Draft Aftermath: Rookies To Watch In The NFC South, 2013 Edition

Could "Star" become a... star in the NFL? - Lance King

The entire division went defense last April.

The Atlanta Falcons weren't the only squad to add rookie talent in April (curse you and your "parity," Roger Goodell).

While every team has added important pieces to the respective rosters, there will always be a special place for keeping tabs on rival squads and what sort of talent they've brought in for the upcoming season (some call this "industrial espionage").

Here, we take a look at what the rest of the NFC South has done with its draft picks. Could one of these teams knock the Falcons off their high perch from last year? (I got jokes today...)

New Orleans Saints: SS Kenny Vaccaro, NT John Jenkins

Unsurprisingly, the Saints focused mostly on defense with their early draft picks, and they added a couple of talented players in Vaccaro and Jenkins.

Though maybe not the most popular first-round pick, Vaccaro has the size and athleticism you would want to see from a safety taken on Day One. He's rangy enough that the Saints could let him roam around in a Cover Two, great run defender, can be used as a slot defender or as an extra man in the box.

Vaccaro should probably see the field quite a bit as a rookie, which could be good for Matt Ryan, as rookies tend to make mistakes in what has become a very complex NFL game, and Vaccaro doesn't have the best instincts as it stands right now. Should he start week one, the Falcons will probably attack Vaccaro's spot in the secondary early and often.

As for Jenkins, well, he just added some much-needed size to what was a fairly soft front seven in New Orleans. He's not a three-down player in the NFL, more than likely, but they'd be silly not to use him in running and goal line situations. That is where Jenkins thrives, and he could make things more difficult for new Falcons Steven Jackson.

We would ask how these guys looked in rookie mini-camp, but Sean Payton decided to go for the edgy, us-against-the-world look in 2013 and bar media from the camp.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Johnthan Banks

The Bucs still made some solid moves in the draft, even after shipping off their first-round pick to acquire All-Pro cornerback Darelle Revis. Revis is obviously a game-changer, one that immediately makes Ryan's life tougher and Tampa Bay's secondary much better.

As for Greg Schiano's second-round pick, Banks is a player that many Falcons fans are familiar with because he was originally tied to Atlanta before it became clear the team would trade up in the first round (scouting report).

It's hard to tell if Banks will see the field right away as a rookie, or if Tampa will let Eric Wright and his restructured contract get the nod opposite Revis. Remember when Wright signed a five-year, $38M deal? Good times.

Carolina Panthers: DT Star Lotulelei, DT Kawann Short

It's no secret that Carolina had a hole the size of Jerry Richardson's wallet at defensive tackle entering the draft. This has been an area of weakness for the Panthers for some time, and the team finally addressed it by adding two of the best defensive tackles in this draft class.

Lotulelei scared some away with his heart condition at the top of the draft, but at 14th overall the Panthers look like they got a real bargain. He's as explosive as they come for a D-tackle.

Short, however, could be the diamond in the rough Carolina needs. His ability to play the nose, 3-tech and 5-tech should be a huge boost to Short's chances of seeing the field early. Ron Rivera can essentially use him any way he might want.

His effort has been questioned by some scouts, as has his stamina, but when he gets in the zone there may not be a tougher rookie to block in the NFL this year. It all depends on how often the Panthers want to use him, and if he'll come to play in 2013, because Short has fantastic strength and fearsome pass-rushing ability for a tackle.

Out of all these teams, I might say the Panthers had the best draft of a non-Falcons NFC South team. Building up front first is never a bad way to go.

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