The Falcons entered round one of the NFL Draft in dire need of another pass rusher, and they added one in the enormously talented Vic Beasley. But the rest of the NFC South made important moves of their own on Thursday night, setting up what looks to be a much more competitive division in 2015.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - QB Jameis Winston
The Bucs kicked things off this year by making the obvious, if somewhat controversial, selection of Winston with the first overall pick. His well-documented off the field incidents will make him an easy target of disdain for opposing fan bases, but you can't deny the former Florida State signal-caller's talent. He's a leaps-and-bounds upgrade over last year's starter, Josh McCown, and whoever else they have on the roster. It's simply a question of whether he can put in enough preparation each week to avoid suffering the fate of a Johnny Manziel or Ryan Leaf.
Winston will also have the benefit of adjusting to the pro game under the guidance of former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, and both will return to the Georgia Dome this season on Nov. 1. That should be a good one.
New Orleans Saints - OT Andrus Peat, LB Stephone Anthony
The rebuilding Saints came in with two first-round picks this year, and they played it fairly safe with both selections. Where exactly Peat fits in will be an interesting question -- they already have Terron Armstead and Zach Strief, and Sean Payton struck down the notion that Peat would play guard -- but the safe bet would be to assume that he gets a crack at one of the two tackle jobs right away. Which also means he'll be tasked with blocking Vic Beasley early and often in 2015.
And while Beasley was the more well-known star of Clemson's defense, Anthony is a player I could easily see developing into a Pro Bowler. Inside linebacker was more of a position of need, even with the acquisition of Dannell Ellerbe. He's a tough, downhill player that gives the team a suitable successor to Curtis Lofton, and he has much more potential as a coverage linebacker than Lofton ever did. His vision is excellent, as are his physical tools, and he was a player I thought the Falcons might consider taking were he on the board in the second round. Alas.
Carolina Panthers - LB Shaq Thompson
Things got a little awkward in Chicago when Thomas Davis was called upon to announce this pick; Thompson, of course, profiles best as a weakside linebacker and Davis' eventual replacement.
But unfortunate timing aside, Thompson gives Ron Rivera's defense a versatile defender to play alongside Davis and Luke Kuechly in what looks to be the most athletic linebacking corps in the NFL. Not only can he play on the inside, but he also has prior experience as a safety, designated blitzer and even running back. A multi-faceted player, for sure.
What do you think about how the first round shaped up for the division as a whole?