Young, Kancey among Rogers' best NFC South picks
Connor Rogers breaks down his NFL draft grades for the NFC South, from the Panthers taking Bryce Young No. 1 overall to the Saints falling a bit flat.
CONNOR ROGERS: The AFC South is going to be a highly contested division in 2023. It feels like a lot of teams that are at about the same place right now.
Let's start with the Tampa Bay Bucs and how they did in this draft. I gave the Bucs a B-minus. I loved Calijah Kancey in this draft. I can't wait to watch him play next to Vita Vea, it's brawn next to speed. Todd Bowles will be smiling ear to ear about that. And then you look at a value pick here for me, Jose Ramirez. They took him 196. I had him at 161.
I don't think the Bucs walked away with a superstar-filled draft. They have some developing to do with a player like Yaya Diaby. But, overall, B-minus, rock solid for the Bucs. They got some contributors. They got a little bit of value, as well. It's going to be fascinating to see how they handle that quarterback situation this year. But Jason Licht made his roster much better.
Moving over to the Atlanta Falcons, who did a little bit better with a B. And, of course, it helps the Falcons picking in the top 10. I get all the running back discourse. But Bijan Robinson is a phenomenal player. And he will be a workhorse for a team that's going to be able to run the ball because they doubled down.
They went and took Matthew Bergeron, who's going to move from tackle, which he thrived at for Syracuse. He's going to play guard at the next level. One of the best run-blocking offensive linemen in this draft. That'll help Bijan Robinson.
And then they got one more value pick here in Clark Phillips, who I valued in the top 50 at 49. They got him at 113. I know a B might not match up with what I said but I'm a hard grader. And I think the Falcons did a really, really good job here, despite a lot of the hate about the Bijan pick. Falcons fans, you'll be happy when you get to watch him play.
All right. The best grade of the division goes to the Carolina Panthers. And that's what happens when you have the number-one overall pick. And I think you've got your franchise quarterback of the future. That would be Bryce Young. And I gave them a B-plus, in large part because of them being active, and being aggressive, and making the big move, and going up and getting Bryce.
But I'll tell you what, a nice little value selection here has to be guard, Chandler Zavala. They got him at 114. I had him 78th, overall. He was one of the better pass-protecting guards in this entire draft. And that's going to be important, to keep Bryce Young upright. It'll be fun watching him throw to a new target in Jonathan Mingo, as well. So the Panthers, a B-plus. I think they're starting to really turn heads in this division when he leads things.
Finally, one draft that I wasn't too hot on in this division has to be the New Orleans Saints. I understand they're banking on the talent of Bryan Bresse but he didn't play like a first rounder this year. And he had a lot of difficult circumstances to deal with off the field. But still this is a big bet by New Orleans. They took a running back in the third round in Kendre Miller, who's a fine player. But with their state of their roster, I'm not sure they needed to do that.
I'll say this. One value selection-- and it's a big one --has to be wide receiver AT Perry, the big-bodied target went at 195 overall. I had him 131. So I think the Saints made up some ground. But I still give this draft a C because I think they struggled in the early going but, overall, the NFC South, feels like everybody, got a little bit better, some more than others. That thing's going to be a dogfight this year.