2023 NFL Draft: What does each team in the NFC South division need? Projected picks
With just a little more than a day left until the 2023 NFL Draft, it is the perfect time to talk about the NFC south and their possible draft picks.
The NFL is excited as mock drafts, scouting reports, and roster-building discussions emerge from every corner.
The NFC South teams have been busy this offseason, with at least five projected defensive starters and numerous offensive contributors signed through free agency. However, the teams are still searching for significant talent upgrades to bolster their rosters. With the 2023 NFL Draft fast approaching, they are well-positioned to achieve that goal with an arsenal of picks. In this edition of our draft roundtable series, we take a closer look at the remaining draft needs for each team in the NFC South.
Despite securing some significant signings in the free agency period, such as safety Jessie Bates III, defensive linemen David Onyemata and Calais Campbell, and wide receiver Mack Hollins, among others, the Falcons still require other pieces to enhance their roster on both offense and defense. With the 2023 NFL Draft approaching soon, the team has eight picks at their disposal, including a top-10 pick at No. 8 overall, which they can utilize to address their remaining needs.
After assessing the Falcons’ roster following the free agency period, the cornerback position still needs more depth. The team was plagued with injuries in this area last season and lacked sufficient pieces to fill in. However, with the addition of veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell, the edge rusher position is no longer the top priority. That said, the Falcons still need to strengthen their unit with more depth, especially considering their little 21 sacks in 2022 - the second-lowest in the league. The recent departures of Elijah Wilkinson and Chuma Edoga in free agency have also created a void at the left guard position, with Matt Hennessy’s role yet to be determined for 2023. The Falcons could potentially select Chandler Zavala from N.C. to address this need. State in the third round of the draft. Zavala has allowed only eight pressures and no sacks in the past two years, making him a promising candidate.
In a bold move, the Carolina Panthers traded a substantial haul of draft picks and star wide receiver D.J. Moore to the Chicago Bears to secure the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. This pick will enable head coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer to select their next franchise quarterback, with highly polished prospect C.J. Stroud currently leading the pack. However, there are several other contenders for the top pick, including Bryce Young and Anthony Richardson, each with their unique strengths and weaknesses.
Beyond the quarterback position, the Panthers must also address their needs for another wide receiver and a tight end. While the defense is considered a talented unit, Reich referred to it as the Panthers’ “secret sauce,” there is still room for improvement with a potential addition of a pass rusher, linebacker, and cornerback to bolster the team.
New Orleans Saints
After a disappointing 2022 season with a record of 7-10, the New Orleans Saints missed the playoffs for the second year. It was the team’s first losing record since 2016 and the first season with Dennis Allen as head coach following Sean Payton’s departure at the end of the 2021 season. Quarterback Jameis Winston started the first three games before being sidelined with an injury, leading to Andy Dalton starting the remaining 14 games.
In a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2022 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints gave up their 2023 first-round pick. This pick would have been the 10th overall selection in the upcoming draft, but it now belongs to the Eagles. As a result, the Saints’ first pick in this year’s draft will be the 29th overall selection, acquired from the Denver Broncos in exchange for Sean Payton, who became the Broncos’ new head coach this offseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had their sights set on the 19th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft since they were eliminated from the playoffs by the Dallas Cowboys last year. The Buccaneers have their selections in the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth rounds, and they also acquired the Texans’ sixth-round pick in a trade that sent guard Shaq Mason and a seventh-round selection to Houston on March 15th.
Despite the quarterback position’s uncertainty, the Buccaneers have several holes to fill on the roster before the season begins in September. The team currently sits at approximately $55 million over the salary cap, and it is expected to part ways with several players while losing some key contributors to free agency. General Manager Jason Licht and the rest of the scouting department will be under pressure to add impact players through the draft.