NFC South: Xavier Rhodes

For the second time in two years, Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff has taken a leap up in the draft.

This one wasn’t quite as big as the 2011 deal for Julio Jones in which the Falcons jumped 21 spots. But it’s still significant.

The Falcons, who began the draft with the 30th overall pick, jumped up to No. 22 to get Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant.

I think the jump is more than worthwhile. The Falcons got an NFL-ready cornerback in Trufant.

That’s exactly what they needed. They’re a team that was 10 yards short of last season’s Super Bowl. They had used the offseason to narrow their needs to only one major area -- cornerback -- and they just filled that area nicely.

Trufant’s a plug-in starter opposite Asante Samuel and Robert McClain can play nickel, which is where he is best suited.

Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes and Boise State’s Jamar Taylor also were on the board. But I think Trufant fits the Falcons better than they would have.

In a lot of ways, Trufant is a clone of Samuel. Trufant comes with similar confidence and swagger. Plus, he can play.

Trufant might just be the final piece in Atlanta’s Super Bowl puzzle.

Could Falcons, Bucs trade up?

April, 25, 2013
The rumor mill, at least as it pertains to the NFC South, has turned quiet as the NFL draft approaches.

That’s probably because teams are in the bunker and don’t have time to chat with the media. Besides, if there are any trades involving NFC South teams, I don’t think they really will percolate until the draft is well underway.

And I think we can forget about the Panthers and Saints trading up. They’re short on picks and don’t have the resources to move up. If anything, they might try to move down and add an extra pick or two.

The Falcons and the Buccaneers are the only NFC South teams that I can see trading up. Last week, there were some rumblings that the Falcons were looking to trade up. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do, because general manager Thomas Dimitroff has done it before.

But there is no sense in the Falcons trading up until the draft starts unfolding. If they think they can get Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner by trading up, they might make a big leap. They also could make a smaller leap to try to get Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

Tampa Bay traded its first-round pick (No. 13 overall) to the New York Jets in the Darrelle Revis trade. But general manager Mark Dominik has said it’s at least possible the Bucs could attempt to trade back into the first round.

As we wait, here’s a trade value chart for you to ponder. The charts the teams use vary, but this one at least gives you a pretty good overview.

And, if you want some more reading material, here’s Mel Kiper Jr.'s final Insider mock draft Insider.

Final mock draft with Todd McShay

April, 25, 2013

Todd McShay’s final mock draft is out, so let’s take a look at the NFC South portion.

At No. 14, McShay has the Panthers taking Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. At least in mock drafts, Lotulelei’s stock seems to be dropping in recent days. Early on, the consensus was that he’d be a top-10 pick. If he makes it to No. 14, I think the Panthers would be delighted to get him. If not, I think they would be content with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson or safety Kenny Vaccaro.

McShay has the New Orleans Saints taking LSU defensive end/outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo. He’d be a great fit in the 3-4 scheme, but I’m not sure Mingo makes it out of the top 10. Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones could be the fallback option.

At No. 30, McShay has the Falcons taking Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant. I think that would be a solid pick. But I think Atlanta is a team to keep an eye on once the draft gets underway. General manager Thomas Dimitroff isn’t afraid to make big moves and I could see him trying to trade into the top 10 to get Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. I could also see Dimitroff trying to trade into the late teens or early 20s to get Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

Around the NFC South

April, 20, 2013
Time for a Saturday morning run through the headlines from around the NFC South:


There seems to be a good chance the Bucs will draft a quarterback sometime after the first round. Stephen Holder runs through the possibilities and mentions Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. I like Manuel a lot. I think he could fit Tampa Bay’s offensive system and could turn into an eventual starter if Josh Freeman, who is headed into a contract year, doesn’t have a good season.


Although much of the pre-draft speculation has the Saints taking a pass-rusher in the first round, Mike Triplett writes not to rule out cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant. Even after adding Keenan Lewis in free agency, I think cornerback is at least a possibility because the Saints might not have a lot of confidence in Patrick Robinson.


Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson’s first pre-draft visit was with the Panthers. But Joseph Person writes that it’s unlikely Carolina will have a chance to get Johnson, who is likely to be gone before No. 14. But, if Johnson somehow slips a bit the Panthers would have to consider him. He could be an instant upgrade over Byron Bell on the right side and eventually switch to the left side as the successor to Jordan Gross.


More and more teams are turning to analytics to predict success of draft prospects. General manager Thomas Dimitroff said the Falcons are using analytics to supplement their scouting work. In other words, the Falcons aren’t going overboard with analytics; they’re only using them as part of the puzzle.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What’s the ideal first-round scenario for each team?

Atlanta Falcons: There have been rumblings that the Falcons may try to trade up in the first round and I’m not ruling that out because general manager Thomas Dimitroff has done it before. But let's assume for now that the Falcons stay put at No. 30. The team has a glaring need at cornerback. In a best-case scenario, either Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Washington’s Desmond Trufant would be on the board. If not, the Falcons still could get a cornerback. Jamar Taylor and Johnthan Banks are viewed as second-round talents by some, but the law of supply and demand could turn one of them into Atlanta’s first-round pick.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have a big need at defensive tackle and they should be able to land one in the first round. The question is which one they’ll end up with. Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson is the defensive tackle who has been tied to the Panthers in most mock drafts, but North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams also is a decent possibility. But I can see the Panthers passing on both of them if Star Lotulelei slides to No. 14. Lotulelei had been talked about as a potential No. 1 overall pick before a medical question popped up. He’s been medically cleared, but a lot of mock drafts have him falling. If the Panthers get a shot at Lotulelei, I think they’ll grab him.

New Orleans Saints: They need to add a strong edge rusher as they switch to the 3-4 defense with new coordinator Rob Ryan. LSU defensive end/linebacker Barkevious Mingo and Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones are the two guys who fit that description and could be available when the Saints pick at No. 15. I don’t think the Saints could go wrong either way. Mingo wasn’t all that productive in college, but his measurables were off the charts. Jones didn’t test all that well, but he was a very productive college player.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: There is a huge amount of uncertainty here because the Bucs could end up trading away their first-round pick (No. 13 overall) for Darrelle Revis. If that somehow doesn’t happen, the Bucs have a tremendous need at cornerback. If they stay put, Rhodes and Trufant could be possibilities. There are rumblings that the Bucs think more highly of Rhodes than most draft gurus do. But if a Revis deal doesn’t happen, I think Tampa Bay’s best move would be to trade up into the top five and grab Alabama’s Dee Milliner. He’s the one cornerback in this draft who is considered a can’t-miss prospect.
Darrelle RevisThearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesCornerback Darrelle Revis certainly has the star power that would get Bucs fans fired up.
With each day that passes without the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trading for Darrelle Revis, the more convinced I become they will trade for the cornerback.

New York Jets general manager John Idzik and Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, the guys who used to brew the coffee and make copies when Rich McKay, Jerry Angelo and Tim Ruskell ran Tampa Bay’s personnel department, are holding a very public staring contest.

For more than a month, we’ve been hearing rumors about Tampa Bay dealing for Revis. You can throw out the ones that were floated to try to get Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez involved. But I think everything else -- such as the various compensation packages that have been discussed and the Jets hitting the “pause button" -- is based, at least somewhat, in truth.

The Jets almost have to get rid of Revis because he is headed into the final year of his contract and New York has no intention of giving him a massive long-term extension. That alone, I used to think, gave the Buccaneers the upper hand.

But now I’m not so sure. I’m thinking the closer it gets to next week’s NFL draft, the more the Jets have the upper hand.

Quite simply, the Buccaneers have set themselves up for (perceived) failure if they don’t trade for Revis.

They’re sitting there with more than $30 million in salary-cap room. They’re the only team in the NFL with the room to pay Revis, and it’s widely believed they’re the only team with interest in trading for a guy who might be the best cornerback on the planet but is coming off a major knee injury.

I get it that Dominik is playing the waiting game because he doesn’t want to give up too much of his team’s present or future as compensation. That’s smart and the prudent thing to do. But there’s going to have to come a point very soon where Dominik has to make the deal.

[+] EnlargeGreg Schiano
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsWith Darrelle Revis, Bucs coach Greg Schiano should see heavy improvement in a pass defense that was the NFL's worst in 2012.
Anything less than Revis in pewter is going to cause problems in Tampa Bay. There already is a large segment of the fan base that thinks the Glazer family, which owns the team, doesn’t spend enough money. Presumably, that thinking has played a role in the Buccaneers having trouble selling out Raymond James Stadium in recent years.

There are other reasons for the attendance issue. This franchise has been lacking in star power for a long time. There was sizzle when Jon Gruden was the coach, Derrick Brooks was tackling everything that moved and doing it with class, and the likes of Keyshawn Johnson, Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice were as entertaining off the field as on it.

These days, the Bucs are coached by Greg Schiano. He might be a good coach, but the flashiest thing you can say about Schiano is that he once held an office in the same building as former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice.

The Bucs have some nice young players (Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy and Josh Freeman) and some talented veterans (Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks). Perhaps it’s because Schiano prefers his players to stay out of the spotlight, but Tampa Bay’s current roster is dull.

Revis would change all that. The guy would be the biggest star to walk into One Buccaneer Place since the day Brooks was shown the door. Heck, Revis could end up being bigger than Brooks.

First off, Revis would go a long way toward fixing a pass defense that was worst in the league last year. I know some fans out there think the Bucs would be better off not giving up several draft picks when no one is sure how healthy Revis’ knee is.

But let’s say the Bucs stay put at No. 13. They’ll have to draft either Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Washington’s Desmond Trufant if they want a cornerback. Or maybe they’ll get really daring and trade up into the top five to get Alabama’s Dee Milliner.

I’m not saying any of those three guys are bad players, but they’re not as good as a healthy Revis. And when it comes to flash, they would bring about as much excitement as last year’s first-round pick, safety Mark Barron, who is one of the quietest guys on the roster.

That’s why the Buccaneers need to go ahead and make the Revis trade. If they don’t, they’re going to look really bad to their fans, who have been waiting for this deal for weeks.

Even after spending big money on Nicks and Jackson in free agency last year and safety Dashon Goldson this year, ownership still needs to convince fans that it’s willing to pay whatever it takes to put a winning product on the field.

Revis would make the Buccaneers a better football team, bring some national attention and put people in the stands.

If the Buccaneers somehow don’t pull off a deal that has looked like a sure thing for a long time, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do to a fan base that doesn’t want to hear anything but that Revis is coming to Tampa Bay.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King tweeted Wednesday morning that he’s hearing the Atlanta Falcons are trying to trade up in the first round of next week’s NFL draft.

That’s going to open the door for all sorts of speculation. Maybe the Falcons are smitten with a player at another position, but I think their only glaring need is at cornerback.

Brent Grimes left as a free agent and Dunta Robinson was released. Asante Samuel and Robert McClain remain, but the Falcons need to add a starting-caliber cornerback. Atlanta currently has the 30th overall pick, but the Falcons almost certainly would have to move up to get any of the three cornerbacks that most experts say are the best in this draft -- Dee Milliner, Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant.

The Falcons, who have some resources to work with because they currently have 11 draft picks, could probably get Rhodes or Trufant if they moved into the late teens or early 20s.

But Rhodes and Trufant might not be who the Falcons want. On the surface, Atlanta is a team on the cusp of a Super Bowl. The Falcons could view Milliner as the missing link.

They’d have to move into the top 10, maybe even the top five, to get him. The cost would be high (here’s a trade value chart to use as a guideline).

But I’m not ruling the Milliner scenario out. There’s precedent. Back in 2011, the Falcons made a similar leap to get receiver Julio Jones and that deal worked out well.

It’s no secret Atlanta is in a win-now mode and Milliner might give the Falcons the best shot at winning a Super Bowl.

Atlanta Falcons: Mock draft prep

April, 15, 2013
I owe a debt of gratitude to Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff as I prepare to make the Falcons’ first pick in the Blog Network mock draft next week.

Although there are countless variables that could play out before Atlanta picks at No. 30, I’m pretty confident I at least know what direction I’ll be heading in. That’s due to the fact that Dimitroff has done an exceptional job this offseason of narrowing his needs.

In fact, I see the Falcons with only one major need. That’s at cornerback and, at least at this moment, I feel pretty confident that I’ll go in that direction.

I’m not sold on Washington’s Desmond Trufant or Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes when I consider them as possibilities for the other three NFC South teams, who each are picking in the middle of the first round. But I think the value could be right for Rhodes or Trufant if they’re around at No. 30.

But they’re not the only two cornerbacks I’m pondering for the Falcons. Houston’s D.J. Hayden and Boise State’s Jamar Taylor seem to have their stock rising in recent mock drafts. Taylor, in particular, is growing on me and I might even consider him ahead of Rhodes or Trufant.

Again, I see cornerback as Atlanta’s big need and think there’s a strong chance the Falcons will go in that direction. But I have to be prepared for other scenarios, in case things in front of No. 30 get thrown dramatically off course.

One such scenario would involve Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. The values being placed on him are wildly different. Some people have him as a top-10 pick. But I’m also seeing some mock drafts where Werner is falling. If he’s available at No. 30, I’d have to consider him. The Falcons could use a pass-rusher to complement Osi Umenyiora in the short term and replace him in the long term.

I’m not a big believer in the Falcons using their first-round pick to get the heir apparent to tight end Tony Gonzalez. That would mean sitting your first-round pick most of his rookie season and the Falcons are very much in a win-now mode. I think they can find a tight end prospect somewhere later in the draft.

But, just for the sake of conversation, let’s say that Werner is gone and let’s say the available cornerbacks aren’t ones the Falcons really like.

Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz are considered to be pretty close to can’t-miss prospects. Although that’s not a direction I’m leaning at all, I’d have to consider them if the other options aren’t right.

Let’s hear your feedback in the comments section below. And I’m certainly open to hearing any alternative scenarios you might have.
For those of you that read this blog regularly, you know I see LSU defensive end/linebacker Barkevious Mingo and Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones as the two most logical draft possibilities for the New Orleans Saints at No. 15.

My thinking hasn’t changed at all. The Saints need a strong pass-rusher as they switch to the 3-4 scheme and Mingo and Jones each fit that profile.

But, as I get ready to make New Orleans’ first-round pick in next week’s blog network mock draft, I’m trying to prepare for all scenarios. And one scenario could be that Jones and Mingo both are off the board.

Georgia’s Alec Ogletree also has been tied to the Saints in some mock drafts. He’s an inside linebacker and a good one. The Saints have Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma at inside linebacker. However, Vilma might be nearing the end of his career and it might be time to look to the future.

If Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is available at No. 15, I’d have to consider him. The Saints already have Brodrick Bunkley, but they need all the help they can get for a run defense that was hideous last year.

There’s another spot on the defense that I’d also consider. That’s cornerback. Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes and Washington’s Desmond Trufant would have to be considerations. I’m not sure the Saints can afford to count on Patrick Robinson as the third cornerback after Keenan Lewis and Jabari Greer.

As much as the Saints need help on defense, I’m not completely ruling out a surprise. Sean Payton is an offensive coach. The Saints are a little thin at wide receiver beyond Marques Colston and Lance Moore. I’m not completely ruling out West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin.

Those are my thoughts on the Saints’ scenarios. Let’s hear what you have to say in the comments section below. And I’m more than open to alternative scenarios that I didn’t mention.
As I prepare to make the ESPN Blog Network mock draft pick for the Carolina Panthers at No. 14 next week, I’m trying hard to think beyond Sheldon Richardson.

It seems just about every mock draft I’ve seen has the Panthers taking Richardson. It makes plenty of sense because the Panthers need a quality defensive tackle to put next to Dwan Edwards to firm up their run defense.

I have no problem taking Richardson and probably will if he’s on the board. But I want to be prepared for a scenario where someone ahead of the Panthers grabs Richardson. If that’s the case, I think part of the equation might be that Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is falling. If he’s available, I’d gladly take Lotulelei because I think the Panthers would do the same thing.

But I also want some scenarios beyond defensive tackles because I’m not so sure the Panthers are as locked in on that position as everyone thinks.

The needs could be even greater in the secondary. One scenario that has been growing on me in recent weeks would be to take Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. The Panthers really don’t have much at safety and Vaccaro would be an instant starter.

Then, there’s the cornerback situation, which is just as thin as the safety situation. Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes and Washington’s Desmond Trufant are the two corners who could be available at No. 14. A lot of people have Rhodes and Trufant pegged to go later in the first round. But the law of supply and demand could kick in and it’s possible the Panthers could take one of them at No. 14.

There also has been a little buzz about West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin and the Panthers. I don’t know that there will ever be another Steve Smith. But Austin looks the part and the Panthers do need an eventual successor for Smith.

Finally, this may be a long shot, but I don’t know the Panthers are truly sold on right tackle Byron Bell at right tackle. Alabama’s D.J. Fluker should be available at No. 14. With the Panthers saying they want to get back to the power running game, I think Fluker’s a guy they at least could consider.

What I do with the Panthers’ pick will depend largely on what happens with the 13 picks in front of them. These are the scenarios I’m at least pondering. Feel free to share your thoughts on my scenarios or any alternatives in the comments section below.
The ESPN Blog Network mock draft is coming next week and I’ve got some good ideas of what I plan to do for all four teams.

But this isn’t like the 2011 draft when I knew weeks in advance that I’d be taking Cam Newton for the Carolina Panthers at No. 1 overall.

Without an NFC South team picking until nearly the middle of the first round, I’m going to be at the mercy of those picking above me.

I’m going to run through the four teams and share with you what scenarios I’m thinking about and invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Let’s start with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have the No. 13 overall pick.

A lot depends on whether the Bucs pull off a trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis. Although I think that trade is likely, I have to prepare with the assumption it will not happen.

Without Revis, there’s a glaring need at cornerback. My leading scenario at the moment would be to have the Bucs trade up (probably into the top five) to get Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. He’s the only sure-thing as a cornerback in the draft, and I think it makes sense to go get him.

If the Bucs stay put at No. 13, I’m not feeling great about the cornerback options. I would consider Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes and Washington’s Desmond Trufant. But my personnel thought is that No. 13 is too early to take either player. However, there are rumblings the Bucs are really high on Rhodes.

Although I’m not as high on Rhodes, I might take him if the rumblings continue to get stronger.

But I’m also considering a few other options beyond cornerback. Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was considered as a possibility for the No. 1 overall pick before a medical concern was raised. Lotulelei reportedly has been medically cleared, but you see him all over the board in mock drafts.

If he’s available at No. 13, I’ll consider him. Once upon a time, the Bucs took a shot on a defensive tackle whose stock had fallen. That was Warren Sapp in 1995 and he’ll be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. I might also consider Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson for the Bucs.

I also may consider West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin. Although I don’t think the Bucs really need him, there’s been some buzz that the team is enthralled with him. If I get more indications that’s true, I might go with Austin.

And I’ll end it with one scenario that’s received almost no attention. Under the right circumstances, I might even consider Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. This might be a little early for a tight end, but Eifert has the potential to be a great one. At the moment, the Bucs have nothing but mediocrity on their roster at tight end.

Around the NFC South

April, 15, 2013
Let's take a run through some odds and ends from around the NFC South:


D. Orlando Ledbetter throws out the scenario of the Falcons trading up to get Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner in the draft. I’m not ruling this out. General manager Thomas Dimitroff traded way up to get another Alabama product, receiver Julio Jones, a couple years ago and that’s worked out well. Ledbetter also mentions the possibility of the Falcons trading into the 20s to get Xavier Rhodes or Desmond Trufant. I’m not a big fan of that move. I’d prefer to see the Falcons stay at No. 30 and get Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor. Some scouts I’ve talked to like Taylor better than Rhodes and Trufant.


Joseph Person writes about how Rock Hill, S.C., which is just over the border from Charlotte, has become a football factory. New Orleans tight end Benjamin Watson and Atlanta safety Chris Hope are among the Rock Hill products currently in the NFL. They’re about to be joined by Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Although the Panthers seem to have bigger needs on the defensive side of the ball, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them taking Patterson at No. 14, if he still is available. Owner Jerry Richardson always has like having players from the Carolinas on his roster. Plus, the Panthers could use a guy who eventually could take over for Steve Smith as the No. 1 receiver.


Running back Chris Ivory visited the New York Jets last week. Ivory is a restricted free agent and the Jets would have to give the Saints a second-round pick if they sign him. But Connor Orr points out that the two teams could work a trade for a later draft pick. That would make a lot of sense because the Saints have a crowded backfield and are a little light on draft picks that could help them fill needs at other positions.


Scott Reynolds writes that the Bucs could target Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker at No. 12. There’s logic in that. The recent contract extension given to right tackle Demar Dotson was for something close to backup money. Fluker would be an upgrade from Dotson and coach Greg Schiano is big on having a power running game. Schiano also isn’t opposed to using first-round picks on Alabama players. He took one last year in safety Mark Barron.

It’s well known that general manager Mark Dominik likes to front load contracts. Roy Cummings points out that shouldn’t be a potential obstacle if the Bucs trade for Darrelle Revis and sign him to a long-term extension. Revis shares the same agent as Vincent Jackson, who signed a front-loaded deal with the Bucs last year. Dominik’s philosophy is unique, but I can’t see why Revis would balk at it. He presumably would be getting a huge part of the contract in the first couple of years.

McShay: Bucs might pull surprise

April, 12, 2013
In Friday’s NFC South chat, I saw a lot of questions about what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might do in the draft if they don’t make the trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Right after I wrapped up the chat, I got on a conference call with ESPN draft expert Todd McShay. I asked him to assume (for the sake of conversation) that the Bucs do not make the trade for Revis and that they’re still sitting there at No. 13. Then I asked if they should trade up into the top five to try to get Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner or if they’d be just as well off staying put and taking a cornerback like Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Washington’s Desmond Trufant.

McShay’s answer kind of surprised me. He said he doesn’t envision the Bucs trading up and suggested they might not even take a cornerback.

“I’m told they love Rhodes and they love [West Virginia receiver] Tavon Austin,’’ McShay said. “If both of those guys are on the board and they don’t get Revis, I don’t know which they’d go with.’’

So, which way would McShay go?

“I would take Tavon,’’ McShay said. “I have Rhodes in the second round, so I’m the wrong guy to ask. I’d much rather get Tavon, who is a playmaker. This draft is deep in cornerbacks. They can come back in the second round and get a good starting cornerback.’’

McShay went on to say he thinks guys like Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks and Boise State’s Jamar Taylor could be very solid cornerback picks for the Buccaneers in the second round.

I’m not doubting McShay, but I’m not sure Austin really would be the best option for the Bucs at No. 13. They already have starting receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. That means Austin would be a slot receiver and the Bucs already have decent options there with Kevin Ogletree, Steve Smith and Tiquan Underwood.

Of course, the Bucs could end up giving up their first-round pick in a trade for Revis and that could make all this a moot point.
Todd McShay’s latest Insider mock draft Insider is out and this one comes complete with three first-round scenarios for each team. Let’s take a look at what he’s picturing in the NFC South.

Although McShay acknowledges Tampa Bay could go with a cornerback at No. 13, he has the Bucs taking West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. I’ve seen some other mock drafts with this same pick. But I’m not buying it. The Bucs already have big money tied up in Vincent Jackson, they’re likely to give Mike Williams a healthy contract extension and they signed Kevin Ogletree to challenge for the third receiver spot. The Bucs will have a lot invested in wide receivers and I don’t see them investing any more. Tampa Bay has greater needs on defense. Of course, it must be noted the Bucs might not even have this pick if they make a trade with the New York Jets for Darrelle Revis.

At No. 14, McShay has Carolina taking Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. That’s a pretty common pick in mock drafts everywhere, and I think there’s an excellent chance the Panthers end up with Richardson. But I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the Panthers take Austin or Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

McShay has the New Orleans Saints taking LSU defensive end/outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo at No. 15. But McShay also throws out the possibility of the Saints moving up in the draft to get another pass-rusher. I would not rule out that scenario.

At No. 30, McShay picks a mild surprise for the Atlanta Falcons. He has them taking Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor. In most of the mocks I’ve seen, Taylor is projected as a second-round pick. But Atlanta has a glaring need at cornerback and the law of supply and demand could kick in. Plus, it’s entirely possible the Atlanta personnel department has Taylor rated higher than where the draft gurus are projecting him.
With the NFL draft rapidly approaching, let’s have a little fun and take a look at what I think are the top three first-round options for each NFC South team.

Let’s start off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and let’s be very clear that it’s entirely possible the Bucs could trade the No. 13 overall pick in the draft to get Darrelle Revis or they could trade up to get Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. But let’s go on the assumption, for now at least, that the Bucs stay put at No. 13.

Here are three guys I can see the Bucs drafting:

Xavier Rhodes, cornerback, Florida State: At the moment, the Bucs are incredibly thin at cornerback. This might be a little early to take Rhodes if you go by where most draft gurus are projecting him. But let’s follow the law of supply and demand. Rhodes could end up being the best corner the Bucs can get.

Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle, Missouri: The Bucs brought in Derek Landri as a free agent, but I’m not sure they’re done at defensive tackle. Richardson is a versatile guy that could combine with Gerald McCoy to give the Bucs a lot of talent in the interior. Richardson also is capable of playing defensive end in some run sets and I'm not so sure the Bucs want Da'Quan Bowers constantly on the field on running downs.

D.J. Fluker, offensive tackle, Alabama: The Bucs already have had Fluker in for a visit. I know the Bucs gave last year’s starting right tackle Demar Dotson a contract extension recently. But the deal is paying Dotson more like a backup than a starter. In this scenario Dotson could end up as the swing tackle and Fluker could be a nice upgrade for the power-running scheme that coach Greg Schiano favors.