2021 NFL Draft Recap: NFC South

The 2021 NFL Draft: NFC South recap features the selections of the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. As veteran quarterbacks age and retire in the case of Drew Brees, the division opted to bring in youthful talent on the offensive side of the ball like Kyle Pitts, Kyle Trask, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Ian Book. However, defense wasn’t ignored in the 2021 NFL: NFC South recap. A lot of the players selected by the division were already playing in the South: Houston’s Payton Turner and Grant Stuard, South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and UCF’s Richie Grant won’t have to travel far to help out their new professional teams.

Atlanta Falcons     
SelectionTeamPlayer SelectionPosition- SchoolDN Big Board Rank/ GradeNotes
1st round, 4th overallAtlanta FalconsKyle Pitts6’6 245/TE-Florida10/1st RoundNew HC Arthur Smith adds to Ryan's vast array of weapons in hopes of recapturing MVP form.
2nd round, 40th overallAtlanta Falcons (from Denver Broncos)Richie Grant5’11 197/S-UCF23/2nd RoundGrant finished his career with 10 interceptions largely as a result of his ability to steal bases on the football field.
3rd round, 68th overallAtlanta FalconsJalen Mayfield6’5 326/OT-Michigan68/2nd RoundDespite limited film, Mayfield was solid in the games viewed. Like former Philadelphia Eagles first-round pick Andre Dillard coming out of school, he takes a lot of the heat but wins most of his matchups due to his footwork.
4th round, 108th overallAtlanta FalconsDarren Hall6’0 189/CB-San Diego State98/3rd RoundHall’s ball skills have improved each season. We’ve always felt that he contained a good pace for playing off-man coverage, but his press-man improved in 2020. He still has issues being comfortable locating the ball down the field versus bigger receivers, and this could be a problem versus some of the receivers he’ll face on Sundays.
4th round, 114th overallAtlanta Falcons (from Denver Broncos)Drew Dalman6’3 300/OC-Stanford119/3rd RoundDalman has seen time at guard and provides at least a viable backup at any interior line position. His home will be center and the challenge revolves around being able to occasionally handle interior defensive linemen with no help.
5th round, 148th overallAtlanta FalconsTa’Quon Graham6'3 290/DT-Texas113/3rd RoundThe Temple High School (Tex.) product is a burgeoning talent capable of winning with quickness versus interior defensive linemen. His pad level needs to straighten itself out.
5th round, 182nd overallAtlanta Falcons (compensatory selection)Adetokunbo Ogundeji6’4 256/DE-Notre Dame132/3rd RoundUp until 2020, he was a productive backup who had garnered significant playing time along the defensive line. This past season, he began to learn how to more effectively keep distance from opponents when setting up his pass rush moves off the edge. We still think he needs to fully grow into his frame.
5th round, 183rd overallAtlanta Falcons (compensatory selection)Avery Williams5'9 193/All-Purpose-Boise State252/3rd RoundThe former Bronco set the all-time record for combined punt and kickoff return touchdowns in a career (nine). Physical enough as a tackler, the former walk-on also found time to force five fumbles in his career.
6th round, 187th overallAtlanta FalconsFrank Darby6'0 194/WR-Arizona State303/4th RoundDarby did not run quite as fast as expected, but the charismatic former Sun Devil got behind plenty of defensive backs in school despite inconsistent hand-eye coordination.
Carolina Panthers
SelectionTeamPlayer SelectionPosition- SchoolDN Big Board Rank/ GradeNotes
1st round, 8th overallCarolina PanthersJaycee Horn6’1 205 CB-South Carolina19/2nd RoundThe Panthers needed a big corner and they took one of the draft’s longer ones in Horn.
2nd round, 59th overallCarolina Panthers (from Cleveland Browns)Terrace Marshall, Jr.6’3 205/WR-LSU29/2nd RoundSmart. Lines up at each of the receiver spots for the team. There are instances where he wins on the perimeter by not giving away catch indicators for the defensive back in man coverage (see Auburn 2019 vs. Igbinoghene).
Prior to fracturing his foot against Vanderbilt, Marshall led the nation with six touchdown receptions.
3rd round, 73rd overallCarolina Panthers (from Philadelphia Eagles)Brady Christensen6’5 302/OT-BYU115/3rd RoundFor the most part, Christensen has been steady. There are some occasions where players get the best of him due to a questionable anchor (see Boyles, USF ’19; Wiley, UTSA ’20). In those instances, he has even been knocked to the ground. Christensen plays more with his feet than with his hand placement, so his strong postseason helped his value.
3rd round, 83rd overallCarolina Panthers (from Chicago Bears)Tommy Tremble6'4 248/H-back-Notre Dame79/3rd RoundTremble’s tempo will catch the eye of an evaluator. Quite simply, he plays the game at the right clip. The team moved him around all over the place and probably could have used him much more in the passing game. He is fluid in-and-out of cuts and displays quickness to go along with very good foot speed. It will be interesting to see how Carolina decides to use his skill-set.
4th round, 126th overallCarolina Panthers (from Tennessee Titans)Chuba Hubbard6'0 210/RB-Oklahoma State95/3rd RoundIf the former world class youth sprinter can regain his 2019 form, the sky could be the limit. For that to happen, he has to hang on to the ball.
5th round, 158th overallCarolina Panthers (via Houston Texans (from New England Patriots)Daviyon Nixon6’3 304/DT-Iowa89/3rd RoundOperates as a one-technique DT, three-technique DT and DE on occasion. Positive foot speed. He’s fast enough to play behind the front side of the run-ning play and make plays in chase mode.
The slippery nature, however, will only be supported by better lower body synchronization at the next level.
5th round, 166th overallCarolina Panthers (via Tennessee Titans)Keith Taylor6’2 191/CB-Washington240/4th RoundThe smaller, savvy quicker receivers can still beat him to the spot on possession concepts when he doesn’t disrupt their releases at the line of scrimmage. We envision him getting looks from teams that like bigger corners capable of using press-man or bail techniques on the outside lanes.
6th round, 193rd overallCarolina PanthersDeonte Brown6’3 364/OG-Alabama286/4th RoundExperienced 26-game starter. Has started at both guard spots. Mammoth. Completely wins wrestling matches on man blocks. For a big man, he showcases decent footwork as a pulling guard.
6th round, 204th overallCarolina Panthers (from Chicago Bears)Shi Smith5’10 186/WR-South Carolina76/2nd RoundDuring his final campaign, he maintained his field speed and continued to improve as a route runner. He still left some catchable passes on the field from time-to-time and that will be a concern for a player who has to overcome questionable size.
6th round, 222nd overallCarolina Panthers (compensatory selection)Thomas Fletcher6’1 237/LS-Senior563/N/AStarted every game of his Alabama career. He’s capable of snapping at a 75-to-85-degree angle for directional kick purposes. Registers very good long snap times, ranging as low as 0.66 seconds (1st QTR/10:11, Citrus Bowl ‘20).
7th round, 232nd overallCarolina Panthers (from Tennessee Titans via Atlanta Falcons through Miami Dolphins)Phil Hoskins6’5 313/DL-Kentucky486/6th RoundHoskins -a sixth-year player- impressed with his movement for a longer, taller defender. We were surprised he didn’t control the action more with his hands. There were times when he wanted to get up the field. Perhaps it was a result of his initial production at Kentucky rushing the passer (2018).
New Orleans Saints
SelectionTeamPlayer SelectionPosition- SchoolDN Big Board Rank/ GradeNotes
1st round, 28th overallNew Orleans SaintsPayton Turner6’5 290/DE-Houston111/3rd RoundTurner impressed on his Pro Day with a 4.33 20-yard shuttle time at 290 pounds. Turner got better during his career week-to-week.
2nd round, 60th overallNew Orleans SaintsPete Werner6’2 240/LB-Ohio State103/3rd RoundWerner -a solid wrap tackler with range- offers NFL teams plenty of options. He can cover tight ends and line up as an off-or-on the ball linebacker. The former Buckeye contains comfort walking out over slot receivers (in zone or man). In fact, he was seen dropping into the deep middle one-third, as a two-deep safety and in a quasi robber position.
3rd round, 76th overallNew Orleans Saints (from New York Giants)Paulson Adebo6’1 198/CB-Stanford47/2nd RoundAdebo put together one season of production in his career (2018) that essentially matched the career totals of the other highly-ranked cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Aside from a Pro Day workout, he hadn’t been seen from NFL teams in person in over a year and a half.
Staying more square -in press or off-man coverage- could help Adebo develop into a front line starter.
4th round, 133rd overallNew Orleans SaintsIan Book6’0 210/QB-Notre Dame290/4th RoundSome of his fundamentals have to improve. He will drop his elbow and it severely affects his down-to-down accuracy. This is a big reason why he was inconsistent on out-breaking patterns. Interestingly, he actually was better on third down than first down as a senior.
6th round, 206th overallNew Orleans Saints (from Indianapolis Colts)Landon Young6'7 305/OT-Kentuccky218/4th RoundThe former state championship wrestler has no problem grinding it out on the perimeter. He is a solid run blocker and rarely did he struggle to finish blocking assignments in that regard. NFL evaluators will nitpick about his lack of elite foot speed, but it is satisfactory.
7th round, 255th overallNew Orleans SaintsKawaan Baker6’1 210/All-Purpose-South Alabama242/4th RoundSouth Alabama moved him into the slot, motioned him, aligned him outside and even used his skills at the quarterback position in Wildcat formations. His stride is easy and smooth. Although he plays the game in a very calm manner that allows him to make a number of difficult things look easy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
SelectionTeamPlayer SelectionPosition- SchoolDN Big Board Rank/ GradeNotes
1st round, 32nd overallTampa Bay BuccaneersJoe Tryon 6’5 252/DE-Washington69/2nd RoundTryon has played from a two-point stand-up OLB or with his hand in the dirt. This was a perfect scheme-fit for the Buccaneers.
2nd round, 64th overallTampa Bay BuccaneersKyle Trask6’5 236/QB-Florida158/3rd RoundTrask is solid on in-breaking throws to tight ends, slants to his wideouts and crossing patterns. His uptick in production in 2020 largely involved an increased efficiency on fades, posts and out-breaking patterns. Much of this revolved around enhanced timing and anticipation. His physical skills are solid, if unspectacular.
3rd round, 95th overallTampa Bay BuccaneersRobert Hainsey6’4 302/OG-Notre Dame127/3rd RoundDuring school, he often won with the shock in his punch on the perimeter. He would get into trouble with pad level (where he could get out-leveraged) or when he stopped his feet (forcing him to crossover in pass pro). Overall, his down-to-down consistency stood out in the film viewed.
4th round, 129th overallTampa Bay BuccaneeersJaelon Darden5'8 174/All-Purpose-North Texas262/4th RoundFormer North Texas wide receiver Jaelon Darden put in some serious work during school. He finished his career with a resounding 39 touchdowns (38 receiving, one punt return) and he mostly did it with flair. He’s fast, slippery and smooth.
5th round, 176th overallTampa Bay BuccaneersK.J. Britt6’0 239/LB-Auburn160/3rd RoundBritt is a true head banger with good feet, explosiveness through the hips and a high football IQ. We have seen him produce with violent collisions on special teams as well. Special teams may be where he initially makes his mark, but do not underestimate his potential impact on first and second down.
7th round, 251st overallTampa Bay Buccaneers (from Pittsburgh Steelers)Chris Wilcox6’2 198/CB-BYU372/5th RoundMuch like former BYU cornerback Michael Davis (Los Angeles Chargers), Wilcox is a height/weight/speed prospect who has flashed on video over the years. Like Davis, his length is what will intrigue NFL teams. There have been times that his confidence has been below average, yet it is not due to his physical skill-set. Wilcox has length, foot speed and decent footwork.
7th round, 259th overallTampa Bay BuccaneeersGrant Stuard5’11 230344/5th RoundStuard’s biggest challenge moving forward will be proving to NFL evaluators that he can break down to tackle versus runners with wiggle. In addition, he has to also show that his stiffness can be overcome in man coverage. Due to outstanding field speed, he often corrected his angles at the collegiate level. There is no doubt with his non-stop, energetic approach that he can most certainly add a physical special teams element.

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