NFC South: Jerry Hughes

Draft Watch: NFC South

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC dream/Plan B: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Atlanta Falcons

Dream scenario: They get Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham with the first-round pick and come back with an outside linebacker and a center in the middle rounds. Graham’s been a very productive college player and the risk of him being a bust is low. He can fit a need immediately. Plan B: If Graham is somehow gone, that could change things dramatically. Jason Pierre-Paul has raw athleticism, but comes with questions. The Falcons may instead look toward linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive tackle Jared Odrick or even an offensive lineman.

Carolina Panthers

Dream scenario: A big defensive tackle, like Terrence Cody, falls until they have their first pick in the second round. Cody would fill a huge void and make the run defense much better. They could follow him up with a wide receiver and a quarterback who can begin his career behind Matt Moore. Plan B: If Cody’s not there, a true run stuffer might not be available. The Panthers may have to go with a receiver first and that’s a dangerous proposition because their draft history with receivers has been terrible.

New Orleans Saints

Dream scenario: They done such a good job filling in depth at defensive end that it’s no longer a huge need. That leaves outside linebacker as the only really big need. The Saints likely would be very happy to land a linebacker like Weatherspoon or Jerry Hughes and get some depth at defensive tackle and tight end over the next few rounds. Plan B: The Saints aren’t desperate in any area. If a linebacker isn’t there with value in the first round, they can save that for a bit later and perhaps draft a defensive tackle or tight end first. The Saints are capable of surprises and a running back in the first few rounds isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dream scenario: There doesn’t seem to be a big preference between defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. The Bucs gladly would take either one and follow up with a receiver like Golden Tate and a cornerback with their two second-round picks. Plan B: If the Bucs don’t get a defensive tackle first, it’s almost a disaster because the need is so great. If Suh and McCoy are somehow gone, they’d have to consider taking offensive tackle Russell Okung, safety Eric Berry or a defensive end and they’d still have a glaring hole in the middle of their defensive line.

Latest NFC South mock draft

April, 12, 2010
4/12/10
1:04
PM ET
The full and official mock draft by the ESPN.com Blog Network will come next week. Each of the eight division bloggers will get a chance to play general manager for the teams they cover.

I’m already practicing and a lot of you are asking for a mock draft right now. So let’s go ahead and do a practice mock draft for each of the first pick for the four NFC South teams. Obviously, I’m going to have to speculate on what happens with the picks in front of each of the NFC South teams. And, like I said, the real mock draft will come next week and I may change my thoughts between now and then.

No. 3, Tampa Bay: Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. I’m going on the assumption that quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh are the first two picks in the draft. McCoy’s the obvious choice for a glaring need. But I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Bucs taking offensive tackle Russell Okung. Restricted free agent Donald Penn isn’t happy because the Bucs haven’t given him a long-term deal. Penn could end up being used as trade bait. He’s been a decent left tackle, but he’ll never be a Pro Bowler. With Josh Freeman as the franchise quarterback, the Bucs might want to get a franchise left tackle.

No. 19, Atlanta: Defensive end Brandon Graham. The Falcons want to upgrade their pass rush. Graham is the best defensive end that’s going to be available.

No. 32, New Orleans: Defensive tackle Brian Price. A lot of people are projecting the Saints to go with a defensive end and that certainly could happen. Someone like Everson Griffen or Jerry Hughes could be available and they could be the choice. But I think the signing of Alex Brown gives the Saints decent depth at defensive end. The inside might be more of a need and price might be a better value pick.

No. 48, Carolina: Defensive tackle Terrence Cody. He seems to have fallen out of first-round consideration because he’s a one-dimensional player. All Cody can do is stuff the run, but that’s what the Panthers need. John Fox’s whole philosophy is built on running the ball on offense and stopping the run on defense. Right now, there’s no doubt the Panthers can run the ball, but stopping the run is another matter. Fox has always liked having a big guy in the middle (see Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu) and here’s his chance to re-load at that position.

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