NFC South Watch: Post-Draft Edition

April 25 – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will begin play in the NFC South Division in 2002 along with their new division rivals—the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. Buccaneer Magazine will continue to keep Club Insiders updated on Tampa Bay's new division opponents throughout the offseason. This installment of NFC South Watch takes a close look at each of Tampa Bay's division rivals' draft selections.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will begin play in the NFC South Division in 2002 along with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. Buccaneer Magazine will keep Bucs fans posted on what the Pewter Pirates' new division opponents have been doing during the offseason.
Atlanta Falcons

Home Georgia Dome in Atlanta Georgia

Host Tampa Bay Sunday, October 6, 2002 1:00 PM

Visit Tampa Bay Sunday, December 8, 2002 1:00 PM

Last Season 7-9 record. Finished tied for third place in the NFC West Division.

Head Coach Dan Reeves (also calls offensive plays)

Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips

Special Teams Coach Joe DeCamillis

How They Ranked Last Season

Offense 15th overall 16th rushing 17th passing

Defense 30th overall 21st rushing 30th passing

The Latest

Atlanta 2002 Draft Selections

Although running back T.J. Duckett has a fantastic upside, the Falcons had no business taking him. The Falcons already have running backs Jamal Anderson and former Buc Warrick Dunn under contract. The addition of Duckett will likely end Anderson's tenure in Atlanta, but it also means the Falcons, who gave Dunn a $28 million contract, are not totally sold on him being a feature back in their offense. Atlanta addressed the wide receiver position in the sixth and seventh rounds with Kahlil Hill and WR Michael Coleman, but they should've taken a receiver much earlier in the draft.

GRADE: C

Round 1 RB T.J. Duckett (6-0, 254) Michigan State University: Probably the second best running back to enter the NFL last weekend. He has produced against top level competition and has a great blend of size and quickness. But Atlanta probably didn't need him. The depth is great, but the Falcons could have added a receiver here.

Round 3 OLB Will Overstreet (6-2, 255) University of Tennessee: Good player. Atlanta added a much-needed linebacker to the rotation.

Round 4 OG Martin Bibla (6-3, 306) University of Miami (FL): Bibla has a great work ethic, which was what probably led to the Falcons taking him as high as they did. He's also got a low center of gravity.

Round 5 SS Kevin McCadem (6-0, 220) University of Virginia: McCadem had a great career at Virginia. He's muscle-bound, which bodes well for a defense, which needs to be more physical.

Round 5 QB Kurt Kittner (6-1, 219) University of Illinois: Kittner's an interesting pick. Second-year quarterback Michael Vick will start this season. Will Kittner, the rookie, back him up? Kittner was a productive starter at Illinois. He has a good sense for the defensive rush, but lacks the quick foot movement necessary to escape the initial rush.

Round 6 WR Kahlil Hill (6-0, 200) University of Iowa: Hill will be able to contribute on special teams right away. It's an area he thrived in at Iowa. He's a deep threat, but has a hard time shaking coverage. He's probably not the solution Atlanta needed at the wide receiver position.

Round 7 WR Michael Coleman (5-11, 190) Widener University: Coleman was a reach here, but then again, it's the seventh round.

Round 7 OT Kevin Shaffer (6-5, 290) University of Tulsa: Shaffer will probably be a practice squad candidate at best. Atlanta could use some more players at the offensive line position.


Carolina Panthers

Home Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina

Host Tampa Bay Sunday, October 27, 2002 1:00 PM

Visit Tampa Bay Sunday, November 17, 2002 4:05 PM

Last Season 1-15. Carolina finished with the worst record in the NFL last season and in last place of the NFC West Division.

Head Coach John Fox (Hired after Panthers 1-15 season. Former Giants defensive coordinator).

Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning (Former Jets Offensive Coordinator. Worked under Bill Parcells).

Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio

How They Ranked Last Season

Offense 30th overall 29th rushing 26th passing

Defense 31st overall 28th rushing 28th passing

The Latest

Carolina 2002 Draft Selections

Carolina had an excellent first half of last weekend's draft, but they made some questionable picks in the later parts of the draft. New head coach John Fox made some nice additions on defense by selecting LB Will Witherspoon and DB Dante Wesley, who can play both corner and safety. The addition of RB DeShaun Foster gives Carolina some depth at the running back position. Foster has a nice upside and could give Lamar Smith a run for the starting job. Defensive end Julius Peppers will give Carolina a much-needed pass rush off of the end.

Grade C+

Round 1 DE Julius Peppers (6-6, 283) University of North Carolina: Peppers has incredible size and unbelievable quickness. He'll add much-needed speed to Carolina's defensive line.

Round 2 RB DeShaun Foster (6-0, 222) UCLA: Foster was a great pick in the second round. He's been injured too often in college, but if he can stay healthy, he will give Lamar Smith a run for the starting running back job.

Round 3 OLB Will Witherspoon (6-1, 234) University of Georgia: Witherspoon thrives in pass coverage. He's more of a side-to-side player, and can struggle against the run at times, too.

Round 4 DB Dante Wesley (6-0, 210) Arkansas-Pine Bluff: Wesley can play both corner and safety, but the Panthers will likely groom him at the safety position. He's better suited for it.

Round 5 QB Randy Fasani (6-3, 235) Stanford University: The Panthers are taking a risk with Fasani, but he might be worth it. Fasani is injury-prone and has very little touch. His size is a plus.

Round 5 FB Kyle Johnson (6-0, 245) Syracuse University: Johnson has nice size for a blocking fullback. Could be blocking for Foster and Smith right away.

Round 6 TE Keith Heinrich (6-5, 255) Sam Houston State: Heinrich is an unheralded player. He's a diverse athlete. Excels in basketball, too. Great size.

Round 7 OG Pete Campion (6-3, 315) North Dakota State: Campion could have a chance to start after a year of grooming if Carolina's continues to struggle.

Round 7 CB Brad Franklin (6-0, 186) Lafayette: Panthers will not have to count on Franklin making an impact in their secondary for a few years, but he must contribute to special teams immediately, which he should be able to do.


New Orleans Saints

Home Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana

Host Tampa Bay Sunday, December 1, 2002 8:30 PM

Visit Tampa Bay Sunday, September 8, 2002 4:15 PM

Last Season 7-9 record. Finished tied for third place in the NFC West Division.

Head Coach Jim Haslett (also serves as team's defensive coordinator).

Offensive Coordinator Mike McCarthy

Special Teams Coach Joe Baker

Offense 19th overall 18th(T) rushing 10th passing

Defense 16th(T) overall 14th rushing 10th passing

The Latest New Orleans couldn't go wrong with two No. 1 draft picks, but they did an excellent job of using those picks to address needs. Wide receiver Donte Stallworth was a good pick. He could be a nice compliment to WR Joe Horn. Stallworth's blazing homerun speed makes him a serious threat, but . Defensive end Charles Grant might be considered a reach by some, but his stock improved dramatically as the draft approached. He brings speed to the defensive line. Corner Keyuo Craver and S Mel Mitchell were both steals. Both can contribute to special teams immediately, but they could both see playing time on defense in 2002 as well. Mitchell can return kicks, which bodes well for the Saints. The Saints addressed their needs with some very good prospects. New Orleans might have had the best draft of any of the 32 NFL teams.

In other news, Saints wide receiver Joe Horn has given New Orleans an ultimatum. He wants a new deal worth about $5 million per season, and if they don't pay up, he will sit out of the team's mini-camps and training camps until he gets a new contract.

Former Saints quarterback Jeff Blake signed a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens. The deal is worth $750,000, and Blake is expected to backup QB Chris Redman.

New Orleans Draft Selections

Grade A

Round 1 WR Donte Stallworth (6-0, 197) University of Tennessee: Stallworth has blazing speed and will likely fill in as the team's No. 2 or 3 wide receiver immediately. He was the best receiver available in the draft, and the Saints were fortunate to land him as late in the first round as the did.

Round 1 DE Charles Grant (6-3, 282) University of Georgia. Grant has great speed coming off of the line. Some thought he was a reach in round one, but his stock had been rising ever since the NFL Combine.

Round 2 C LeCharles Bentley (6-2, 299) Ohio State University: He also had a impressive Combine workout. Very good run blocker and interior lineman.

Round 3 OLB James Allen (6-2, 240) Oregon State University: He is a great physical athlete, but he's still learning. Good pick in the third round.

Round 4 CB Keyuo Craver (5-10, 201) Nebraska: Craver was an absolute steal in the fourth round. He's a solid punt return as well as a solid corner. He can play well in both press and zone coverages, but he's known for being too aggressive at times.

Round 5 FS Mel Mitchell (6-1, 220) Western Kentucky: He's an athletic playmaker, and that shows on special teams. Has good size for a safety.

Round 6 QB J.T. O'Sullivan (6-2, 220) California-Davis: He is a great runner, but he lacks accuracy.

Round 6 TE John Gillmore (6-4, 260) Penn State: Gillmore has good size, but lacks power. He's more of a pass catching tight end than he is a blocker.

Round 7 DE Derrius Monroe (6-3, 265) Virginia Tech University: Monroe is more of an athlete than he is a football player. He's still a nice pick in the seventh round.

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