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NFC South draft needs: Xavier Rhodes would cover Bucs at CB

As we close in on the 2013 NFL Draft (April 25-27 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City), our analysts examine each team's biggest needs. Gregg Rosenthal previews the NFC South below, but click here for other divisions.

Atlanta Falcons

2013 draft picks: 30 (1st round), 60 (2nd), 92 (3rd), 127 (4th), 133 (4th), 163 (5th), 198 (6th), 236 (7th), 243 (7th), 244 (7th), 249 (7th).
Biggest area of need: Cornerback.
Other spots to address: Defensive end, linebacker, offensive tackle, tight end, quarterback.
Prospects who fit: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington; Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State; Alex Okafor, DE, Texas; Sio Moore, OLB, Connecticut.

Atlanta's once-deep cornerback position, like general manager Thomas Dimitroff's hair, looks better with a lot of product. The team needs help after the departures of Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes and Chris Owens. The Falcons cut Robinson partly because of their faith in Robert McClain, but they still need an option or two who could play right away. Depth and long-term starter potential just isn't here. Look for the Falcons to use an early pick at the position.

Their pass rush also remains a concern. While the team likes Jonathan Massaquoi as a situational pass rusher, Osi Umenyiora is year to year. Kroy Biermann remains a good -- not great -- starter. The Falcons could invest an early pick at defensive end or even target a strong-side linebacker with some blitzing ability who could eventually replace Stephen Nicholas.

The rest of Atlanta's needs qualify for "draft now, play later" slots. (The Falcons draft this way in the middle rounds as much, and as well, as any other team.) With right tackle Tyson Clabo having been cut, the Falcons could take another tackle to develop in case second-year pro Lamar Holmes doesn't work out. Tony Gonzalez returned for one more year, but the Falcons don't have any suitable backups at tight end. And don't be surprised if the Falcons use a late pick on a "backup quarterback of the future."

Carolina Panthers

2013 draft picks: 14 (1st round), 44 (2nd), 108 (4th), 148 (5th), 182 (6th).
Biggest area of need: Defensive tackle.
Other spots to address: Wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback, safety.
Prospects who fit: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri; Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State; Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia; Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina.


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The good news for Carolina: This draft is mostly deep where the Panthers are looking for help, and they can go in a lot of directions. The bad news: They can go in a lot of directions because they have so many roster holes.

Carolina reached for two defensives tackles early in the 2011 NFL Draft (Terrell McClain and Sione Fua) because the organization was bankrupt at the position. The situation isn't much better now, with Fua and Dwan Edwards projected to start. Both offensive guard and right tackle (where struggling starter Byron Bell is penciled in) are also areas of need, but the Panthers won't be able to solve everything in one draft.

If a talented wide receiver, cornerback or safety falls to Carolina early on, the Panthers could veer away from their most pressing needs. Cam Newton could use more weapons; veteran receiver Steve Smith isn't getting younger, while youngster Brandon LaFell is entering a contract year.

The team added some veteran depth in the secondary via free agency, but it's one of the most talent-poor cornerback and safety groups in the entire NFL. There isn't one standout. Seriously, the most talented player in the secondary is ... Josh Norman? Charles Godfrey? Yikes.

New Orleans Saints

2013 draft picks: 15 (1st round), 75 (3rd), 109 (4th), 144 (5th), 183 (6th).
Biggest area of need: Outside linebacker.
Other spots to address: Offensive tackle, defensive end, wide receiver, safety.
Prospects who fit: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia; Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU; Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Coach Sean Payton was excited to bring coordinator Rob Ryan and his 3-4 defense to New Orleans. Now they just need players to fit a unit that can't get much worse.

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With their two early picks, the Saints should focus on the pass rush and on stopping the pass rush. As currently configured, they'll be counting on free-agent pickup Victor Butler and holdovers Will Smith and Junior Galette, who will have to change positions, to provide pressure. Cameron Jordan fits beautifully as a 3-4 defensive end, but the Saints could still use another building block on the line.

Payton says that the team's left tackle spot keeps him up at night, which makes the position a possible first-round target. The better bet: They roll the dice with 2010 second-round pick Charles Brown and then grab depth later in the draft. I wonder if the Saints can keep developing O-line diamonds in the rough with vaunted OL coach Aaron Kromer gone to Chicago.

The depth at wide receiver and safety looks poor, but those will be viewed as luxury spots. This defense needs an overhaul.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2013 draft picks: 13 (1st round), 43 (2nd), 73 (3rd), 112 (4th), 126 (4th), 147 (5th), 181 (6th), 196 (6th).
Biggest area of need: Cornerback.
Other spots to address: Tight end, defensive tackle, quarterback, wide receiver.
Prospects who fit: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State; Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington; Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame; Mike Glennon, QB, N.C. State.

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That "biggest area of need" could change at any minute from now until the Buccaneers are on the clock. A potential trade for New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis looms over Tampa Bay's entire offseason. Will the Bucs still retain Eric Wright on a restructured contract if they bring Revis aboard? Will the 13th overall pick be part of the deal?

I still expect Revis to land in Tampa, although that wouldn't necessarily stop the Bucs from continuing to invest in the position early during the draft. That's how needy the Bucs are at cornerback. (Leonard Johnson should not be starting.)

Luke Stocker is in line to start at tight end, which is a concern, considering the Bucs' lack of quality depth at wide receiver. Quarterback Josh Freeman needs more weapons; Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert would make sense in the first round. Freeman, who isn't coach Greg Schiano's "guy" just yet, might also need competition, making the Bucs a dark horse to take a quarterback early on.

Tampa Bay invested three early picks in defensive linemen from 2010-2011 -- taking Gerald McCoy, Da'Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn -- and all three players are slated to start this year. Adding another defensive tackle to the mix would make sense.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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