NFL Draft Talk Volume LXIX
The 2019 NFL draft is officially in the books and there were some teams that knocked it out of the park and made the most of nearly every pick and there were others that did a decent job or hardly moved the needle after the three-day event was concluded. Here are the draft grades for each team by division: NFC South • Atlanta Falcons: B They came into this draft committed to improving their run game and protecting their franchise quarterback Matt Ryan and their first two picks reflected that narrative. With their first pick on opening night, they selected offensive guard Chris Lindstrom from Boston College at No.14 overall and then traded back into the first round to take Washington’s guard/tackle Kaleb McGary at No.31 overall. Lindstrom was a late riser in the pre-draft process and is viewed as the purest guard prospect in this year’s class who will be a mauler at left guard while McGary can slide into either right guard or right tackle and dominate. With no picks on day two, they used four of their six picks on day three on the defensive side of the ball where they struggled mightily last year, mostly due to injury. Their secondary especially was an Achilles heel so they picked up a pair of corners in the fourth and fifth round that they hope will help turn around their fortunes in the back end. In the early fourth round, they took Kendall Sheffield of Ohio State at No.111 overall and in the fifth they selected Jordan Miller of Washington at No.172 overall. They also added some quality depth to their defensive line with Charleston’s John Cominsky with their second pick in the fourth round at No.135 overall. • Carolina Panthers: C+ They had a decent draft haul but neglected some of their positions of need on both sides of the ball. However, they did address their two biggest glaring needs with their first two picks which were at pass rusher and offensive line. With their first-round pick, they selected athletic edge rusher Brian Burns from Florida State at No.16 overall. Since franchise all-time sack leader Julius Peppers called it a career this offseason, Burns will be relied upon to bring the heat off the edge across from Mario Addison (pun fully intended). In the second round, they picked Ole Miss offensive tackle Greg Little at No.37 overall. While his last name is Little, the massive blindside blocker will be tasked with providing franchise quarterback Cam Newton better pass protection and keeping clean and him upright when he’s in the pocket. With Newton’s health and availability for the 2019 season still in question as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury that has been lingering since the 2017 season, the elected to take a gifted insurance policy in the third round when they used the No.100 overall pick on West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. Grier is a local kid who actually grew up in Charlotte so he’s no stranger to the franchise or region. He is not the same athletic specimen that Newton is, and the team would have to run an entirely different offense with him under center in the event that Newton isn’t ready to go. However, he was a prolific passer for the Mountaineers and received rave reviews from experts and pundits throughout the pre-draft process. They double down on edge rusher with their fourth round when they drafted Alabama defensive end Christian Miller at No.115 overall. In the fifth round, they found Christian McCaffery a violent rushing complement in the backfield at No.154 overall in Florida running back Jordan Scarlett. They failed to find a safety to pair with recently resigned Eric Reid and despite losing Devin Funchess in free agency, they didn’t take a wide receiver until the final round when they took Terry Godwin from Georgia at No.237 overall. • New Orleans Saints: B Since they traded their first-round pick in this year’s draft to move up for Marcus Davenport last year, they only had five picks this year. However, their team is already loaded and were one horrible non-call away from advancing to the Superbowl last year and only needed to add a few pieces on offense and defense to the formula. After three-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger retired this offseason he left a hole in the middle of arguably the best offensive line in the league. Even though they addressed that position with veteran stop gap Nick Easton in free agency, they used their first pick which came in the second round on Eric McCoy of Texas A&M at No.48 overall to find their long-term solution. The former Aggie who many experts thought would get selected in the first round will provide them an athletic anchor in the middle of their line for the next decade and then some. With their second pick on day two, they selected Swiss army knife safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson out of Florida at No.105 overall in the third round. He’ll give them a versatile piece in their secondary that can be utilized in a plethora of ways that include a screen busting box defender, an excellent blitzer from anywhere along the line of scrimmage as well as a sneaky centerfielder that can lurk and break on the ball over the deep middle of the field. • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B- They had one of the worst defenses in the league last season and were runners up to the Oakland Raiders for the worst scoring defense by allowing nearly 30 points per game. Even though they hired offensive guru and quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians as their new head coach with the expectation to get the most out of the No.1 overall pick from the 2015 draft Jameis Winston in a pivotal year for the franchise and the quarterback, their draft class was almost entirely made of defensive players. In fact, of the eight players that they drafted over the weekend, six were defenders which included their first five. They were one of just of two teams in this year’s draft that drafted a kicker before they selected an offensive prospect. Their first pick was home run when they selected the consensus top-rated inside linebacker Devin White with the fifth overall pick out of LSU. The former Tiger will be sliding into the role vacated by his fellow Louisiana State Alum Kwon Alexander who signed with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency in March. They used all three of their picks on day two on improving their woeful secondary by selecting two cornerbacks and a safety, all of which are known for their aggressive nature when the ball is in the air. With their second-round selection, they took Sean Bunting from Central Michigan at No.39 overall. The converted receiver shows excellent coverage and superb ball skills on tape which is something they’ve been in dire need of at the position for years. In the third round, the picked up another corner in Jamel Dean out of Auburn at No.94 overall and took Kentucky safety Mike Edwards five picks later at No.99 overall. Dean gives them a tough outside corner with size which they haven’t had since Aqib Talib and Edwards is a great open-field tackler with good man coverage skills. With their first two selections on day three, they picked up Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson at No.107 overall in the fourth round and drafted Utah kicker Matt Gay at No.145 overall in the fifth round. Nelson will give them good depth along their defensive line and could even earn a starting job. With the selection of Gay, they hope to end the rotating door at the kicker position that they’ve had since they wasted a second round pick on Roberto Aguayo in 2016.