NFC South: Cameron Heywards

Around the NFC South

April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
10:57
AM ET
Time for a quick trip through the NFC South headlines.

Although there has been all sorts of speculation about Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers tumbling in the draft, he says his knee is just fine. He says reports about having arthritis or needing microfracture surgery are not accurate. Bowers says the surgery was simply to repair a torn meniscus. Still, he’s been falling in a lot of mock drafts, and if those are correct, Bowers could be available at No. 20 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Would they take the risk? I think they might. The last time a defensive lineman, who many initially thought would be the No. 1 overall pick was tumbling this fast, the Bucs took him. It was Warren Sapp. The reasons for Sapp’s fall were much different, but I think there’s a point where you have to take a shot on Bowers and No. 20 could be that point.

D. Orlando Ledbetter scratches defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Adrian Clayborn off Atlanta’s board and suggests five names the Falcons could be targeting at No. 27. I agree with all five names, but I’d also add Pittsburgh receiver Jonathan Baldwin. If the Falcons don’t trade up and still decide to go with a wide receiver at No. 27, it will be either Baldwin or Maryland’s Torrey Smith.

Michael Irvin says the Carolina Panthers need to surround Cam Newton with better players, if they do make the quarterback the No. 1 pick tonight, as is widely expected. I think there’s a misconception here that’s tied directly to Carolina’s 2-14 record last season. Coach John Fox and his feud with ownership and management had a lot to do with that record. This isn’t the typical roster of a 2-14 team. At least at the moment, Steve Smith is still on it. So are guys like DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Jeremy Shockey, a good offensive line and the Panthers like young receivers Brandon LaFell and David Gettis.

Mike Triplett lists the likely targets for the Saints. I agree totally with Muhammad Wilkerson, Cameron Heyward, Adrian Clayborn, Phil Taylor, Mark Ingram and Gabe Carimi. But I’d scratch UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers off the list. I’ve gotten some indications one thing the Saints won’t do is take an outside linebacker in the first round. Yes, they have a need. But that’s a spot they think they can address later in the draft or via free agency.

Now, let’s skip to two very positive items that aren’t related to the draft.

Tampa Bay offensive lineman Ted Larsen reportedly rescued three teens from dangerous waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

This one’s personal because Tom McEwen is the man who gave me my first job in this business. Tom’s the legendary former columnist and sports editor for The Tampa Tribune. He will be presented an honorary degree from Saint Leo University during graduation ceremonies Saturday. I’ve got a degree from Saint Leo that I’ve always been proud of. But I think the value of that degree gets multiplied by 100 once the man who largely built the sports world in Tampa Bay also has one. Congrats, Dr. McEwen. Wish I could be there to see it, but obviously the draft will have me occupied on Saturday.
In recent chats and mailbag notes, a lot of you have asked if I, or the ESPN.com Blog Network as a whole, will be doing a mock draft.

You’ll be happy to know that I just received news from Bristol that we, indeed, will be doing a mock draft in which each of the division bloggers make the picks for the teams they cover. We will roll out this mock draft on April 25.

That means, barring trades, I’ll be picking for Carolina at No. 1, Tampa Bay at No. 20, New Orleans at No. 24 and Atlanta at No. 27.

There’s a lot of time between now and the draft and lots of things can change. But I’ll share with you what I’m thinking right now.

Carolina -- No decision has been made, but the vibes I’m getting are the Panthers just might pull the plug and take Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. As I pointed out last week, the climate has changed in Carolina and I can see the Panthers taking a chance -- for the first time in a long time.

Tampa Bay -- I’m going with Georgia’s Justin Houston. I’m also going on the assumption that Clemson’s Da'Quan Bowers, North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, Missouri’s Aldon Smith, Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan and California’s Cameron Jordan will be gone by then. If they’re not, they become possibilities for this pick. However it shakes out, the Bucs need to get a pass-rusher early.

New Orleans -- Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn is my pick here as the division’s run on defensive ends continue. Like I said above, I’m basing this largely on what I expect to happen earlier in the draft and the Saints could be very happy if another defensive end slips. But I think they’d be happy with Clayborn.

Atlanta -- I’m sticking with defensive ends and taking Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward. He’s got name recognition in the NFC South because his father, Craig “Ironhead’’ Heyward, played for the Falcons and Saints.

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