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NFC South 2018 NFL Draft Grades: Panthers Fail, Saints Risk It All

2018 NFL Draft
Vita Vea is the biggest wildcard in the 2018 NFL Draft when grading the NFC South (Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone and now it’s time to grade the Draft. You could make the argument that the NFC South is the best division in football. Three teams made the postseason from the South a year ago (Falcons, Panthers, Saints). You can also make an argument that the Bucs roster is also pretty loaded despite lacking a real head coach. If the South wants to continue this type of excellence for years to come, they have to nail the draft. Who were the winners and losers during the 2018 NFL Draft when it pertains to the NFC South?

Atlanta Falcons: Draft Grade B-

  • Round 1, Pick 26 (No. 26 overall): Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
  • Round 2, Pick 26 (No. 58 overall): Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
  • Round 3, Pick 26 (No. 90 overall): Deadrin Senat, DT, South Florida
  • Round 4, Pick 26 (No. 126 overall): Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss
  • Round 6, Pick 20 (No. 194 overall): Russell Gage, WR, LSU
  • Round 6, Pick 26 (No. 244 overall) Foyesade Oluokun, LB, Yale 

I thought the Falcons had a really solid first two rounds of the draft. The problem is they blew the rest. The Falcons have needs at both guard spots that should have been taken care of at some point. However, even passing on those top tier guards, you can’t argue with the Calvin Ridley pick. I am not a fan of taking wide receivers in the first round but the Falcons are one of the few teams that have messed with fire and won. Remember when they took Julio Jones in the first round? That worked out well. I think Ridley is a good compliment who is eerily similar to Amari Cooper as a really smooth route runner. That’s exactly what you need on the other side winning one on one matchups while Julio gets the kitchen sink thrown at him.

Isaiah Oliver is a long press corner that we probably should have seen coming. Outside Mr. Trufant, there really isn’t a top-tier corner on the roster. Oliver gives the Falcons just that. Colorado has also been very good at producing NFL talent in the secondary contrary to what you may think. Jimmy Smith and Chidobe Awuzie have been recent examples that have panned out well.

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The rest of their draft really just came away with nothing. Senat is a pretty big reach in the third round when there were more talented options available. Ito Smith in the fourth round is unthinkable. He was probably the worst running back at the Senior Bowl. It’s a decent draft but not a home run draft by any means.

Carolina Panthers: Draft Grade F

  • Round 1, Pick 24 (No. 24 overall): D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland 
  • Round 2, Pick 23 (No. 55 overall): Donte Jackson, DB, LSU
  • Round 3, Pick 21 (No. 85 overall): Rashaan Gaulden, S, Tennessee
  • Round 4, Pick 1 (No. 101 Overall): Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana 
  • Round 4, Pick 36 (No. 136 Overall): Marquis Haynes, DE, Mississippi
  • Round 5, Pick 24 (No. 161 overall): Jermaine Carter Jr., LB, Maryland
  • Round 7, Pick 16 (No. 234 overall): Andre Smith, LB, North Carolina
  • Round 7, Pick 24 (No. 242 overall): Kendrick Norton, DL, Miami (FL)

You can say whatever you want about Dave Gettleman but it’s pretty clear now why they fired him. This organization doesn’t have a damn clue. Gettleman made his bones drafting defensive lineman to keep this team relevant. Carolina has decided to go turn a complete 180 which is an obvious mistake. Drafting receivers in the first round is almost never a good idea. Carolina opts to take D.J. Moore who wasn’t even the best receiver in the draft. This class is really down and Moore wasn’t really worthy of being a first or second round pick but was pushed up boards because of depth at the receiver position. That’s when you get yourself in trouble. I watched Maryland a few times this year and had no idea who he was until I saw a mock draft.

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Donte Jackson is really fast but I’m not sure he knows what he’s doing quite yet. This is probably their best pick and Carolina really needed corners. The tools are there and Jackson obviously has great range. LSU is a hotbed of producing players in the secondary. The second round pick here seems more than fair but Carolina stuck out the rest of the way. How many players from the third round down contribute? Probably 1 (Marquis Haynes). Rashaan Gaulden? Do you realize how bad Tennessee was? They have no players.

2018 NFL Draft
The Saints forked over a 2019 first round pick to land a pass rusher from the University of Texas San Antonio. Let’s see how this plays out. (Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

New Orleans Saints: Draft Grade D

  • Round 1, Pick 14 (No. 14 overall) [via Green Bay]: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
  • Round 3, Pick 27 (No. 91 overall): Tre’Quan Smith, WR, Central Florida
  • Round 4, Pick 27 (No. 127 overall): Rick Leonard, T, Florida State
  • Round 5, Pick 27 (No. 164 overall): Natrell Jamerson, S, Wisconsin
  • Round 6, Pick 15 (No. 189 overall): Kamrin Moore, CB, Boston College
  • Round 6, Pick 27 (No. 201 overall): Boston Scott, RB, Louisiana Tech
  • Round 7, Pick 27 (No. 245 overall): Will Clapp, C, LSU

The Saints better be sure that Marcus Davenport is more than just a guy. New Orleans dumped the farm in order to land Davenport who is a small school player from UTSA. Stop trying to act like you’ve seen a UTSA game because I know you haven’t so don’t comment on whether you know how Davenport will pan out. At the Senior Bowl, Davenport wasn’t all that impressive and really was his most productive as an undersized defensive tackle using a bull rush move. That was really the only move he had in his arsenal. Again, you’re playing with fire dealing away a farm of picks to land this guy but time will tell if the Saints made the right call.

The Lead Word – NFC Draft Review – 5.11.18

The rest of the picks were not great by any means. Tre’Quan Smith might be an alright number 3 receiver. I’ve never even heard of Rick Leonard coming out in the draft process. For a team that was on the cusp of a Super Bowl, they are really banking on Davenport just simply being the last piece of the puzzle.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Draft Grade B+

  • Round 1, Pick 12 (No. 12 overall) [via Buffalo]: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
  • Round 2, Pick 6 (No. 38 overall): Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
  • Round 2, Pick 21 (No. 53 overall, via Buffalo): M.J. Stewart, CB, North Carolina
  • Round 2, Pick 31 (No. 63 overall): Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
  • Round 3, Pick 30 (No. 94 overall) [Via Minnesota]: Alex Cappa, G, Humboldt State
  • Round 4, Pick 17 (No. 117 overall): Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh
  • Round 5, Pick 7 (No. 144 overall): Justin Watson, WR, Pennsylvania 
  • Round 6, Pick 28 (No. 202 overall): Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin

The Bucs decided to trade down in the Josh Allen deal that really saved this draft. Vita Vea is very much a coin flip in the first round. If he’s Haloti Ngata then hats off the Tampa for making the pick. If he’s Danny Shelton than this pick stinks. The rest of the draft was really well orchestrated.


Ronald Jones is a flat out stud. Jones is the closest resemblance to Alvin Kamara in this year’s draft because Jones really just has that second gear to hit the homer on any play. There’s also a ferocity that Jones runs with to go with his incredible speed and agility. The second round was just really well played. Adding M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis gives Tampa two quality corners. Some off the field issues here but have superstar potentials at their highest end. Adding Cappa gives some toughness at guard. Even Jack Cichy could be a steal and only slipped because of injury. Bravo to the Bucs!

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