NFC South NFL Draft Grades: Saints Add Versatile Offensive Weapon

NFL Draft FootballDrew Brees picked up another offensive weapon in last weekend’s 2014 NFL draft.

The New Orleans Saints traded up to draft speedy Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks after releasing running back Darren Sproles and wide receiver Lance Moore earlier this offseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers also added impressive receivers while the Atlanta Falcons concentrated on boosting their defense.

This week, NESN.com will grade the selections made in each division, so let’s go through the NFC South.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Round 1, No. 6 overall: Jake Matthews, offensive tackle, Texas A&M
Round 2, No. 37 overall: Ra’Shede Hageman, defensive tackle, Minnesota
Round 3, No. 68 overall: Dezmen Southward, free safety, Wisconsin
Round 3, No. 103 overall: Devonta Freeman, running back, Florida State
Round 4, No. 139 overall: Prince Shembo, linebacker, Notre Dame
Round 6, No. 147 overall: Ricardo Allen, cornerback, Purdue
Round 6, No. 168 overall: Marquis Spruill, linebacker, Syracuse
Round 6, No. 253 overall: Yawin Smallwood, linebacker, Connecticut
Round 7, No. 255 overall: Tyler Starr, linebacker, South Dakota

The Falcons obviously felt they needed to make some improvements on defense after adding Matthews in the first round. Shembo likely will serve as an edge rusher for Atlanta, despite being slightly undersized at 6-foot-1, 253 pounds.

The Falcons played it smart by adding a safe prospect in Round 1 and a risk in Round 2 in the athletic but inconsistent Hageman.

Grade: A-

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Round 1, No. 28 overall: Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Florida State
Round 2, No. 60 overall: Kony Ealy, defensive end, Missouri
Round 3, No. 92 overall: Trai Turner, guard, LSU
Round 4, No. 128 overall: Tre Boston, safety, North Carolina
Round 5, No. 148 overall: Bene Benwikere, cornerback, San Jose State
Round 6, No. 204 overall: Tyler Gaffney, running back, Stanford

Benjamin was a slight reach at No. 28 overall, but the Panthers desperately needed a big outside receiver. Stealing Ealy late in the second round more than made up for the Benjamin pick.

The Panthers ignored their need at offensive tackle, which could come back to bite them.

Grade: B

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Round 1, No. 20 overall: Brandin Cooks, wide receiver, Oregon State
Round 2, No. 58 overall: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, cornerback, Nebraska
Round 4, No. 126 overall: Khairi Fortt, linebacker, California
Round 5, No. 167 overall: Vinnie Sunsieri, safety, Alabama
Round 5, No. 169 overall: Ronald Powell, linebacker, Florida
Round 6, No. 202 overall: Tavon Rooks, offensive tackle, Kansas State

It was smart for the Saints to trade up for Cooks after releasing Sproles this offseason. Cooks plays a different position, but he can serve in a similar role for New Orleans.

Jean-Baptiste might be a slight reach in the second round, but he has exceptional size for a cornerback at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds.

Grade: B-

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Round 1, No. 7 overall: Mike Evans, wide receiver, Texas A&M
Round 2, No. 38 overall: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, tight end, Washington
Round 3, No. 69 overall: Charles Sims, running back, West Virginia
Round 5, No. 143 overall: Kadeem Edwards, guard, Tennessee State
Round 5, No. 149 overall: Kevin Pamphile, offensive tackle, Purdue
Round 6, No. 185 overall: Robert Herron, wide receiver, Wyoming

The Buccaneers elected not to draft a quarterback this season, so it appears they’re sticking with Josh McCown as the starter. Whether it’s McCown or second-year pro Mike Glennon, the Bucs’ starter got a ton of help on offense in this draft.

Evans (6-foot-5) and Seferian-Jenkins (6-foot-6) are massive prospects with speed, Sims can catch out of the backfield and Herron is a top slot option.

Grade: A-

Check out our other draft grades: AFC East|NFC East|AFC North|NFC North|AFC South|NFC South

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