While most Bucs fans are all excited about how their team did in last weekend’s NFL Draft, their NFC South division rivals fans were just as excited about the newest players they will get to cheer for. PewterReport.com takes a look at the Bucs three divisional opponents and breaks down their draft selections, including which drafted player could be a a thorn in the Bucs side moving forward.
1. Florida S Keanu Neal
Neal was a bit of surprise pick at No. 17 since many expected Atlanta to go linebacker, but he certainly fits a need for at the Falcons, who will use the former Gators safety at the strong safety position and count on him to come up in run support like Kam Chancellor did when head coach Dan Quinn was in Seattle. Neal is a thumper, and Bucs receivers would be smart to keep an eye on him when going over the middle. The good news is with the rule changes recently protecting defenseless receivers, Neal will be limited from delivering the big-time hits he is capable of making. The Falcons run a lot of Cover 3, and Neal should step in as a starter from the first day of camp.
2. LSU LB Deion Jones
Jones is expected to start at weakside linebacker for Atlanta and like Neal, fills a need. Jones is a super-athletic linebacker, but sometimes lacks natural instinct according to some. The Falcons loved Neal at the Senior Bowl and also brought him in for a private visit and love the fact he ran a sub 4.4 40 time at his pro day. He has Lavonte David-type speed and athleticism.
3. Stanford TE Austin Hooper
The Falcons have been looking for a red zone receiving tight end threat since Tony Gonzalez retired, and think they may have found one in the former Stanford standout. Hooper appears to a well-rounded blocker and receiver who can play inline of split out in the slot.
4. Minnesota LB DeVondre Campbell
A raw but athletic linebacker, Campbell struggles at times playing with natural instincts. But you can’t coach his size (6-4, 232) or athleticism. Expected to be a special teams contributor as he gets up to NFL speed.
5. San Jose State G Wes Schweitzer
One of the smartest players in the draft, Schweitzer’s major at San Jose State was chemistry. The Falcons need guard help as one starter Chris Chester was re-signed to a one-year deal, but is coming off of offseason surgery. Schweitzer will compete to start but most likely is a first-year backup.
6. UCLA WR Devin Fuller
Fuller came to UCLA as a four-star QB recruit before transitioning to wide receiver and kick returner. Will need to contribute on special teams to make the team but has the size and speed (4.39) to intrigue the Falcons.
BUCS’ BIGGEST PROBLEM: NEAL
Tampa Bay receivers could take advantage of the middle of the field with the aging William Moore in the secondary, but Neal is a game-changer. He’s just as hard of a hitter for Atlanta, but Neal is faster and better in coverage than Moore ever was.
FALCONS’ DRAFT GRADE: C
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
1. Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins
PewterReport.com readers know what we’ve thought of Rankins for a quite a while and the former Louisville standout instantly should make the Saints defense better. With an incredibly quick first move, Rankins has reminded many of Rams star Aaron Donald. The Saints already have Nick Fairley and John Jenkins to play inside, but Rankins could end up being the best of the bunch and, do it quickly.
2. Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
The Saints gave QB Drew Brees another weapon in Thomas who caught 56 passes for 781 yards and nine TDs last season for Ohio State. Thomas isn’t a blazer, but he’s a big receiver and gives the Saints a different style receiver who excels at catching the ball in traffic, and getting up over defenders.
2. Ohio State S Vonn Bell
Bell isn’t a headhunter type safety, but in the new NFL, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bell excels in coverage and lead the Buckeyes with six interceptions as a sophomore, including one that helped seal the national championship game against the Crimson Tide in 2014.
4. Manitoba DT Daniel Onyemata
Onyemata isn’t a household name after playing his college football in Canada, but was rising up draft boards late in the process after his pro day earlier this year. With Sheldon expected to make an immediate impact, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Onyemata can learn and develop his game moving forward.
7. California RB Daniel Lasco
After a terrific 2014 season where he ran for 1,115 yards and scored 14 touchdowns, Lasco saw his production dip dramatically after a string injuries took their toll. Still, Lasco is an athlete, as evidenced by his 11-foot-3 broad jump and 41.5 vertical at the NFL scouting Combine in Indianapolis last February.
BUCS’ BIGGEST PROBLEM: RANKINS
The Bucs used to be able to run at will against the Saints, but having Rankins in the middle will make that tougher. New Orleans’ interior pass rush was also non-existent, but that changes with the arrival of Rankins.
SAINTS’ DRAFT GRADE: B
1. Louisiana Tech DT Vernon Butler
The selection of Butler was interesting as the Panthers already have Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei up front. But Butler will most certainly rotate with both and gives the Panthers some flexibility and options as both Short and Lotulelei have contracts coming due in the not too distant future. Butler is a manning presence in the middle and will help keep opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable on Sunday afternoons.
2. Samford CB James Bradberry
After losing Josh Norman to the Redskins via free agency, Carolina spent their next three picks trying to replace the talented, but hot-headed former Panthers Pro Bowler. Bradberry, like Norman, comes from a small school, but will compete to start in the Panthers secondary. Some felt drafting the 6-foot-1 Bradberry in the second round was a little bit of a reach.
3. West Virginia CB Daryl Worley
Worley was the second DB drafted by the Panthers last week and the former West Virginia standout comes with some character concerns after an arrest in college. However the Panthers feel they did their homework, so much in fact, they moved up to grab another big, 6-foot-1 cornerback in the third round.
5. Oklahoma CB Zack Sanchez
Sanchez had 13 interceptions and 88 tackles over his last two seasons at Oklahoma, and was a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award last season. He was described as a gambler, but regardless he is a ball hawk, something the Panthers love about him. Between Sanchez, Bradberry and Worley the Panthers have to hit on one of these cornerbacks to replace Norman.
7. Montana State TE Beau Sandland
The Panthers rounded out their draft with the pick of Sandland in the seventh out of Montana State. Sandland caught 37 passes for 632 yards and nine touchdowns last season and can learn from one of the best in Greg Olsen.
BUCS’ BIGGEST PROBLEM: Sanchez
Sanchez is a feast-or-famine cornerback that will remind some of former Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib in that he’s a gambler. He’ll give up some TDs, but he will also get his share of interceptions and turn a few into pick-sixes, too.
PANTHERS DRAFT GRADE: C-
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, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. 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 [email protected]
I wonder how the Falcons, Saints, Panthers rated our draft? Let me play devils advocate; and this is in no way how I really feel. The Bucs draft a small CB; yum yum, we’re going to score a lot of TD’s on his side. Next the Bucs go after a small quick DE which we had no problem last season stopping, you would think they’d try something else. They needed a kicker bad enough they drafted him in the 2nd round; who does that? The rest aren’t worth evaluating. Grade D.
Yeah I would say that is pretty close. But our first two picks are golden. they may not be big guys, but they were super productive. I think this will end up being a pretty good draft if McCoy stays healthy. If he goes down early, we are going to get hurt. I am excited now about the Fullback and the other cornerback.
I cant wait to see Sweezy and Marpet render Rankins mute. Vernon Butler is another story. We are going to have to try to find a way to block him.
I think Sweezy/Marpet and Rankins will neutralize each other in the run game but Rankins holds the advantage when rushing the passer. Sweezy is a poor pass protector and the jury is still out on Marpet.
Sounds about right on the rivals grades. All experts have our draft rated on high end B, and low end C-. I’m around C+ overall. Hard to say really until they hit the field. Panthers draft was odd but still the team to beat in our division. Pass protection from O line isn’t great but they don’t car because they were able to run the ball at will with Cam and a RB in there. Their biggest problem was losing Norman and they likely got at least one starting CB out of 3. Will be an interesting year.
The biggest part of the development of the Bucs in this upcoming season is not really going to be about this year’s draft anyways. It’s about the continued development of Winston. I’m psyched to see how much he improves after his first football offseason. This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to next year’s win total.
100% Truth! Winston’s development and chemistry with the offense will determine far more than this draft in 2016.
Our biggest improvement on defense is the removal of Lovie…followed by the addition of Mike Smith. We got a few extra pieces this draft but their effect shouldn’t be fully felt until 2017
The sole reason the Bucs are getting C-minus grades from anywhere is because they drafted a kicker with what should really be considered a third round choice.
Most of these pundits don’t realize how important the kicking game is going to be this year and also forget about the kicker until he misses a PAT or field goal.
This shows about as much foresight as locking the gate after the horse gets out.
Hopefully as Winston matures and he gets more seasoned and experienced in the opponents territory, we won’t even need a kicker.
Of course this would be great but unrealistic.
Let’s just remember the Raiders, when they were being run by a lucid Al David, drafted two kickers in the first round.
Ray Guy and Sebastian Janikowski.
No one is making fun of or digging those picks anymore.
I understand the need to be a bit sensationalistic, but maybe we should keep the comparisons to Aaaron Donald (Shelton Rankins) and LaVonte David (Deion Jones) in reserve until these dudes have played at least 1 snap in the NotForLong League?
Grading Drafts is just silly when the grader doesn’t know the answers. Giving them any sort of credibility even more ludicrous. We talk about drafting the best players then assign a grade based on filling a teams’ perceived need or our own bias.
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