Commentary

Kiper's summer audits: NFC South

Mel breaks down the offseasons and needs of each NFC South team

Originally Published: July 13, 2011
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Da'Quan Bowers & Mark IngramIcon SMIDa'Quan Bowers and Mark Ingram should contribute to the Bucs and Saints immediately.

Let's pretend for a moment that the NFL hasn't ground to a halt like a train rusted to the tracks. Let's pretend as well that the season will start on time, that free agency will at some point get under way and that all these roster voids can be addressed at some point. Got it? Well, with those rose-colored glasses on, let's audit all the divisions in the NFL. Like last year, I'll hit on three things:

Help added: What has the team done so far this offseason to improve its prospects? (Obviously, minus free agency, this is mainly limited to the draft.)
Questions that remain: Consider it a guide to free agency (when it happens). What must still be addressed?
Next year's help now: With an eye toward next year's draft class, which player from 2012 seemingly could help the team in 2011? This is meant to be extremely hypothetical.

Here is the version for the NFC South:


NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Help added: In need of a top-flight wideout to work opposite Roddy White, the Falcons made a bold move on draft day, parting ways with five picks in order to secure the rights to Alabama's Julio Jones. The Falcons want to win now -- I get that. But it's a steep price to pay for one prospect.

In terms of Jones: He's a very impressive physical specimen. The guy loves to compete. And he will be an asset for the Falcons not only in the passing game but also in the ground game due to his blocking ability. In order for him to reach his full potential, he needs to become more sure-handed and put the durability concerns to rest.

Atlanta also got linebacker help in the form of Georgia's Akeem Dent. The two things that stand out with him are his physicality and tenacity. I also like the fact that he has seen action both in the middle and outside. From a size/speed standpoint, Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers is nothing to get excited about, but once he straps on the pads, it's a totally different story. He lacks timed speed but is very quick on game day. And while his size would lead you to believe he is just a third-down back, he runs tough between the tackles and showed throughout his college career that he can handle a sizeable workload. Matt Bosher likely means the end of incumbent/pending free agent Michael Koenen's days as a Falcon. Along with his punting exploits, Bosher can handle kickoffs.

Ultimately, it'll start and end with Jones. The Falcons believe he will be an outstanding complement to White. Considering what they gave up to get him, nothing less will be acceptable.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst