Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every Tuesday. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals and try and predict who they could draft this weekend, shall we?
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• The Falcons are coming off a 4-12 season, so there are needs all over the field. The consensus among most is the biggest priorities are at outside edge rusher, cornerback and even a quarterback for the future. There has even been rumblings that star wide receiver Julio Jones could be traded if a reasonable deal is offered. The Falcons might be rebuilding and their roster could look completely different a year from now.
Draft Outlook: Many mock drafts have the Falcons taking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 overall pick. But don’t rule out a QB-needy team giving up the farm to trade up with Atlanta to draft one of the remaining quarterbacks that will go after Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and either Mac Jones, Trey Lance or Justin Fields at No. 3. Atlanta has holes at a number of positions and are in rebuild mode with a new head coach and a new general manager.
Cook’s Pick For Falcons: Florida TE Kyle Pitts
• Following a disappointing 5-11 season under first-year head coach Matt Rhule, the Panthers will also be looking to fill a number of needs on draft day. After spending every 2020 draft pick on the defensive side of the ball, look for Carolina to address the offensive side, likely with their first pick at No. 8 overall. Despite the trade for Sam Darnold, not everyone is convinced that the Panthers won’t still take a quarterback in the first round. The Panthers also need to address the wide receiver position, offensive line and cornerback.
Draft Outlook: The biggest question when trying to guess which way the Panthers go with the No. 8 overall pick is, do they truly believe Darnold is the quarterback of the future? Carolina signed Teddy Bridgewater last offseason after moving on from Cam Newton, but quickly decided after the 2020 season that Bridgewater wasn’t the answer for what Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady want to do moving forward. Look for the Panthers to take a quarterback if Lance or even Justin Fields are still on the board. Like I mentioned with the Falcons, you also can’t rule out a trade down with a team looking to move up for one of the remaining quarterbacks.
Cook’s Pick For Panthers: NDSU QB Trey Lance
New Orleans Saints
• The Saints won the division in 2020 by going 12-4, sweeping the Buccaneers in the regular season before Tampa Bay bounced them in the divisional round of the playoffs. Drew Brees retired and the Saints had to slash several million dollars in salaries to get under the cap for 2021. While it appears the Saints are content to let Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill fight it out to replace Brees under center, CB2 is a big need for New Orleans after losing Janoris Jenkins this offseason. The Saints could also use help at linebacker, wide receiver and on the defensive line.
Draft Outlook: With the loss of Janoris Jenkins there is a need for a starting corner opposite Marshon Lattimore. The Saints need to also address the linebacker unit with Alex Anzalone leaving in free agency. While Demario Davis is a stud, he is also 32 years old and won’t play forever. Look for the Saints to bolster their receiving corps, giving Winston or Hill more weapons. Florida receiver Kadarius Toney would be a dynamic playmaker in head coach Sean Payton’s system, but could be off the board before the Saints pick.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org