we don’t know what other teams will do and that’s going to shape what NFC South teams can do. This is subject to change and I’ll probably do it again several times before we do the league-wide mock draft.

But, as of the moment, here’s what I’m thinking for the first pick for each NFC South team:

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. First, they have to hope and pray the Rams take quarterback Sam Bradford at No. 1. If St. Louis doesn’t do that, the Rams and Lions could take defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy with the first two picks. If that happens, it could be disastrous for the Bucs. They need a defensive tackle probably more than any team has needed a certain position in history. If they don’t get one, they could try to trade down. If they can’t trade down, they’ll have to settle for safety Eric Berry. For right now, I’ll say they end up with a defensive tackle. I’m going to say Suh goes to the Lions and McCoy to the Bucs.

19. Atlanta Falcons. The glaring need is at defensive end. But the chances of an elite pass rusher at No. 19 are slim. The other obvious need is outside linebacker. Sean Weatherspoon's name keeps coming up, but I’m going outside the box here. I’m giving the Falcons Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman. This is more of a hunch than anything, but I keep hearing a lot of teams like Bowman better than Weatherspoon and I’m thinking the Falcons could be one of them.

32. New Orleans Saints. The flip side to winning the Super Bowl is you get the last pick of the first round and are at the mercy of the teams ahead of you. But the good news is the Saints don’t have huge holes and can pretty much go for the best athlete available. Quarterbacks and wide receivers are off the board here, but the Saints can go in just about any other direction. Defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker would seem like the biggest needs. I’m going with Weatherspoon to the Saints.

48. Carolina Panthers. They traded away their first-round pick last year to get defensive end Everette Brown. A lot of people think the Panthers will take a wide receiver and there’s a very real chance they will. But I wouldn’t go that way, given the fact the Panthers used early picks on Dwayne Jarrett and Keary Colbert and neither developed into anything. Part of the blame falls on Jarrett and Colbert. But I put more blame on John Fox and offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson. They’ve been too conservative to let young wide receivers do much and it’s tough to get much out of your No. 2 when Steve Smith is No. 1. For the moment, I’m giving the Panthers Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody. He’s an extremely big guy and, in the days when the Panthers still had a quality line, they had Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu plugging up the middle of the line.