April 17, 2008

NFC South: Falcons could go with Ryan

Rivals.com has partnered with NFL scout and draft expert Frank Coyle of draftinsiders.com to analyze the five biggest needs of each NFL team. Today, we look at the NFC South.

Boston College QB Matt Ryan may be No. 1 on the Falcons' shopping list, but will he be available when Atlanta makes the third selection? If not, Atlanta has plenty of other holes to fill in the 2008 NFL Draft. Analyst Frank Coyle's breaks down the team needs for Atlanta and the rest of the NFC South.

NFC South: Atlanta Falcons | Carolina Panthers | New Orleans Saints | Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Atlanta (4-12 in 2007)
Head coach: Mike Smith (First year)
Key needs: 1. Quarterback 2. Defensive tackle 3. Offensive tackle
1. Quarterback - The Falcons must turn the page after the Michael Vick fiasco and will look to address this area with one of their early selections. They love Boston College's Matt Ryan, and all their key executives visited his campus workout. They believe he will be available with the third overall selection. They will consider Michigan's Chad Henne, Louisville's Brian Brohm and Delaware's Joe Flacco in the second round if they lose out on Ryan at the top of the first round.
2. Defensive tackle - The Falcons probably will address this position in the early rounds with Jon Babineaux and Montavious Stanley as the current starters. The Falcons have become interested in LSU's Glenn Dorsey and will pull the trigger with the third overall pick if they lose out on Matt Ryan. They also like Auburn's Pat Sims and NC State's DeMario Pressley in the second round.
3. Offensive tackle - The Falcons have pressing needs at tackle, as both starters will be 33 by September. They will look to add a left tackle early and like USC's Sam Baker and Kansas' Anthony Collins in the second round. With their third-round pick, they will consider Auburn's King Dunlap and Texas' Tony Hills.
4. Cornerback - The secondary may be addressed at both safety and cornerback. The Falcons could surprise and address cornerback early. They like Virginia Tech's Brandon Flowers and Arizona's Antoine Cason in the early second round. With three second-round picks, they could add Auburn's Pat Lee or Indiana's Tracy Porter later in the round.
5. Linebacker - The Falcons lost Demorrio Williams in free agency and have little depth behind Keith Brooking and Michael Boley. They hope to address this area with at least prime top-100 selections and have Georgia Tech 'backers Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton on their early middle-round list. They also like Florida State's Geno Hayes and Colorado's Jordon Dizon in the third round.
Carolina (7-9 in 2007)
Head coach: John Fox (Seventh year)
Key needs: 1. Offensive tackle 2.Wide receiver 3. Defensive end
1. Offensive tackle - The Panthers invested their No. 1 pick five years ago on Jordan Gross and he has performed nicely after he moved back to the right side. They need a more athletic left tackle and are looking at Boise State's Ryan Clady, Virginia's Branden Albert, Vanderbilt's Chris Williams and Pitt's Jeff Otah at the 13th overall pick. Clady most likely will be gone, but Albert could be a surprise pick and eventually move to left tackle. Gross most likely would go back to left tackle for the '08 season, which would allow Albert, Williams or Otah to settle in at right tackle or guard. They also like USC's Sam Baker and Nebraska's Carl Nicks in the second round.
2. Wide receiver - The Panthers made some changes on this unit, with free-agent signees Muhsin Muhammad and D.J. Hackett replacing Drew Carter and Keary Colbert. They were disappointed last season with No. 2 pick Dwayne Jarrett, though he still figures to compete for a starting job. They would love to land a top prospect in the middle of the first round, such as Michigan State's Devin Thomas or Texas' Limas Sweed. In the second round, the like Indiana's James Hardy, Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly and LSU's Early Doucet. They also like Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett and Houston's Donnie Avery in the third round.
3. Defensive end - The Panthers added veteran Tyler Brayton in free agency but still are seeking a speedy edge rusher. They like Florida's Derrick Harvey and Auburn's Quentin Groves in the first round. They also like Virginia Tech's Chris Ellis and USC's Lawrence Jackson in the second round.
4. Quarterback - The Panthers have only young Matt Moore behind veteran starter Jake Delhomme and hope to add a top prospect. They like Louisville's Brian Brohm and Michigan's Chad Henne in the second round, and both are high priorities if available. They like San Diego's Josh Johnson and USC's John David Booty in the middle rounds.
5. Safety - The Panthers have received little production from either safety spot in recent seasons, and they could even dive into a weak position class on the first day. They like NC State's DaJuan Morgan in the second round and prospects such as Arkansas State's Tyrell Johnson and California's Thomas DeCoud with their No. 3 pick.
New Orleans (7-9 in 2007)
Head coach: Sean Payton (Third year)
Key needs: 1. Cornerback 2. Defensive tackle 3. Tight end
1. Cornerback - The Saints' secondary was toasted often last season and the team needs to make several changes. Starting safeties Josh Bullocks and Roman Harper are a talented tandem, but the Saints have major needs at corner. They like Troy's Leodis McKelvin and Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with the 10th overall pick. They like Auburn's Pat Lee and Indiana's Tracy Porter in the second round. They also could select LSU's Chevis Jackson or USF's Trae Williams in the middle rounds.
2. Defensive tackle - The Saints need to improve the interior of their front four. They hope to add a tackle, most likely in the early rounds, but expect LSU's Glenn Dorsey and USC's Sedrick Ellis to be gone when they pick in the first round. If they don't move up to select one of those tackles, they like North Carolina's Kentwan Balmer and will consider him in the first round. They also like Auburn's Pat Sims, Notre Dame's Trevor Laws and Arkansas' Marcus Harrison in the second round and Maryland's Dre Moore and NC State's DeMario Pressley in the third round.
3. Tight end - The Saints' offense has not utilized this position fully in recent seasons, and New Orleans could land a quality prospect in the early rounds such as Notre Dame's John Carlson or Purdue's Dustin Keller. They hope to address this spot with a top-100 selection and like Texas A&M's Martellus Bennett and USC's Fred Davis in the third round.
4. Linebacker - The Saints added veteran 'backers Jonathan Vilma and Dan Morgan via free agency. They are quality, though injury-prone, defenders with the versatility to play a few positions in a 4-3 set. This unit has made few big plays and needs a major overhaul that may include an early round addition. They love USC's Keith Rivers at No. 10 overall and have him on their short list in the first round. In the second round, they love Tennessee's Jerod Mayo, though he probably won't be available at the 40th overall pick. They prefer an inside guy such as Vanderbilt's Jonathan Goff in the third round.
5. Wide receiver - There is little depth behind starters Marques Colston and Devery Henderson. Last year's top pick, Robert Meachem, was a disappointment after he was injured early. The Saints may see fine value on the board in the second round with receivers such as Indiana's James Hardy, Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly and LSU's Early Doucet available. Though wide receiver isn't their strongest need, a top prospect falling to the 40th overall pick or a prospect like Vandy's Earl Bennett being available in the third round would be tough to bypass.
Tampa Bay (9-7 in 2007)
Head coach: Jon Gruden (11th year)
Key needs: 1. Cornerback 2. Defensive tackle 3. Running back
1. Cornerback - The Bucs lost starter Brian Kelly in free agency and Ronde Barber is 34. They have little depth at this position. They love USF's Mike Jenkins at No. 20 overall and also will consider Arizona's Antoine Cason there. They hope to add a potential starter fairly early. They like Penn State's Justin King and Auburn's Pat Lee in the second round and LSU's Chevis Jackson and Iowa's Charles Godfrey in the third round.
2. Defensive tackle - The Bucs received some impact from end Gaines Adams last season, but they are not done with the front four. They have little depth on the inside. In the first round, they will consider North Carolina's Kentwan Balmer. They like Arkansas' Marcus Harrison and Notre Dame's Trevor Laws in the second round.
3. Running back - The Bucs signed former star Warrick Dunn, and Cadillac Williams has been slow to recover from a serious knee injury. They could dive into a deep position class. They like Oregon's Jonathan Stewart in the first round and backs such as Rutgers' Ray Rice and UCF's Kevin Smith in the second round. They like Tulane's Matt Forte in the third round and are considering moving up in the round to select him.
4. Wide receiver - The starting tandem of Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard is well into their thirties, and former top pick Michael Clayton never has recaptured his rookie production. They will consider Texas' Limas Sweed if he is available at No. 20 overall. They could put an emphasis on return skills here with players such as California's DeSean Jackson and Virginia Tech's Eddie Royal nice early additions.
5. Defensive end - The Bucs will look to add a bookend for Gaines Adams, last year's No. 1 pick. They will consider Miami's Calais Campbell with the 20th overall selection. In the second round, they will consider USC's Lawrence Jackson, while Hampton's Kendall Langford and Eastern Michigan's Jason Jones are possibilities in the third round.

Frank Coyle is a nationally known NFL scout who publishes Draft Insiders' Digest and www.draftinsiders.com. In it's 16th season, Draft Insiders' Digest is dedicated to year-round coverage of NFL and NCAA Football. He covers the NFL Draft and free agency extensively with a veteran scouting staff that provides insightful and unique information on players and team potential in the coming seasons. Draft Insiders' Digest is an extensive publication that produces 15 issues throughout the year and a Draft Yearbook with over 450 in-depth scouting reports.


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