The most anticipated part of the off-season is officially in the rearview mirror, as the 2020 NFL Draft has officially passed. Every team in the league added young talent to their squad, but which teams made the biggest improvements? This installment of the 2020 NFL Draft Grades features an in-depth breakdown of every team in the NFC South.
2020 NFC South NFL Draft Grades
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A-
Finding a way to land Tristan Wirfs while only giving up a fourth-round pick has to be the best-case scenario for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wirfs is an absolute stud that should be a Day One starter and has the potential to be the best tackle in the class. This is very much the missing piece to a fantastic offense with Super Bowl aspirations.
Tampa Bay has tons of young talent in the secondary, and they added another great piece in Antoine Winfield Jr. The Minnesota product has the versatile skills to play in the deep part of the field while also stepping up and stopping the run. If he can stay healthy, he should be a 10-year starter. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, meanwhile, isn’t the receiving back everyone thought Tampa would take. Chances are, he’ll split carries with Ronald Jones while Jones sees the majority of the targets.
The Buccaneers had to wait a while to make their next pick, but they certainly made it count. Tyler Johnson isn’t going to beat out Mike Evans or Chris Godwin any time soon, but he’s a great talent that could thrive with time to develop. He could even snag a few targets in the short-term, as Evans, Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski should demand most of the opposing defenses attention.
Khalil Davis has the traits to be a solid interior lineman, but he’ll need time on the bench to hone up his skills. Chapelle Russell would’ve gone a lot higher if it weren’t for his two ACL injuries. If he can stay healthy and keep up his playing weight, he could earn a rotation role for years to come. Raymond Calais has great speed but lacks the size to be a true every-down back. He’s a solid change-of-pace option that could be dangerous if schemed into the open field.
New Orleans Saints: C+
Cesar Ruiz is a great player, but it’s a strange pick for the Saints. Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger, and it’s going to hard for Ruiz to find a path to the field any time soon. New Orleans has been all-in on getting one championship run out of Brees, yet this move seems to about building for the future.
Zack Baun is an absolute steal in the third round. Projected by most to be a first- or second-round pick, the edge defender should immediately start as a rotation member of the front seven. While his size isn’t what you’d come to expect from an EDGE, he can make it work if he’s utilized in a Kyle Van Noy type of role. Adam Trautman going off the board after guys like Dalton Keene and Josiah Deguara is one of the strangest things to happen in this draft, and New Orleans wisely ended his fall by trading up into the late part of the third. He should be a great complementary weapon in this offense and has the highest ceiling of any tight end in this class.
The Trautman trade, as well as trades from the past, left the New Orleans Saints with just one Day 3 pick, and it came late in the seventh round. Tommy Stevens probably won’t ever amount to anything, but it’s always important to take shots at the quarterback position. Still, having so few picks and going all-in on 2020 makes the Cesar Ruiz pick all the more confusing.
Atlanta Falcons: C
The Atlanta Falcons need cornerbacks, and A.J. Terrell is a solid player. However, taking him with the 16th overall pick feels like a major reach, considering the rest of the talent on the board. If this really was Atlanta’s guy no matter what, they should have traded back and accumulated more draft capital. CeeDee Lamb went off the board with the next pick, so the Falcons definitely could have made a deal if they wanted to.
Marlon Davidson is a lot like A.J. Terrell in that he should be good, but he probably won’t ever be great. Considering the relative talent available, this is a good pick that should be able to fight for reps right out of the gate. Atlanta’s offensive line is a perpetual nightmare, and Matt Hennessy is a necessary addition to try and finally shore up the protection.
Atlanta had one of the worst Day 3’s of any team in the league. Linebacker Mykal Walker and safety Jaylinn Hawkins both projected as undrafted free agents, so grabbing them in the fourth is a major reach. The Falcons closed off their night by drafting a punter, a position that obviously carries very little value.
Carolina Panthers: B-
Derrick Brown is a fantastic player, but there is no way to justify taking a defensive tackle with a top-10 selection. Outside of Aaron Donald, nobody at the position makes enough of an impact in the win-loss column to justify a pick this early. Brown isn’t as good as Donald (nobody is), and the Panthers would have been much better off going with Isaiah Simmons or any one of the offense tackles remaining on the board.
Yetur Gross-Matos is what happens when need and value perfectly align. Some experts had him going in the first, but Carolina managed to get him early in the second. Starting him opposite Brian Burns should give the Panthers a pretty solid pass-rushing duo. Jeremy Chinn is a freak athlete that doesn’t really know how to play safety. If he learns the position, he can be as good as anyone. However, that is a huge “if”.
The Panthers salvaged their portion of the NFC South draft grades by landing cornerback Troy Pride Jr. in the fourth round. Pride lacks a superstar ceiling but should able to immediately contribute in this weakened secondary. Safety Kenny Robinson proved he can play at both WVU and the XFL, and his ball-hawking skills should make him a welcome addition to the secondary.
Interior defensive linemen don’t carry too much value in today’s NFL, which is why Bravvion Roy was still available in the sixth round. While Roy probably won’t play on passing downs, he can hold his own against double teams and should be a welcome rotational piece. Stantley Thomas-Oliver doesn’t project as much, but you can’t expect to get a superstar in the seventh. With no other high-level talent left on the board, the Panthers did the smart thing by throwing a dart at an important position and hoping they get lucky.
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