Stanford's do-everything RB Christian McCaffrey - Photo by: Getty Images
There was plenty of excitement to be had from around the league as Day 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft unfolded pick-by-pick. But, when the night was done and the dust settled, it was hard to find a division anywhere in the league that made as crucial picks as the ones from the NFC South.
By now you all know about the impact of the O.J. Howard pick for the Tampa bay Buccaneers. The fact that he was still left on the board at No. 19 was a shock to not only NFL fans, but also to Bucs general manager Jason Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter. Both said that when Howard was available for them when they got on the clock, the war room at One Buc Place hadn’t been that excited since the team drafted Jameis Winston No. 1 overall in 2015.
But what of the other teams in the division, and the players who the Buccaneers will be facing at least twice a year? Here’s who those teams picked, and how those players will be used.
CAROLINA PANTHER – CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY – RB – NO. 8 OVERALL
With the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, the Panther selected the second running back off the board in Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey had an incredibly productive career during his three years at Stanford racking up 3,922 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. Over 2,000 of those yards came in one season in 2015 when McCaffrey was a Heisman runner-up. Though he’s a smaller back at 5-foot-11 and just 202 pounds, McCaffrey ran plenty of plays between the tackles in power blocking schemes due to the nature of Stanford’s offense. He has experience from both the I-formation and from the shotgun, and was one of the more electrifying players in the country with the ball in his hands as a runner and kick returner.
But, where McCaffrey might be used best in the NFL might not even be at running back – though he can play it. His best use might be in a Julian Edelman role as a slot receiver. At Stanford, he caught 99 passes for over 1,200 yards in his three years of production. Some scouts said he had one of the best receiver workouts they’ve ever seen at his Pro Day.
Taking a running back in the Top 10 is risky value, but McCaffrey is truly a do-it-all offensive weapon. Linebackers are too slow for him and cornerback often can’t bring him down. With Jonathan Stewart still on the roster, expect to see a lot of McCaffrey in the slot when the Bucs and Panther face off for the first time in Week 8.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – MARSHON LATTIMORE – CB – No. 11 OVERALL
Up until the Buccaneers selected O.J. Howard at No. 19, Lattimore going to the Saints was considered the steal of the draft.
Lattimore seemed to be head-and-shoulders above every other cornerback in this class as the top. In a position class that was touted to be very deep and rich at the top, for him to fall to No. 11 was a surprise.
Lattimore is a very fast, lockdown receiver. At Ohio State, with safety Malik Hooker playing as a single-high safety, Lattimore and his fellow cornerback, Gareon Conley, mostly play man coverage on the outside. In his one year as a starter, Lattimore recorded four interceptions and nine passes defended. He’s never played as a slot or nickel corner, so don’t expect the Saints to play him there.
At 6-foot, 193 pounds, Lattimore ran a blazing 4.36 40-yard dash and jumped 38.5 inches at the Combine. When the Saints and Bucs meet in New Orleans in Week 9, he’ll likely be the player they ask to guard DeSean Jackson. That will be a speed-on-speed match up that many are looking forward to – perhaps even Jackson himself.
ATLANTA FALCONS – TAKK McKINLEY – DE – No. 26 OVERALL
Those who didn’t know Takk McKinley before the draft got to see the kind of kid he is real quick after he heard his name called. He waked up to the podium holding a picture of his late grandmother, and was very emotional and passionate during his interview afterwards about what it meant to be drafted for him and for her.
Atlanta gave up a fourth round pick to move up from No. 31 to No. 26 for McKinley, and here’s what he brings. He was initially committed to Cal out of high school, but failed to qualify academically. After attending Contra Costa College in 2013, he transferred to UCLA. He stepped out in his senior year in a big way and received first-team All-Pac-12 honors with 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and six pass breakups.
At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds and 4.59 speed, McKinley is a strong pass rusher who is just as passionate (if not more) with his helmet on than when he has his hat after being drafted. He and Vic Beasley are going to be quite the duo off the edge for Tampa when the face the Falcons in Week 12.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – RYAN RAMCZYK – OT – No. 32 OVERALL
Thanks to a trade that send wide receiver Brandin Cooks up north to New England, the Saints had an extra pick at the end of the first round.
There were plenty of option available for them, but, in the end, they went with a player who many thought to be the best pass blocking offensive lineman in the class, Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk.
Ramczyk (pronounced RAM-check), was just the second offensive lineman to be taken on Day 1. The other was Garrett Bolles to the Denver Broncos at No. 20. Ramczyk is coming off hip surgery, but should be good to go for the season. He, like Lattimore will see the Buccaneers for the first time in Week 9. He’ll likely line up against Noah Spence all game long.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nice article Trev, I hope you do this after each days picks and then when you guys go to camp – do a update just before the season on the changes for each division foe.
Will try to do one after each day, yes.
Trevor, I was thinking the same as you about our Conference; we all got better.
Dan Quinn is putting together a scary good defense in Atlanta.
… almost as quick as Licht is putting together a scary good offense!
Some fine players were taken by the conference opposition. The most significant additions from round 1 appear to be McCaffrey and Lattimore.
We better have a good slot corner to match uip with McCaffrey. Not sure we have that guy yet.
I’m not too worried about Lattimore doing excessive damage to our new Bucs offense, though. Too many targets to cover all over the field, outside and inside, short and long, big and speedy.
Trev, how do those picks perhaps effect who we pick tonight?
I don’t know if they affect it all too much. Licht said himself he doesn’t weigh one-team counter players very much, if at all, on draft night. Maybe in free agent moves, but not as much in the draft. They’re just looking to get the best players.
I myself am thanking a corner then a runner.
I’m perhaps a little more skeptical here…
The chance that all of these guys actually turn out to be great selections is minimal. Here’s some more to contemplate (not concluding there’s anything for certain wrong with anyone, but the odds are on this side…and I think a little perspective is needed):
1) Lattimore has a very small resume and little experience against top-flight WRs…NO may have just selected a CB too small to cover the Kelvin Benjamins and Mike Evans of the division…making him a #2 (or slot) CB with the 11th overall pick (note, we may have done something similar last year). Of course, #2 CBs are still valuable, but the chance of him being a steal/pro-bowler/lock-down CB versus this year’s VHIII (who also had a 40 time of 4.41)??????
2) McCaffrey is 200lbs soaking wet…when was the last time a 200lb RB prospered in the NFL (maybe our very own Warrick Dunn way-back in the day). Carolina may have just selected a slot WR and KR with the 8th pick. Again, slot WRs and KRs are valuable but are we in the Tavon Austin realm or the steal/pro-bowler realm???
3) Ramczyk – in the previous quarter century of drafting, only one other time (11 years ago) did it take at least 32 picks to get the second OT off the board. The league loves OTs, and yet Ramcyzk, not so much apparently. NO may have just selected a RT, or reserve OT in the 1st round. Again, RTs are valuable, but….
4) Tak McKinley …well I’ll just point you to the analysis done by our very own Buc Stephen White…buyer beware.
It’s just a little perspective – no predictions about these guys busting…just a way to say that maybe handing out accolades to our division foes is a little premature…I think the outlook for OJ Howard far exceeds the rest of these guys IMO.
I think all of these guys are going to be a big problem with the exception of Ramczyk. Especially Lattimore; he’s the real deal. In a year or two I think he’ll be able to neutralize (not shut down or eliminate) Evans. Especially with Shelton Rankins being healthy and creating pressure up the middle reducing the amount of time Evans has to get open.
I know one thing, the NFC South got a lot tougher this week! It’s going to be exciting to this division battle it out this year.
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