ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. analyzes the needs of all four NFC South teams and makes their projected picks for the first three rounds of the draft.
For the sake of variety, let’s skip the first round. You can check that out in Kiper’s post. I promise, there aren’t any major surprises for Carolina and Tampa Bay, the only NFC South teams with first-round picks.
Let’s jump to the second round and let’s start with the Atlanta Falcons. He has the Falcons taking offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele in the second round and defensive end Olivier Vernon in the third. I haven’t studied Osemele and Vernon nearly as closely as Kiper has. But I like the picks because the Falcons clearly need to get better on the offensive line and need to add someone who can rush the passer.
New Orleans doesn’t pick until the third round and Kiper has the Saints picking defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. That’s a name that should be familiar to some Saints fans. Hicks was recruited by LSU, but wound up playing in Canada. Kiper said Hicks can have an impact right away. That would be nice because Brodrick Bunkley and Sedrick Ellis are about all the Saints have in the middle of their defensive line.
Now, let’s shift back to Carolina and Tampa Bay.
The Panthers don’t have a third-round pick and Kiper has them taking defensive end Nick Perry in the second round. There’s no question coach Ron Rivera would like to have as many pass-rushers as possible. But, if the Panthers take Perry here, they still will have a need at defensive tackle. If you haven’t already looked at what Kiper has given the Panthers in the first round, that should provide a big clue.
Speaking of big clues, Kiper has the Buccaneers taking running back Doug Martin in the second round and linebacker Demario Davis in the third round. I’m not sure Martin and Davis will be the exact guys that are available when the Bucs make those picks. But I think Kiper’s following a very logical order of positions to fill Tampa Bay’s needs.