The easiest way to make the NFL playoffs is to win your division. Thus, each of the four teams in every division spends a significant amount of their energy preparing to face one another. Selecting well in the NFL Draft goes a long way into ensuring a division title. This draft for the NFC South was very interesting in a lot of ways. The Falcons and Panthers are fully rebuilding. The Saints are reloading after making many moves this off-season to improve. After losing several high-profile players, the Buccaneers might be the biggest enigma in the division going into next season. How does each team’s draft selections stack up though? These picks are hugely important to each team’s fortune next season. These are the NFC South draft grades for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Draft Grades for every team in the NFC South
- R1 Bijan Robinson, RB Texas
- R2 Matthew Bergeron, G Syracuse
- R3 Zach Harrison, DE Ohio State
- R4 Clark Phillips III, CB Utah
- R7 DeMarcco Hellams, S Alabama
- R7 Jovaughn Gwyn, G South Carolina
The Atlanta Falcons surprised the world by taking Robinson with their first selection. Robinson will no doubt be productive in the Falcons offense, but rushing was not the issue with this team going into the off-season. Tyler Allgeier was productive enough for a team that does not seem close to the playoffs. The trenches and secondary were big issues for the team and the team did not spend enough draft capital on needed positions. Harrison from Ohio State is a role player at best that could have likely been taken a round or two later. Phillips was the best selection from the Falcons, even if he is undersized. Teams want to be better after the draft takes place, and it is difficult to say that the Falcons are better today than they were last week.
- R1 Bryce Young, QB Alabama
- R2 Jonathan Mingo, WR Ole Miss
- R3 DJ Johnson, OLB Oregon
- R4 Chandler Zavala, G NC State
- R5 Jammie Robinson, S Florida State
The Panthers have turnover all around the team this off-season and made moves even in the draft. After making the trade up to get the top pick in the draft, the Panthers now have their quarterback of the future in Bryce Young. The debate between Stroud and Young will be an NFL debate for years to come, but the Panthers got their guy. Stroud’s slight frame and lack of experience dealing with a pass rush will remain questions until he shows he can handle the NFL. Outside of the Round 3 selection of Johnson, the Panthers had great selections at nearly every pick. Mingo has the NFL pedigree and will try to do his best DJ Moore impression this season. Zavala in Round 4 was an absolute steal as he was one of the most athletic Guards in the entire draft. Robinson will likely have a shot to earn playing time at free safety but will need to play special teams to earn a spot on the team. Either way, the Panthers addressed needs and got great value with nearly every selection.
Which NFC South team had the best draft?
This poll is closed
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- R1 Bryan Bresee, DT Clemson
- R2 Isaiah Foskey, DE Notre Dame
- R3 Kendre Miller, RB TCU
- R4 Nick Saldiveri, G Old Dominion
- R4 Jake Haener, QB Fresno State
- R5 Jordan Howden, S Minnesota
- R6 A.T. Perry, WR Wake Forest
One thing that the Saints did well was address positions of need in this year’s draft. The issue is the value of selection in the first and second round. Bresee and Foskey are high character guys who will be valuable in the locker room, but both need to prove their selection on the field. Bresee disappeared in some games last season while Foskey did not face the best competition at Notre Dame. In the past 20 years, the Fighting Irish have turned out exactly two meaningful defensive linemen. Foskey will have to go against history to prove he was worthy of a Round 2 selection. These top two picks lower the Saints grade considerably, even if they nailed the final rounds of the draft. Every single player selected from Round 3 onwards could easily make an impact this season. Jordan Howden is the biggest steal of any NFC South selection. Perry might be the second biggest. If Bresee and Foskey turn out, then this year’s picks have the potential to rival the Saints famed 2017 class.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+
- R1: Calijah Kancey, DT Pittsburgh
- R2 Cody Mauch, OT North Dakota State
- R3 YaYa Diaby, OLB Louisville
- R5 SirVocea Dennis, ILB Pittsburgh
- R5 Payne Durham, TE Purdue
- R6 Josh Hayes, CB Kansas State
- R6 Trey Palmer, WR Nebraska
- R6 Jose Ramirez, OLB E.Michigan
The Bucs started the draft well by taking a player that was rumored to be on the Saints radar. Calijah Kancey should immediately supplement an aging Bucs defensive line who also lost several players this off-season. In round 2, the Bucs reached for an FCS offensive lineman. Mauch will likely move to the inside of the line but this looked like a reach. The selections in rounds 3 and 5 look to be solid. Diaby has the attributes to be a good Edge rusher in the NFL with some coaching. Likewise, Dennis was a highly productive linebacker at Purdue who will be surrounded by veterans that he can leech for coaching and guidance. The rest of the players are experiments at best. A better pick in the second round would have put the Bucs grade much higher.