2018 CPGM Interactive Mock Draft Grades – NFC South
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New Orleans Saints @StrudwickHarold
The Saints 2017 draft class is a tough act to follow but despite only having two picks among the first 100 selections New Orleans did well to add Arden Key and Derrick Nnadi to Cam Jordan and Sheldon Rankins along the defensive line. Key is without question a first round talent and may have more pass rush upside than Bradley Chubb or Harold Landry. However, he has his fair share of red flags. Nnadi is as advertised and should anchor the run defense, an area the Saints really struggle in. I would have liked to see New Orleans perhaps trade out of the first round and add an additional Day 2 pick to bolster their linebacker corps as I believe Key could have been had in the early part of the 2nd round. But a good start to the Saints 2018 draft class nonetheless.
CPGM Juice’s Grade: B-
Carolina Panthers @ano_611
The Panthers did their best work on Day 2. Wide receiver James Washington offers excellent value as a second round pick and provides the legitimate deep threat that Cam Newton needs to be at his best. Braden Smith of Auburn in the latter part of the third round represents really good value. Smith may not make the Carolina faithful completely forget about Andrew Norwell but it’s a good start (the Bills should have drafted him when they had the chance). As for Carolina’s final selection in the third round, safety Jessie Bates of Wake Forest has the all-around ability coveted at the safety position in today’s game. His strong athleticism matches his instincts in space and he can cover the slot. He won’t lead the Panthers in tackles (that is reserved for Luke Kuechly) but he should find himself 2nd or 3rd on Carolina’s leaderboard. I expect all three of the Panthers’ Day 2 picks to find themselves in the starting lineup in relatively short order. However, neither my cohorts at CPGM nor I feel Isaiah Oliver should have been selected ahead of Jaire Alexander or Mike Hughes. Oliver has some pedigree, looks the part and often times finds his-self in a good position to make a play but too often fails to locate the ball. While his traits are desirable I feel that he was simply a better athlete than most opposing receivers and has a lot of to work to do to become a quality NFL corner. He strikes me as the least prepared to make an impact among all of the selections in the Panthers 2018 class. In the pantheon of recent Colorado cornerbacks entering the NFL Draft Oliver may have the highest ceiling but his floor IS the lowest.
Juice’s Grade: B-
Atlanta Falcons @kleptos18
The Falcons fell in love with eye-popping athleticism and upside of Mike Gesicki in the first round. He’s a move tight end thru and thru and possesses excellent hands. While I think his ability to work the seams and be a quality redzone target for Matt Ryan should help him get on the field sooner rather than later he offers little to nothing inline as a run blocker. Investing a first round selection in Gesicki, albeit a later first round selection is a risky proposition considering that tight ends typically have a steep learning curve from college to the pros and he clearly lacks the awareness to know when to break off his routes; and is devoid of the feel to consistently find the open zone in the defense and show the quarterback his numbers. Atlanta continued the trend of adding pieces to the defensive line by selecting edge rusher Lorenzo Carter in the 2nd round and traded a Day 2 pick to acquire Marcell Dareus from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Dareus no longer offers the ability to penetrate and get upfield like former Falcon Dontari Poe but is more consistent against the run and will allow fast flowing linebackers Deion Jones, Duke Riley and DeVondre Campbell to make plays unimpeded. Carter like Gesicki obliterated the combine posting excellent times and measurements. His physical traits suggest there is substantial pass rush upside but it didn’t always reflect accordingly on tape. Still, adding his speed and length to an already deep pass rush rotation (on the edge) should help keep Vic Beasley and Takk McKinnley fresh and mitigate the loss of Adrian Clayborn. The Falcons are betting fairly heavily on the potential Mike Gesicki and Lorenzo Carter offer; favoring the workout warrior over more polished prospects. This gamble could pay huge dividends or be a bust. I certainly understand the allure of Gesicki as he could be an absolute mismatch nightmare. Additionally, Carter’s best football appears ahead of him. But what’s more concerning is that Atlanta didn’t add a legitimate 3-technique nor did they bolster the interior part of their offensive line despite the likes of Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez being on on the board.
CPGM Juice’s Grade: C+
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @FFD260
The Buccaneers struggled in many aspects of the game in 2017; most notably their inability to affect the passer. The struggles in the secondary were exacerbated by a non-existent pass rush but the play of the defensive backfield as a whole wasn’t up to snuff. I believe the Bucs wanted to trade down to acquire more draft capital but ended up selecting cornerback Denzel Ward 7th overall. In doing so Tampa Bay adds a talented cover corner that should make an immediate impact in improving the Buccaneers pass defense. That being said, I do not believe Ward is as talented as his former Ohio State teammate Marshon Lattimore and strikes me as a Top 20 talent as opposed to a Top 10 guy. CPGM lauds his ability to mirror opposing receivers and the ease in which he changes direction but questions his functional strength outside the numbers where he will face bigger and more physical receivers like Julio Jones and Michael Thomas multiple times each season. I’m a BIG fan of the Nick Chubb selection in the 2nd round to bolster the running game and take pressure off of Jameis Winston who has yet to hit his stride. Superior to Doug Martin in every way despite the knee injury that has robbed Chubb of some of his explosiveness; Tampa Bay won’t have to trot out the likes of Peyton Barber and Charles Sims any longer. Prior to the draft Tampa Bay sent its third round pick to the New York Giants to acquire Jason Pierre Paul. JPP represents an upgrade to the pass rush but isn’t the player he was prior to a number of injuries including his fireworks mishap. I like the talent that was added by the Bucs overall but would have preferred Minkah Fitzpatrick’s versatility and leadership in the Top 10 assuming a trade (down) wasn’t feasible. I also think not being able to execute a trade to acquire more picks resulted in a missed opportunity to improve the offensive line, a problematic position group for the Bucs that isn’t acknowledged often enough.
CPGM Juice’s Grade: B-
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