Apr 18, 2012
The 2012 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and this edition is much clearer than last year, at least in terms of team needs, because free agency has already taken place. Here on the staff blog, I’m breaking down each team’s top needs and fantasy outlook for the draft, going division by division. Today we head to the NFC South, and, if you missed them, check out the AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East, and NFC North. Got a player you want your team to target? Let me know in the comments.
Also, be sure to take a look at our massive 2012 Pre-Draft Rookie Report, which takes an in-depth look at all the top fantasy prospects. And, as an early reminder, Joe Dolan and I will be conducting a live chat for commentary/questions during the 1st round of the draft next Thursday.
Picks: 55, 84, 157, 192, 229, 249
1. Offensive Tackle – HC Mike Smith has given a vote of confidence to LT Sam Baker, who struggled last season, but Baker is in a contract year now. Are they going to commit to him again for the future? Of course, the Falcons don’t have a 1st-round pick this year after they traded up for Julio Jones last year, so they’re unlikely to find an LT of the future when they don’t pick until 55th overall. They could address the position, but the most likely scenario is that they stick with Baker and Will Svitek at LT in 2012.
2. Tight End – TE Tony Gonzalez decided to return in 2012, but this year could be it for the 36-year-old, who will go down as one of the best ever at the position. That means the Falcons would be wise to draft a potential replacement this year. While they don’t have a 1st-round pick, they could still be in good position to draft the 2nd- or 3rd-best TE in the draft with the 55th overall pick. Coby Fleener will be long gone, but Georgia’s Orson Charles or Clemson’s Dwayne Allen could still be available.
3. Middle Linebacker – Starting MLB Curtis Lofton signed with the Saints, and the Falcons don’t have much to fill the massive void. At the moment, the starting job appears to be up for grabs between Akeem Dent, a 2011 3rd-round pick who made 20 tackle as a rookie, and newly signed Lofa Tatupu, who missed all of last season because of knee surgery.
Fantasy Outlook: In addition to drafting Jones last year, the Falcons spent a later pick on RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who should see an increased role this year as a receiver and change-of-pace runner. Additionally, they re-signed Jason Snelling, so they have good backfield depth behind Michael Turner. The one position, aside from TE, they could address is WR, simply for depth in the later rounds. They’re set with Jones, Roddy White, and Harry Douglas as the top three, but the only depth they have behind those guys is Kerry Meier with Eric Weems gone.
Picks: 9, 40, 104, 143, 180, 207, 216
1. Defensive Tackle – After Ron Edwards went down for the season with an injury, the Panthers started a pair of rookies in Terrell McClain and Sione Fua at DT for much of the year. Both were 3rd-round picks, so it’s not like the Panthers are going to give up on them, but with the 9th overall pick they’re in perfect position to land a big upgrade after they ranked 25th against the run in 2011. Michael Brockers and Dontari Poe are options, but the Panthers’ best bet is taking Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox, who represents a good blend of need and value with the ability to play right away.
2. Cornerback – The Panthers lost Richard Marshall a year ago, leaving the talented Chris Gamble and the inconsistent Captain Munnerlyn to start. They’re fine with Gamble, but Munnerlyn needs competition, whether that’s from Darius Butler or a rookie. The Panthers could take South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore with the 9th overall pick, or they could wait and try to grab someone like UCF’s Josh Robinson in the 2nd round.
3. Linebacker – This group was a big issue last year, as Thomas Davis and Jon Beason both got hurt. Dan Connor signed with the Cowboys, leaving little depth behind Davis, Beason, and James Anderson. They could take Boston College’s Luke Kuechly in the 1st round, but they’ll probably wait and address the position later.
Fantasy Outlook: The Panthers are obviously set in the backfield, where they hit a home run with QB Cam Newton and have a messy fantasy situation at RB with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert. But they could add more receiving weapons for Newton. They have a star in Steve Smith, so the question is how comfortable they are with Brandon LaFell and David Gettis next to him. OC Rob Chudzinski likes to use TEs, and while they have the decent Greg Olsen, they have not re-signed Jeremy Shockey. The Panthers could look to pair Olsen with someone like UL Lafayette’s Ladarius Green.
New Orleans Saints
Picks: 89, 122, 162, 179, 234
1. Cornerback – Well, needs don’t matter much for the Saints, who will have a long wait until they’re on the clock. The traded their 1st-round pick to New England, and the NFL took away they’re 2nd-round pick, so they’re unlikely to get an impact player. Still, we’ll start at CB, where Tracy Porter is gone from a secondary that finished 30th in the league against the pass. Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson are penciled in as starters with little depth behind them.
2. Defensive End – The Saints spent an early pick on Cameron Jordan last year, but they still need pass rush help to go along with Will Smith. You can never have too many pass rushers, so perhaps the Saints will look for someone with upside in the middle rounds.
3. Wide Receiver – The Saints re-signed #1 WR Marques Colston, and their receiving corps remains very good with Colston, TE Jimmy Graham, and RB Darren Sproles leading the way, along with Lance Moore and Devery Henderson. Still, Robert Meachem signed with the Chargers, and while we’ve heard good things about Adrian Arrington, the Saints could spend one of their picks on the position for depth/competition.
Fantasy Outlook: The Drew Brees situation remains a bit of a mess, but he’ll be playing QB for the Saints in 2012. Aside from WR, the Saints don’t need much else. The last thing we want is for them to take another RB after signing Sproles, drafting Mark Ingram, and re-signing Pierre Thomas last year, and they’re set at TE with young stud Jimmy Graham.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Picks: 5, 36, 68, 140, 174, 212
1. Running Back – It’s not that LeGarrette Blount isn’t talented and capable of producing. We’ve seen him put together big games, and we’ve certainly seen him put together big individual plays. But he’s just not a good enough all-around back. He can’t stay on the field in passing situations because he’s a liability in protection, and he doesn’t contribute anything as a receiver. So, the Bucs need to take a complete back with one of their first two picks. In an ideal scenario, the Browns pass on Trent Richardson with the 4th overall pick, leaving the Bucs to take the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson at #5. If not, they could settle for the next best thing and take Doug Martin or David Wilson at the top of the 2nd round.
2. Cornerback – Ronde Barber is back, and the Bucs do have Aqib Talib and FA acquisition Eric Wright. So, this unit doesn’t look bad at the moment. However, Barber is 37 years old and nowhere near as good as he once was, and Talib continues to face messy off-the-field troubles. Talib, who’s a free agent next year, might not be in Tampa much longer, and the same goes for Barber, so the Bucs still need to look for the future. If Trent Richardson isn’t available at #5, the Bucs will probably take LSU CB Morris Claiborne.
3. Linebacker – The Bucs boasted the league’s worst run defense last year, and while injury problems at DT played a big part in that, the LBs didn’t help. Rookie Mason Foster in particular was lost in the middle, so the Bucs need to add some competition to help bolster the run defense. The good news is that a healthy D-line could be really good, so that can help mask weaknesses at linebacker, but the Bucs still must address the position.
Fantasy Outlook: The Bucs are in much better shape at WR now that they signed Vincent Jackson, giving them a very good receiving corps. However, they could look to add another TE. Kellen Winslow remains solid as the starter, for now, but they could add depth to compete with Luke Stocker, who did very little as a rookie. Otherwise, RB is the only obvious need.