NFC South: Brandon Boykin

We’ve been talking a lot about the Buccaneers and Panthers and what they may do in the draft and that’s mainly because they’re the only two NFC South teams with a first-round pick.

The Saints don’t pick until the third round, but now that we’re into April, it’s a good time to start talking about the Falcons and what they might do in the second round (at No. 55 overall).

A lot of people are talking about Atlanta getting a left tackle. But you don’t usually find future All-Pro tackles deep in the second round. The Falcons could take a tackle somewhere in this draft, but coach Mike Smith recently made it sound like the team will give Sam Baker one more chance.

When asked about tackles that might be available in the second round, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay ticked off a group (Florida State’s Zebrie Sanders, Cal’s Mitchell Schwartz and Mississippi’s Bobby Massie) that he referred to as "third-tier offensive tackles."

“Bobby Massie would probably be the best available and maybe best case scenario coming out of Mississippi,’’ McShay said in a recent conference call with the national media. “I don't know that he's going to fall all the way there, but if he does it's a possibility. Zebrie Sanders from Florida State, there is a good chance he'll be there. He kind of fits what they want to do. He fits that Florida State zone-blocking scheme, and I think he has the athleticism to play left tackle, but I'm not necessarily convinced of it. It's always hard to plug your left tackle, and it's not going to be easy to do.’’

I’m not sure it makes sense for the Falcons to take a “third-tier offensive tackle’’ with their first draft pick. They were reluctant to play interior linemen Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson right away when they drafted them in the middle rounds in 2010. I don’t see them being more willing to play a rookie right away at left tackle.

McShay brought up another interesting scenario for the Falcons with their second-round pick and this guy should be familiar to Atlanta fans. McShay mentioned Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin as a possibility and he did it enthusiastically.

“He's just so fast,’’ McShay. “Everything he does is fast. I think his instincts need to improve. I know his instincts need to improve. He's late diagnosing some throws. When they put him in the zone, he can get lost a little bit, and that's not really his strength. But he's such a good athlete. He can absolutely fly. His vertical leap is just insane. He's just so physically gifted. You see the suddenness, the explosiveness. To me, maybe he's just a nickel corner, but maybe you get production out of him on the offensive side if you're creative enough. You definitely get production out of him and potentially some big plays in the return game.’’

Hmm, I have a tough time seeing Smith, who usually is viewed as a conservative type, letting someone play offense and defense. But, then again, maybe owner Arthur Blank can get in Smith’s ear about that possibility. Blank has developed a pretty strong relationship with Deion Sanders, who once played a little offense in addition to cornerback. Sanders also was a top-notch return man.

That’s a skill that could make Boykin particularly attractive to the Falcons. They recently let return man Eric Weems leave via free agency.

NFC South links: How Nicks can be a Falcon

March, 1, 2012
Atlanta Falcons

Greg Huseth of says the contract impasse between Drew Brees and the Saints could benefit the Falcons.

Daniel Cox of the Falcons' website analyzes Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin, a player many Falcons fans hope will land in Atlanta.

Carolina Panthers

The Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler offers some analysis on whether the Panthers should pursue Hines Ward after the veteran receiver is released by the Steelers.

New Orleans Saints

Jason La Canfora of says the Saints are likely to use the franchise tag on Brees, and the quarterback is frustrated.

Saints guard Carl Nicks would be upset if the team uses the franchise tag on him, according to James Varney of the Times-Picayune.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay's website breaks down some defensive linemen the team could pursue during free agency.

Moving Mason Foster from middle linebacker to an outside spot could make sense for the Bucs, according to Stephen Holder of the Tampa Bay Times.

Tampa Bay’s heavy draft investments along the D-Line make it seem like less of a target in free agency,

NFC South evening update

January, 24, 2012
Time for a look at Tuesday's top headlines from around the NFC South.

There’s been a lot of speculation that the Panthers will use an early draft pick on a cornerback this year. It could happen, but there was one guy that showed up at the Senior Bowl that doesn’t think that’s a great idea. That’s starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who lives in Alabama in the offseason. Munnerlyn pledged to beat out any cornerback the Panthers draft. Munnerlyn is one of those undersized guys that plays with a chip on his shoulder. Nothing wrong with that. You want all your players to be competitive and that’s a trait that comes in especially handy at cornerback.

This is just speculation, but Charlie Campbell suggests the Bucs might want to consider New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for their open coaching spot. That’s actually not a bad idea. Although he’s best known for taking a sideline punch from Buddy Ryan, that was a long time ago and Gilbride has a reputation as a solid offensive coach. He might be better than some of the guys the Bucs have talked to.

There’s no agreement yet, but the executive director of the Georgia World Congress Center said negotiations are continuing with the Falcons about a proposed open-air stadium.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, who coached Julio Jones at Alabama, praised the Falcons for trading up to get the receiver in last year’s draft.

Former Carolina defensive backs coach Ron Meek has landed the same position with San Diego. Ironically, Meeks’ replacement with the Panthers, Steve Wilks, had been the secondary coach for the Chargers.

Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin has interviewed with the Falcons and Panthers at the Senior Bowl. As I do every year at this time, don’t put too much stock into which teams interview which players in the pre-draft events and what coaches are supposedly watching certain position groups during practices and games. All teams do their homework on every player eligible for the draft. Heck, sometimes a bad interview gets a prospect pulled of a team’s draft board.

This Insider piece says the Carolina Panthers were one of the top five underachieving teams in 2011. Let’s just say I respectfully disagree with that. The Panthers won two games in 2010. They tripled their win total in 2011 and they did that in a year with no offseason, while they hurriedly installed a new offense and turned things over to rookie quarterback Cam Newton, who had a record-setting season. Yeah, the Panthers had some big problems on defense, but I think injuries to linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis and defensive tackle Ron Edwards played a big roles in the defensive issues.