Jan 6, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith is introduced as head coach during a press conference at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Updated 2014 NFL Draft Strategies: NFC South

Free agency has predictably thrown a wrench into the perfectly conducted 2014 NFL draft strategies.  Following their moves, what is new for the NFC South?

Atlanta Falcons – Strategy:  Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson in sight

Thomas Dimitroff went into free agency with a clear plan in mind.  Before the market really started to heat up the Atlanta Falcons struck early and quickly.  They added two major pieces to their defensive front in Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson while also retaining solid defensive tackles Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux.  On top of that they also added a very good guard in Jon Asamoah to help with their running game.  Two areas remain in terms of needing a big upgrade, one is outside pass rusher and the other is left tackle.  Since it’s clear the Falcons are switching to a 3-4 alignment their ability to nab a rusher should be easier in this 2014 NFL draft, which makes them clear cut favorites to pursue top tackles like Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson in May.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Strategy:  Sammy Watkins chase heating up

No team was more aggressive at bringing in new faces than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Such was a big strength of head coach Lovie Smith when he commanded the Chicago Bears.  Michael Johnson and Alterraun Verner fill key needs on defense while Anthony Collins fills the left tackle spot and Josh McCown is the favorite to become their new starting quarterback.  The only major position they haven’t addressed at all is wide receiver.  Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford said his unit needed more speed on the field to compliment Vincent Jackson.  This all but guarantees that the Bucs are going to make a strong push to get Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins who is fast becoming one of the top overall target in the draft.

New Orleans Saints – Strategy:  Dee Ford among possible outside rushers

They only made one free agency move thus far, but the New Orleans Saints made sure it was a darn big one when they landed three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd on a six-year deal.  Putting him with Kenny Vaccaro has really changed the dynamic for the Saints secondary, leaving them with only one real need left on defense, which is adding an outside pass rusher to compliment Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette.  There are a number of interesting names who could help such as Kyle Van Noy of BYU or Jeremiah Attaochu of Georgia Tech but their big fish should be Auburn standout Dee Ford who gave some of the best tackles in college football fits down the stretch last season.

Carolina Panthers – Strategy:  Brandin Cooks looks more enticing

Just like that the last notable piece of that great Carolina Panthers 2003 team is gone.  Steve Smith departed on less than ideal terms from the only franchise he’s every know.  At age 34 he feels he can still play and other teams are anxious to give him that opportunity.  Meanwhile the Panthers are getting a little bit desperate.  In addition to losing Smith they also saw Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon sign with other teams.  Wide receiver went from a need to a HUGE need that quickly.  While there is still time for them to get some help in free agency, their 2014 NFL draft plans remain clear.  Getting a dynamic receiver for Cam Newton is a must.  How perfect would it be then if they could land Oregon State star Brandin Cooks who exhibits the exact same traits as Smith.  Though not very tall his speed, hands and toughness create havoc with defensive coverages.  He would make a perfect replacement.

In all, the NFC South is going to be one of the most competitive divisions in all of the NFL next season and no team will have more to prove than the Atlanta Falcons after a dismal 2013 season. See if they can turn it around this fall by getting your Falcons tickets today.

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Tags: 2014 Nfl Draft Atlanta Falcons Brandin Cooks Carolina Panthers Dee Ford Jake Matthews New Orleans Saints Sammy Watkins Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Derrick Freeman

    Uhhhh almost agreed with you until I saw the part about my bucs only way we’re going after watkins is if we get rid of Mike williams otherwise were taking bortles or whatever top QB is there if not him were going defense

    • Erik Lambert

      Then why did you even bother to sign McCown?

    • Erik Lambert

      Also, it’s not like Mike Williams is a reliable answer at this point. He’s very similar to Jackson in skill and a bit of a wild card given his off-the-field issues. Watkins provides that missing speed element.

  • Derrick Freeman

    Mccown is 34 man no future with that guy he’s there for veteran presence to mentor who ever we Draft this is a very deep QB Draft he’s on our team to do what Matt Flynn did for Russell before Russell showed him he didn’t need his guidance when lovie was hired he said he wanted 4 QB in camp a veteran and a rookie and two others for competition we currently have mike kafka mike glennon and as you know josh mccown which now means all we need is that rookie qb. As far as Mike williams goes we pay the kid to much to represent us the way he does I would prefer watkins but giving the extension we gave him a year ago I don’t see him leaving anytime soon I don’t see us taking a wr that early in the Draft given its not a major area on concern

    • Erik Lambert

      All I’m asking is why can’t they have Williams AND Watkins on the same roster then just get their quarterback in the second round?

      • Derrick Freeman

        I actually would be ok with that but I think lovie is gonna spend that first pick actually addressing what we need watkins is talented just not what we need when the most glaring weakness is qb and olb but maybe getting mccown means we won’t waste a 1st pick on a qb

        • Erik Lambert

          That’s what I’m saying. It’s much easier to win when the entire offense is loaded with talent rather than selling out for a rookie quarterback. Take one in the second, let McCown work with similar beasts like he did in Chicago and keep building.

          • Derrick Freeman

            I agree man but after doing a little profiling on mike williams yesterday I’m now to the point where I believe we just need to cut ties with the guy anyway dudes an ass twitter account justifies my opinion as well as police reports I’m officially all in on watkins plus he posted as pic of himself in as bucs uniform

          • Erik Lambert

            So that means I win. ;)

          • Derrick Freeman

            Yes my friend victory is officially yours look fwd to debating you in the future

          • Erik Lambert


  • T Mosley

    this guy is a clown, since when did ATL sign Schwartz? could of sworn it was Asomoah

    • Erik Lambert

      I prefer the term “Jester.” Yes, I am aware it was Asomoah. I pinpointed the wrong Kansas City guard. Corrected it awhile ago.

  • 65yt

    Many mock drafts pick Watkins to TB. Also Lovie practicaly promised McCowen the starter job. Plus they signed Kitka and are looking into Hill. Thats four QBs. If not Hill maybe a rookie to train not start. Tampa needs fresh blood WR, Jackson wont be around forever.

    • Erik Lambert

      That is my thinking as well. Why can’t they take a guy in the second round? They have Jeff Tedford, a renowned quarterback specialist who knows how to develop.