Team-by-team draft needs: NFC South

Pat Kirwan breaks down each team's positional needs, listed in order of importance, entering the draft.

More team draft needs:

AFC: East | North | South | West
NFC: East | North | South | West


Atlanta Falcons

Defensive tackle:Jonathan Babineaux (6-foot-2, 284 pounds) is undersized, and Kindal Moorehead is 30 years old and doesn't weigh 300 pounds. Think about what Falcons coach Mike Smith had when he was the Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive coordinator -- big tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. Smith is looking for the same players in Atlanta, and he needs at least one 300-pounder with the quickness and burst to penetrate the interior gaps.

Safety: Lawyer Milloy is gone, and though youngsters Thomas DeCoud, Antoine Harris and Jamaal Fudge all will compete for a starting job, the Falcons might want to see if a player with more upside is available in the middle rounds of the draft.

Tight end:Ben Hartsock and Justin Peelle aren't dangerous receivers, and while the Falcons still want to be a run-first team, they need to provide QB Matt Ryan with targets in the middle of the field. A two-way tight end will be on the Falcons' to-do list for the rest of the offseason.

Defensive end:Jamaal Anderson hasn't been nearly the pass-rush threat the Falcons had hoped for when they drafted him in the first round in 2007, and there is some discussion of trying him at defensive tackle. The re-signing of Chauncey Davis might take some of the urgency out of this need, but despite what is being said in Atlanta, Davis shouldn't be relied upon as a full-time starting option.

Outside linebacker: Mike Peterson, who played for Smith in Jacksonville, will turn 33 this summer and has looked like a player in decline in recent seasons. He's penciled in as the starter on the strong side, but he might be better suited to playing a versatile backup role. Coy Wire is the starter at weak inside linebacker after beating out Michael Boley last year, but he's a converted safety who might not be able to stand up to the pounding of a full season at linebacker. The Falcons should be in the market for a starter on the outside and a solid backup for middle linebacker Curtis Lofton.

Cornerback: The organization doesn't seem too high on Chris Houston, and Von Hutchins is only a short-term answer as a starter. Chevis Jackson might compete for a starting job, along with Brent Grimes, but the Falcons are in need of a starting cornerback.

Draft choices: Nos. 24, 55, 90, 125, 143, 160, 196


Carolina Panthers

Defensive end:Julius Peppers is in the driver's seat in his stalemate with the Panthers. He has a short list of teams to which he will accept a trade, and he won't sign his franchise tender until Carolina can work out a deal he likes. The Panthers won't give him away, though, so they must prepare for a holdout and life without their sack leader. The problem is, the Panthers likely won't land an impact player with the 59th overall pick. If they are fortunate, a player such as Tennessee's Robert Ayers might fall to them.

Defensive tackle: There's a serious lack of depth behind starters Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu, so the Panthers should think early about finding a young backup. Lewis and Kemoeatu, both of whom were injured late last season, need a break now and then.

Cornerback: Chris Gamble is the top dog, and Richard Marshall will take over the starting spot left vacant by the release of Ken Lucas. That leaves things pretty thin for the substitute packages. As of now, Dante Wesley will compete for the nickel-back job, but the Panthers want to be better than that.

Wide receiver:Steve Smith is one of the NFL's top receivers, but Muhsin Muhammad will turn 36 next month, and Dwayne Jarrett has shown flashes but has been inconsistent. Another young speedster would be a welcome addition.

Quarterback: Jake Delhomme is 34, has had injury issues in recent seasons and can be inconsistent at times. Josh McCown is on the roster as a viable backup, but it might be time for the Panthers to start looking toward the future at the position.

Offensive linemen: The Panthers lost four linemen this offseason and need to improve their depth, particularly on the interior.

Draft choices: Nos. 59, 93, 128, 163, 202


New Orleans Saints

Running back: With Deuce McAllister released, the Saints need a big running back who can handle the pounding between the tackles. Pierre Thomas proved he can do some of that, but he wouldn't hold up in that role as a full-time player. Georgia's Knowshon Moreno or Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells would complement Reggie Bush well.

Center:Jonathan Goodwin and newly signed Nick Leckey can hold down the fort for now, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Saints try to upgrade here.

Wide receiver:Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore are a solid top three, but there are still questions about Robert Meachem, a 2007 first-round draft pick who has just 12 catches in two seasons. For a team that likes to spread things out, the Saints need to look for another playmaking receiver.

Kicker: Matt Stover and John Carney are still free-agent options, but there could be a worthy kicker late in the draft. Otherwise, the Saints have Garrett Hartley, who made all 13 of his field-goal attempts in eight games as a rookie last season.

Draft choices: Nos. 14, 116, 118, 222


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Left defensive end: Gaines Adams made strides last season and is becoming a real threat as a pass rusher on the right side, but he will struggle to remain productive without help. The Bucs need to upgrade the left end position in order to create a pressure package that will force opposing offenses to balance their protections.

Quarterback:Luke McCown likely will be the starter, with Brian Griese and Josh Johnson as the backups, but the Bucs might be forced to find a young heir apparent sooner than later.

Wide receiver: Joey Galloway is now with the New England Patriots, and Ike Hilliard was released. As it stands now, Antonio Bryant is the No. 1 receiver, and Michael Clayton, who has been highly unproductive since his rookie season in 2004, is the No. 2. The Bucs need depth, but they also need another playmaking receiver if they hope to get newly acquired TE Kellen Winslow open in the middle of the field.

Offensive tackle/guard: The Bucs might want to think about upgrading from tackle Donald Penn on the left side, and there isn't much talent behind starting guards Aaron Sears and Davin Joseph.

Linebacker: The Bucs are trying safety Jermaine Phillips at outside linebacker this offseason, which says a great deal about their depth at the position after they cut longtime leader Derrick Brooks and veteran Cato June. The Bucs have to hope that Geno Hayes and Quincy Black establish themselves as starters. Otherwise, the team must burn a draft pick on a young playmaker in order to move Phillips back to his natural position.

Defensive tackle: Jovan Haye signed a free-agent deal with the Tennessee Titans, and veteran Chris Hovan is 30 and on the downside of his career. Finding a penetrating inside presence is key to making the Tampa 2 defense work.

Draft choices: Nos. 19, 81, 120, 155, 191, 217, 229, 233

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