College Football 24/7 takes a look at the buzz surrounding the NFC South teams leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.
First-round spot: 6» Falcons’ 2014 draft picks | Draft history
The Atlanta Falcons are a year removed from having the NFC’s top playoff seed. Yet, the team fell on hard times in 2013 and finds itself picking near the top of the draft. This will give a team already owning a host of playmakers an opportunity to reload for a return to the playoff chase in 2014.
Khalil Mack, LB, BuffaloApril 2: Mack works out for FalconsMack had a workout with the Falcons, NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt reported. With the sixth overall selection, the Falcons might be fortunate enough to grab the highly coveted Mack to bolster what was an unimpressive defensive unit in 2013.
Taylor Lewan, OT, MichiganApril 1: Lewan works out for FalconsFalcons GM Thomas Dimitroff clearly wasn’t sending out a smokescreen earlier this offseason when he spoke of his team’s need to add more size and toughness at the line of scrimmage. What’s less clear is whether Dimitroff considers that need satisfied yet, and with the team conducting a private workout Monday with former Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, the answer might be no.
De’Anthony Thomas, RB, OregonMarch 30: Report: Thomas has private workout with FalconsThe Falcons held a private workout March 29 with Thomas, according to the National Football Post. A projected second-day draft pick (Rounds 2-3), Thomas has rare speed and could be a big-time playmaker as a back, slot receiver and kick returner in the NFL. He lacks size, though. At 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, his durability is a concern.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, IowaMarch 26: Falcons among teams set to meet with FiedorowiczFiedorowicz was worked out by Bengals tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes at Iowa’s pro day, but will perform private workouts on the Iowa campus for the Cowboys and Texans. He has scheduled visits in the coming weeks with the Buccaneers, Falcons, Lions and Patriots, too.
Anthony Barr, LB, UCLAMarch 21: Report: Barr to have private workout for FalconsWhat the Falcons will do with the No. 6 draft pick is more of a mystery than most, given the variety of positions at which the club could use some help. But you can bet Anthony Barr is a character in the play, and Barr will reportedly perform a private workout for the club soon to help general manager Thomas Dimitroff with the decision.
Charles Leno, OT, Boise StateMarch 19: Falcons work out Leno at pro dayConventional wisdom has the tackle-needy Falcons grabbing an offensive tackle with the No. 6 pick in May’s draft. But the top of the first round seems more fluid than usual for this time of the year. Atlanta worked out Charles Leno Jr.. If the Falcons are impressed enough with Leno or Nevada OT Joel Bitonio, it’s extremely likely both would be available early in the second round, and that could potentially enable the Falcons to go a different route in the first round.
Eric Ebron, TE, North CarolinaMarch 9: Ebron would welcome chance to replace Tony GonzalezWhile mock drafts have the Falcons filling a need at offensive tackle with the sixth overall pick, they are likely to have a chance to take Ebron, the top tight end in the draft, with that pick. Ebron told sportingnews.com he wouldn’t be intimidated by the challenge of replacing surefire Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, who retired after last season. “I would love to play for the Falcons,” Ebron said, per the report. “Julio Jones, Roddy White and Matt Ryan — I would love to play with those guys. Those are big shoes to fill, which I’m not afraid of. I can’t walk into the league expecting to be Tony G. I’m just going to compete as hard as I can as myself.”
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South CarolinaFeb. 25: Could Falcons trade up for Clowney?Clowney singled out the Falcons as a team he’d love to see trade up and draft him. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told NFL Media’s Kimberly Jones he was flattered by Clowney’s interest and that his team would consider every option in the draft. During his podium session at the combine, Dimitroff singled out the offensive and defensive lines as the Falcons’ key offseason targets.
First-round spot: 28» Panthers’ 2014 draft picks | Draft history
The Panthers feature a lights-out defense, so building around Cam Newton will be a priority this offseason. An explosive wide receiver would make the talented quarterback happy. Offensive line also figures to be an area of focus.
Marqise Lee, WR, USCApril 4: Lee will meet with PanthersCarolina desperately needs wide receivers, and Lee is one of the top five available. The Panthers pick 28th in the first round, and their problem could be that the wide receivers they are targeting could be off the board by the time they pick (Lee, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks and LSU’s Odell Beckham would seem to be the second-tier group of receivers, behind Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans). Lee, who has the potential to develop into a No. 1 receiver, also said he will be visiting with the New Orleans Saints, who have far greater needs than a wide receiver in the first round.
April 2: Wyoming trio work out for PanthersWyoming wide receiver Robert Herron and quarterback Brett Smith will work out for the Panthers a day after free safety Marqueston Huff will work out for the team, NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt reported
Kony Ealy, DE, MissouriApril 1: Panthers work out EalyThe Panthers worked Ealy out on the Missouri campus, NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt reported on Twitter. Ealy is the second-rated defensive end on NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock’s rankings.
Kevin Norwood, WR, AlabamaMarch 24: Norwood works out for PanthersNorwood wrote in a draft diary for USA TODAY Sports that he had a workout with the Panthers the day after Alabama’s pro day. In what is a deep draft for receivers, Norwood figures to be a late-round pick, but could add much-needed depth to the Panthers’ depleted wide receiver corps.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon StateMarch 22: Cooks set to visit WR-needy PanthersCooks told College Football 24/7 that he is scheduled to visit the Panthers, who recently lost wide receivers Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell to free agency. If the Panthers are looking for someone to replace Smith, Cooks would appear to be a great match. Not only does NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks believe Smith is the best NFL comparison for Cooks, Cooks said he tries to model his game after him. The Panthers’ No. 28 pick also fits Cooks’ mid- to late-first-round draft projection.
Pierre Desir, CB, LindenwoodMarch 21: Panthers coach works out DesirDesir is vying to be the first draft pick in Lindenwood history. NFL Media draft analyst Gil Brandt noted that he worked with Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks at Lindenwood’s pro day, then worked out privately for Carolina at day later. Desir was clocked in 4.59 seconds in the 40 at the combine and as fast as 4.52 on his pro day. Desir is raw, but his size makes him an intriguing prospect, likely taken in the third or fourth round.
Morgan Moses, OT, VirginiaMarch 17: Panthers are first of nine meetings for MosesMoses will visit Wednesday with the Carolina Panthers as the first of nine scheduled meetings with NFL clubs. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks projects Moses to be picked by those very Panthers with the No. 28 pick in his latest mock draft. Offensive line is the Panthers’ biggest draft area of need, according to NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
Mike Campanaro, WR, Wake ForestMarch 17: Panthers on hand at Wake Forest pro dayThe Panthers got a good look at Campanaro and other Demon Deacon draft prospects at Wake Forest’s pro day. Campanaro projects as a slot receiver in the NFL. The Panthers, meanwhile, lost Steve Smith and Ted Ginn in free agency and are on the lookout for pass-catching talent.
Tajh Boyd, QB, ClemsonFeb. 24: Backup option for Newton?Cam Newton is one of only nine quarterbacks to start every game since 2011, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers can’t consider having a solid fallback option on the depth chart (Newton’s current backup is journeyman Derek Anderson). Boyd told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine that the Panthers were one of 20 teams he talked to, ESPN.com reported.
New Orleans Saints
First-round spot: 27» Saints’ 2014 draft picks | Draft history
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan dramatically improved the Saints defense in 2013, but work still needs to be done from a personnel perspective. After the team selected safety Kenny Vaccaro in the first round last year, look for the team to look toward cornerback in 2013. Offensive line and linebacker also figure to be positions where the Saints will look for new talent.
John Brown, WR, Pittsburg StateMarch 21: Saints coach puts Brown through receiving drillsA receivers coach from the Saints put Brown through positional drills at Pittsburg State’s pro day. Brown is the type of prospect an NFL team will take a chance on in the later rounds if they have an extra selection, NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt said.
Aaron Murray, QB, GeorgiaMarch 19: Saints among 12 clubs interested in MurrayA dozen NFL clubs have shown more interest in Murray than others, and the Saints are among them. Murray — who stands at 6-foot-1 — has often been compared to Drew Brees due to his stature. Murray is recovering from an ACL injury suffered in November.
March 17: Saints’ Ryan at Florida’s pro dayLinebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell, tight end Trey Burton and cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson were among the players who participated at Florida’s pro day with Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan looking on. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah lists cornerback as one of the Saints’ top draft needs, so Purifoy and Roberson might be of interest to New Orleans.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida StateMarch 12: Freeman could fit as Sproles replacementWith the Saints expected to part ways with Darren Sproles, there’s a void to fill in the New Orleans backfield, and Daniel Jeremiah said there might be a perfect replacement for the taking in this year’s draft. “I look at Devonta Freeman out of Florida State. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, you can plug him into some middle routes and put him in that role,” Jeremiah said. If the Saints decide to shore up their pass rush, Jeremiah said Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence would fit very nicely in Rob Ryan’s defense as an edge rusher.
David Yankey, G, StanfordFeb. 20: Mayock: O-line needs addressingOn a conference call with reporters, NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock broke down the Saints’ options at pick No. 27 in the first round of the draft, saying, “So at 27, it’s just a matter of being nimble, trying to find who is the best offensive lineman left, with some of the guards, might make some sense, like the (David) Yankey kid from Stanford.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
First-round spot: 7» Buccaneers’ 2014 draft picks | Draft history
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be on their third coach in four years after the hiring of former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith. A pass rusher and offensive line appear to be the most pressing needs for the team.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&MApril 4: Evans a potential target after Williams tradeThe Bucs have a bigger need at wide receiver after they traded Mike Williams to the Buffalo Bills, and with the No. 7 pick, they could target the top two WR prospects, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. Watkins is not expected to be on the board for the Bucs, but Evans’ combination of size and speed would make him an intriguing option to pair with Vincent Jackson. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah currently lists the Bucs’ top three draft needs as offensive tackle, guard and cornerback.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, IowaMarch 26: Buccaneers among teams set to meet with FiedorowiczFiedorowicz was worked out by Bengals tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes at Iowa’s pro day, but will perform private workouts on the Iowa campus for the Cowboys and Texans. He has scheduled visits in the coming weeks with the Buccaneers, Falcons, Lions and Patriots, too.
Dee Ford, DE, AuburnMarch 21: Ford scheduled to meet with PatriotsFord has visits scheduled with the Buccaneers, as well as the New England Patriots. If Ford is drafted in the first-round range as expected by draft experts, it’s tough to imagine the pass-rushing standout landing with at least one of them in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Khalil Mack, LB, BuffaloMarch 12: Davis: Mack would pair well with DavidThe Bucs already have an All-Pro linebacker in Lavonte David, but NFL Media analyst Charles Davis doesn’t see why the team couldn’t pair him with Buffalo’s Khalil Mack to form an explosive OLB duo. NFL Media analysts Mike Mayock and Daniel Jeremiah believe the Bucs’ priority will be to draft a pass rusher off the edge, and Davis believes Mack can fit that role. Mayock believes the Bucs should aim to draft Mack or an offensive tackle with the No. 7 pick.
Alex Bayer, TE, Bowling GreenMarch 12: Bucs taking close look at BayerBuccaneers tight ends coach Jon Embree was among those on hand for Bowling Green’s pro day, where Bayer worked out. A visit was also scheduled between the tight end and Tampa Bay for March 13.
Follow College Football 24/7 on Twitter @NFL_CFB.