With the Super Bowl now in the rearview mirror, the NFL world looks towards the 2021 NFL draft. The draft is exciting every year, regardless if it’s virtual or live and in living color. The draft provides opportunities to inject new blue-chip talent into a team.
The NFC South features four teams at different stages of competitiveness; two will pick in the top 10, the other two will choose at the bottom 10 of round one. Nonetheless, all four teams will desperately desire the right player. Hitting a home run in the draft can change the fortunes of a club in one night. It’s time to assess which players are the ideal picks for the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2021 NFL Draft: The NFC South
Atlanta Falcons – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
At 35-years-old, Matt Ryan is no longer the future in Atlanta. In the 2021 NFL draft, there is a wealth of quarterback talent. With Trevor Lawrence guaranteed to go first overall, the next best quarterback is Zach Wilson. The BYU man shone in the 2020 season. The critical headline from his stat sheet was a 33:3 touchdown to interception ratio. Wilson slung the ball around with freedom and he displayed brilliant accuracy while throwing the ball deep.
Wilson’s adjusted passing yards were a fabulous 12.6. Wilson isn’t just a pocket passer; he is a QB with excellent mobility, as Wilson can scramble for positive yardage as well as be used on designed runs.
Although Wilson’s main attraction is the incredible arm talent and strength, he drives the ball with Matthew Stafford‘s velocity. Pair that to Wilson’s skill at throwing off-platform and from all angles, Wilson proves to be a brilliant thrower. He resembles the gunslingers who are already in the NFL. The Falcons won’t contend for the division in 2021, but they can afford to let Wilson develop and learn behind Ryan.
The Falcons are not a good team, so there is no need to rush him into the starting role. Arthur Smith is a sharp offensive mind. The new head coach will design a smart offense and develop Wilson the right way. The “Mormon Manziel” possesses the skills to be special. The Falcons can draft their franchise QB during the 2021 NFL draft.
Carolina Panthers – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Teddy Bridgewater is precisely what his name says he is. He is a bridge to a better future. The former Minnesota Viking is not the future for Carolina. However, Justin Fields can be, as he’d be a great pick for the Panthers in the 2021 NFL draft. Many members of the draft cognoscenti are down on Fields due to the badge on his helmet.
The Panthers should ignore those lazy tropes. Fields is silky-smooth with fantastic tools, as the big man threw for over 2000 yards in a truncated eight-game season. There were poor performances against Indiana and Northwestern, then came that game against Clemson. Fields silenced the doubters in a historical performance as he destroyed Clemson for six touchdowns with 385 passing yards.
Fields look’s similar to Deshaun Watson from a stylistic standpoint. His footwork is impeccable while he possesses superb pocket awareness. Those traits are valuable to own when stepping up into the NFL. The Panthers offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, is experienced working with young quarterbacks.
Brady unleashed Joe Burrow in 2019 at LSU. The young offensive wunderkind can do the same with Fields. With Bridgewater in the building and Christian McCaffrey coming back, there is a safety blanket for Fields. In a division with the reigning champs, the Panthers need to find their franchise quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft.
New Orleans Saints – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
With Drew Brees likely to retire, the New Orleans Saints need to find their next quarterback. The 2021 NFL draft offers them a chance to select one very similar to Brees. Mac Jones is a pocket passer of the highest efficiency. The Alabama quarterback is very accurate, plus he processes quickly. Those are excellent ingredients to have as he makes the jump into the NFL. Many Jones detractors say he got mollycoddled in the Alabam offense; that is true to an extent.
His supporting cast made his stats look a lot better than many other quarterbacks. On the other hand, Jones demonstrated exceptional ability at stitching the whole Crimson Tide offense together. In New Orleans, Jones would get a master play-caller in Sean Payton, an all-world running back Alvin Kamara, superstar wideout Michael Thomas, and a burgeoning tight-end in Adam Trautman.
After Trevor Lawrence, Jones is the best decision-maker in this 2021 NFL draft class. He excels in pre and post-snap reads. With all that talent around him, Jones would not need to become Superman in the Big Easy. Moreover, New Orleans would not need to change its offensive playbook.
Brees was an immobile pocket-passer, similar to Mac Jones. The bonus of drafting Jones is that he is an alpha leader. Jones impressed many at the Senior Bowl with his leadership, his football IQ, and his consistent play. He may not be the glamorous pick like Lawrence and Fields, but Mac Jones should become a very, very good NFL quarterback in this 2021 NFL draft class.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
After a dominant dismantling of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sail into the offseason with some holes to fill. The Bucs now have high-priced free agents to negotiate new contracts. With veterans like Shaquil Barrett, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Lavonte David, and Antonio Brown, as free agents, the front office will have to find some replacements in the 2021 NFL draft. That is the dilemma facing GM Jason Licht. Edge rusher is incredibly deep in this draft class. If the Bucs let Barrett go, Gregory Rousseau can fill his shoes.
The Florida man opted-out of the 2020 season, but don’t let that change your opinion on him. Rousseau fits the 3-4 defense the Bucs employ. He can put his hands in the dirt and race to the quarterback. The 6-8 defender is rangy with great length at the point of contact. Rousseau is a fast, violent pass rusher whose body looks similar to that of Jason Pierre-Paul. The Bucs proved that dominant defense is their way to win a championship and Rousseau can be a plug-and-play guy on the unit.
Thanks for reading my article on the ideal 2021 NFL draft selections for the NFC South.
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