NFC South: 2014 NFL Round 1 Rapid Reaction

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The pick: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State.

My take: The Panthers desperately needed a dynamic young receiver and actually had a choice between Benjamin and Southern California's Marqise Lee. Benjamin gives quarterback Cam Newton a big target to throw to and can block for him when he gets loose in the secondary. Many considered Benjamin a raw talent, but his production shows he's a clutch player. He had 15 touchdowns last season, including the game winner in the national championship against the Auburn Tigers. He can help the Panthers forget the loss of Steve Smith.

The last time: The only time the Panthers selected a wide receiver in the first round was 1997, when they took Colorado's Rae Carruth with the 27th pick. Carruth was charged in 1999 and later convicted for conspiracy to murder his pregnant girlfriend.

What's next: The Panthers still have a big need at left tackle and cornerback, and likely will pick up one of each in the second and third rounds. Nevada's Joel Bitonio and North Dakota State's Billy Turner are players they have shown a lot of interest in at tackle.
METAIRIE, La. -- The pick: WR Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

My take: I love the pick for the New Orleans Saints, who filled their biggest need for both the short term and long term with a dynamic playmaker. Cooks, a small but speedy receiver at 5-foot-10, 189 pounds, can help fill the void left by Darren Sproles and Lance Moore out of the slot or wherever creative coach Sean Payton wants to move him around the field. Cooks caught a whopping 128 passes for 1,730 yards last year to earn the Biletnikoff Award.

Saints stay aggressive: I projected this trade for the Saints because it falls in line with their aggressive history under general manager Mickey Loomis and Payton. This is now the fifth time the Saints have traded up in the first round during Loomis’ tenure, dating back to 2003. And they also made a bold move to sign Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd in free agency. Loomis talked earlier this week about why he feels it’s worth trading up for players when you have a strong conviction on them. And the cost to move up from No. 27 was palatable -- this year’s third-round pick (No. 91 overall).

What’s next: The Saints now have just one pick on Friday since they traded away the third-rounder. Cornerback, center and pass-rushers rank among their top needs. But they’ll take the best available player off their board without reaching to fill any of those needs. Beginning in the second round, it’s unrealistic to address the 2014 needs since guys could take longer to develop. They can probably scratch receiver off the wish list, though.
The pick: Mike Evans, wide receiver, Texas A&M

My take: An excellent "need" pick. The Bucs really had nothing else at wide receiver beyond Vincent Jackson. They needed someone to complement Jackson and they got that in Evans. In some ways, Evans is a Jackson clone. They're both big receivers. But coordinator Jeff Tedford can have fun figuring out ways to create matchup problems for defenses. This move isn’t just about the present. It's about the future as well. Jackson already is in his 30s. Evans can spend a year or two as the No. 2 receiver and then take over as the No. 1.

No Johnny Football: It appears as if the Bucs put out a successful smokescreen with reports that they were very interested in quarterback Johnny Manziel. This shows the Bucs are serious about going with veteran Josh McCown at quarterback.

What's next: There still is a glaring need at right guard. That almost certainly will be a target area in the coming rounds. The Bucs have started an overhaul of their offensive line, but they need to finish it.

TAMPA, Fla. -- The pick: Mike Evans, wide receiver, Texas A&M

My take: An excellent "need" pick. The Bucs really had nothing else at wide receiver beyond Vincent Jackson. They needed someone to complement Jackson, and they got that in Evans. In some ways, Evans is a Jackson clone. They're both big receivers. But coordinator Jeff Tedford can have fun figuring out ways to create matchup problems for defenses. This move isn’t just about the present. It's about the future as well. Jackson already is in his 30s. Evans can spend a year or two as the No. 2 receiver and then take over as the No. 1.

No Johnny Football: It appears as if the Bucs put out a successful smokescreen with reports that they were very interested in quarterback Johnny Manziel. This shows the Bucs are serious about going with veteran Josh McCown at quarterback.

What's next: There still is a glaring need at right guard. That almost certainly will be a target area in the coming rounds. The Bucs have started an overhaul of their offensive line, but they need to finish it.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The pick: Jake Matthews, offensive tackle, Texas A&M

My take: This was a great pickup for the Falcons, who needed more protection for quarterback Matt Ryan and needed better blocking in the run game. Matthews played both right and left tackle in college, so he's flexible. And he's known as a technician. Matthews has the potential to be the team's best offensive lineman for the next 10 years.

Can't go wrong: The Falcons targeted the top three tackles in the draft: Matthews, Auburn's Greg Robinson, and Michigan's Taylor Lewan. Robinson went No. 2 to the St. Louis Rams. The Falcons would have upgraded no matter which of the three they drafted. They might have gotten the one who will be the best for years to come.

What's next: The Falcons still need a pass-rusher and could essentially trade up, maybe even back into the first round, to land Auburn's Dee Ford. Also keep an eye Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence, who could be available early in the second round. If a top safety is available in the second round, that could make things interesting.

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