NFC South and West NFL Draft 2020 Team Needs

by Taylor Lambert
NFC South and West 2020 NFL Draft Team Needs

Here's to the end. We made it. This is the last breakdown before draft night! I'm taking a look at NFC South and West NFL Draft 2020 team needs.

It's time to put all the speculation about the draft to rest. Because, yes, there will be boos. Despite the unconventional approach to the annual event, it's good to see tradition prevail.

For some, there will be cheers, and for some, there will be tears. I'd like to simultaneously offer a toast and a sympathetic expression to the respective fan types on draft night.

Hopefully, you dynasty owners out there walk out of the draft with your heads held high. If you're scrambling and trying to determine who to ship before their value tanks after this weekend, allow me to be your guide.

Looking for the other divisions? Click the links below to view the rest of my pre-draft articles.

NFC North and East

AFC North and East

AFC South and West

NFC South and West NFL Draft 2020 Team Needs

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NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Head Coach Dan Quinn is feeling the pressure going into the 2020 season. Despite the apparent love from his players, he needs to rally from two consecutive seasons without a post-season appearance. Last December, Quinn fired the offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators in an effort to right the ship.

The Falcons offense remains supremely talented. Yes, Hayden Hurst is coming in to replace Austin Hooper, which is a slight downgrade. However, depending on the health of Todd Gurley, the Falcons may have made a significant improvement to the running back position.

They need a left guard and a backup for Gurley, but for the most part, their offense is the least of their worries.

On defense, they hit the jackpot signing Dante Fowler Jr. in free agency to help a struggling cast of characters. After Fowler's singing, their secondary now remains their biggest need. Looking to the draft, the Falcons have their work cut out for them trying to fill defensive holes.

Running Back

Acquiring Todd Gurley was a flashy signing, but with Gurley comes risk. Gurley's knee has been a talking point around the league.

In 2018, he finished the season with over 1,800 all-purpose yards and 21 combined touchdowns. Then came the knee complications. Despite an earth-shattering 2018 season, he finished 2019 with less than 900 rushing yards.

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If Gurley can remain relatively healthy, his replacement of Devonta Freeman is a huge win for the offense. If, however, his knee keeps him sidelined, the Falcons need more than Ito Smith and Brian Hill backing him up. Without quality options behind Gurley, the Falcons are going to bring in a rookie to spell Gurley.

An incoming rookie would be a must-add player for fantasy owners that take Gurley in their draft.

Tight End

Austin Hooper had a career year last season and his presence on offense will be missed. Following Hooper's departure, the Falcons acquired Hayden Hurst from the Ravens to mitigate their loss. Hurst is a former first-round pick that should find production. Unfortunately, he's the only show in town at the position.

Atlanta has a dangerous arsenal of pass-catchers at their disposal, but they'll have to bring in a secondary piece at tight end. There's not an abundance of talent in the draft, but if they bring in a capable option, that could challenge Hurst's upside in fantasy.

Carolina Panthers

The era of Cam Newton has reached its end in Carolina. The Panthers let Cam walk in free agency and brought Teddy Bridgewater in as a placeholder during their team rebuild. Cam won't be the only staple of the team that's missing in 2020. Head Coach Ron Rivera was fired toward the end of last season. It's been a wild, albeit interesting, offseason in Carolina.

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Christian McCaffrey became Melvin Gordon's worst enemy after receiving a hefty four-year, $64 million contract. The team then spent another $20 million on offense when they brought in Robby Anderson in free agency. Even with the substantial chunk of change spent on offense, Carolina still needs another tight end. Their interior offensive line could use a little love as well.

As far as defense is concerned, Carolina needs one. The draft alone won't be enough to make them a respectable unit. Every area of the defense is a liability. Realizing this, the Panthers would be wise to use the bulk of their draft capital to stock up on defensive pieces.


Carolina just gave Teddy Bridgewater a nice payday, but he's not going to be the face of their franchise. The team may take a late-round project at the position, but they should focus their attention elsewhere. The Panthers are contenders for the first overall pick in next year's draft, so they may wait for Trevor Lawrence.

For now, Teddy is an option in super-flex and 2QB leagues, but he's not their long-term solution.

Running Back

What do you get when you give a running back over 400 touches and a 93% snap share? Ding, ding, ding, injuries is the correct answer.

Christian McCaffrey deserves every cent of his massive contract. He worked his tail off for a team that finished the year at 5-11. His durability is awe-inspiring, but the odds are against him if the team continues to use and abuse him.

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Incoming Head Coach Matt Rhule has already addressed McCaffrey's unsustainable workload. Rhule will undoubtedly lean on McCaffrey but expect there to be more of a rotation next season. The Panthers don't have adequate talent backing McCaffrey, so they're going to bring someone in via the draft.

As always, McCaffrey is going to be a slam dunk for your fantasy team. It wouldn't hurt, however, to add his handcuff to your roster with your last pick in the draft. He's already shown us that he can stay healthy over a 16-game season, but for a player with his utilization, there's always injury potential.

Wide Receiver

LSU lost a great offensive mind when Joe Brady left to become the Panthers offensive coordinator. Brady was instrumental in aiding Joe Burrow in the of the most prolific passing offenses in NCAA history.

Brady now finds himself with a much different style of quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. While Burrow was willing to throw into tight windows, Teddy is far more likely to check down before threading the needle. Still, Bridgewater has the weapons to succeed.

The first three options in Carolina's receiving corps are exceptional. Led by D.J. Moore, the Panthers have a unit that is heavy at the top but lacks depth. The team needs, and is likely, to add a rookie to fill the fourth spot on the roster.

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What does this mean for fantasy? D.J. Moore still projects as a WR1, especially in PPR. The auxiliary weapons, on the other hand, are shaky. Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel both have talent, but with Teddy's inclination to look to the underneath receiver, they offer little upside. Add a rookie receiver to the mix, and their group of secondary pass-catchers looks unappealing for fantasy purposes.

Tight End

Long-time stalwart Greg Olsen landed in Seattle after his contract expired with Carolina. His backup, Ian Thomas, acted in his stead when injuries took him down. Thomas was adequate but he isn't the kind of threat that Olsen was.

Thomas is a decent enough option, but the Panthers need to provide him with a capable counterpart. There's sleeper appeal with Thomas heading into the season, but a rookie could easily stand in his way.

New Orleans Saints

Following multiple heartbreaking playoff losses, the Saints are primed and ready to make a Super Bowl run. Across the NFL, New Orleans has one of, if not the most, complete rosters. There isn't a glaring need on the team, so the Saints have the luxury of picking the best available players on the board.

The signing of Emmanuel Sanders makes an already potent offense virtually unstoppable. It also takes the pressure off of finding Brees a receiver not named Michael Thomas that can catch the ball. Picking at the back of the first, the team retains the option of taking a top prospect to contribute behind Sanders and Thomas.

If one was pressed to find an area of the team that could use a slight upgrade, it would be on defense. Letting Eli Apple walk doesn't significantly hurt the team considering his mediocre play, but finding his replacement is a priority. The Saints lack a second-round pick, so they'll look to the first or third round to collect a young corner.

All three of their starting linebackers hit free agency in 2021, which leaves New Orleans looking toward the future. Demario Davis is the kind of player they need to move mountains to keep. Unlike Davis, his supporting crew, Kiko Alonso and Alex Anzalone have more uncertain futures. With two-thirds of this unit possibly finding new homes, this position is a strong contender for the team's first pick.

Looking at fantasy, most of what follows should be looked at through the lens of dynasty. The Saints have a solid stable of fantasy options, and rookies aren't going take much of their shares.


Hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees is defying father time with the way he's been lighting up scoreboards. Adding Sanders to the offense only makes his status as a QB1 in fantasy stronger. He recently signed a tw0-year deal with team, but after coming to an agreement with NBC Sports following retirement, this is likely his last season. It's time for Sean Payton to start thinking about his replacement.

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A potential successor to Brees is Utah State's Jordan Love. Love enters the draft following a poor showing in 2019. Scouts and analysts alike have discounted his disappointing season due to the overwhelming personnel changes he experienced in his last year. Love possesses tremendous athletic traits, but he's considered a raw prospect by most.

After New Orleans picks at 24, their next selection comes in the third round at 88. Jalen Hurts is projected to be taken in that range and could be a target if they pass on Love.

If the team selects a quarterback with one of their first two picks, Taysom Hill's stock will plummet. Any quarterback being groomed to take over Sean Payton's offense deserves a place on your dynasty roster.

Wide Receiver

Emmanuel Sanders isn't going to be around the league much longer. Sanders is a speed demon that stretches the field. At age 33, he won't be burning defenders for much longer.

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The Saints had hoped they found their WR2 in Tre'Quan Smith when they drafted him in the third round in 2018. Unfortunately, Smith has yet to develop, and New Orleans can't afford to wait for him to turn the corner.

If New Orleans feels like turning their juggernaut offense into a titan, there's a large pool of talent to choose from.

Players like Justin Jefferson or Brandon Aiyuk could turn their receiving corps into the next elite one-two punch. Thomas and Sanders stand in the way of any rookie's redraft fantasy value that joins the team. As mentioned above, dynasty leagues offer another perspective.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Make way for the GOAT. For the first time in his historical career, Tom Brady will be donning a jersey other than the Patriots.

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The Buccaneers have been relegated to the basement of the NFL since their last playoff appearance in 2007. Bucs fans haven't been this excited since Tampa made a Super Bowl run in 2002.

Bruce Arians had enough of Jameis Winston's knack of gift-wrapping the football to the other team. With Winston gone and Brady taking over, No. 12 walks into a situation with firepower all around him. This unit still needs an upgrade at running back, and an offensive tackle is imperative. With these additions, the Bucs offense is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

With an abundance of talent surrounding Brady, Arians and Co. need to spend time thinking about their defense. Defensive end should be their top priority, but they need playmakers in the secondary as well. Todd Bowles rallied the troops and made the defense semi-respectable after a disastrous start to the year. Still, it's difficult to keep your opponent from scoring when your quarterback is doing everything in his power to help them.

Running Back

One major facet of Brady's game is his habit of checking the ball down to his running backs. In Tampa, their only pass-catching option is Dare Ogunb0wale. Sadly, he doesn't hold a candle to what Tom Brady had in James White.

Starting running back Ronald Jones barely sees the light of day in the passing game. Bruce Arians has always placed a premium on a running back's ability to block, and Jones is severely lacking in that department.

There are several rookie backs that can serve useful to Brady and Arians, but a dream fit would be LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The young back showed what he could do through the air last season and notched 55 receptions. When you get him out in space, his explosiveness makes him elusive, and despite his small stature, he's an aggressive ball carrier.

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One way or another, Ronald Jones' fantasy stock is going to take a tumble after the draft. Serving as a non-factor in Tampa's passing attack, he's leaving a massive opportunity for his competition. The make-0r-break factor for fantasy is how effective he is on the ground relative to his new teammate. If he loses a significant share of rushing attempts, Tampa's new alpha will be a stud in your lineup.

Wide Receiver

Breshad Perriman cashed in on the back of his final few games in Tampa. Filling in for the injured Godwin and Evans, Perriman provided his gunslinger quarterback with a deep ball weapon. Now that he finds himself in New York, Tampa needs a third option.

Though Godwin played in the slot, Penn State's KJ Hamler has been linked to Tampa in industry mock drafts. If a true slot-receiver is added to the mix, they could be a late-round flier in PPR.

Tight End

O.J. Howard is rumored to be on the trade block in Tampa. For all of the athleticism and talent he possesses, Arians isn't a fan. If Howard is dealt, Cameron Brate will be the main guy and a rookie will likely be his backup.

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Brady's addition to the team has the fantasy world clamoring over Howard's potential, and now, possibly a rookie's. The fact is, Arians isn't known for producing fantasy-relevant tight ends. Brate has done enough to prove himself, and if you want to punt on tight end and take him late, you could do worse. Don't be fooled into thinking that Brady could make the new guy on the block a fantasy option.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Experts weren't sure what to think when Arizona hired Kliff Kingsbury as their head coach. Kingsbury didn't have much success coaching at Texas Tech, where he left with a losing record. His biggest credentials were producing high-powered offenses, coaching Patrick Mahomes, and being friends with Sean McVay. It wasn't an unfair question to ask whether or not he was qualified for the job.

In the face of doubt, Kingsbury didn't provide a winning season, but he did inspire hope for the future. The Cardinals weren't a consistent team, but their offense gave a glimpse of their potential. Kingsbury made some offseason adjustments in shipping away David Johnson for DeAndre Hopkins and placing the franchise tag on Kenyan Drake.  Now, in year two, expectations for Kingsbury and Kyler Murray's offense couldn't be higher.

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Almost all of the team's needs are on defense. Their offensive line needs to be upgraded, but their skill positions are set. Christian Kirk is rumored to be a trade candidate, and the team could use a tight end. Even if a receiver and tight end are taken by the Cards, there's not enough opportunity to go around.

Los Angeles Rams

What a disappointing season in Los Angeles. The Rams entered the year having just competed in the Super Bowl against the Patriots. A depleted offensive line and a nagging injury to your star running back certainly puts a wrench in things, doesn't it?

Near the end of the season, Sean McVay's offense had taken on a whole new shape. He employed two tight end sets regularly, where before he relied on three receivers. Jared Goff was visibly shaken by the poor offensive line play, and Brandin Cooks all but vanished due to concussions. After the shift in scheme on offense, they bounced back with some success. Expect to see a similar style of play in 2020.

The Rams defense took a beating in free agency. Eric Weddle retired, Dante Fowler Jr. signed elsewhere, and Cory Littleton followed suit. As of now, there's a black hole where their linebackers used to line up. When you look at the offenses in the NFC West, the Rams need to rebuild their defense and they had better do so quickly.

Running Back

Former All-Pro Todd Gurley found himself on the chopping block after a disappointing season plagued by injuries. It started with his inexplicable vanishing act late in the 2018 playoffs. The Rams insistently denied any health concerns regarding their superstar, but things were clearly amiss.

Gurley's absence leaves questions surrounding the status of their backfield. In a recent interview, Rams GM Les Snead stated that the team plans to use a committee approach this season. Oh, what fun!

While Darrell Henderson offers excitement and upside in fantasy, things may get sticky in the draft. The Rams have interviewed backs like Zack Moss and Darrynton Evans, both of which serve as a threat. Henderson won't only be sharing with a rookie should they draft one, Malcolm Brown is still in town as well.

There's no way of putting this nicely. Things are going to downright suck for fantasy if they start the year with a three-headed monster of a backfield.

Wide Receiver

As I mentioned earlier, the Rams made a pivot in their offensive gameplan. McVay's formations changed when he began leaning on Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. Unless the Rams commit to an early receiver, not much should change.

They'll add someone to compete with Josh Reynolds, but again, fantasy implications all depend on draft capital. Assuming things remain status quo in Los Angeles, only a deep-round flier at best should be used on a rookie.

San Francisco 49ers

They came close, oh, so close to beating Kansas City. Through three quarters, it appeared Mahomes had finally met his match in the Niners defense. Thankfully, San Francisco remains a contender and could very well find themselves on the big stage next February.

Kyle Shanahan got the most out of Jimmy Garoppolo and his offense, particularly his running backs. Now, the Niners have to provide Garoppolo with more pass-protection and receiving talent.

The receiver position is shallow after losing Emmanuel Sanders in free agency. San Francisco is one of the likeliest teams to take an early shot on a wideout, assuming they don't trade their first-round picks.

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Their defense should once again strike fear in their opponent's hearts. All they need is a little help on the line and someone to take over for Sherman when he decides to hang it up.

Wide Receiver

Second-year receiver Deebo Samuel will be the subject of fantasy sleeper discussions as the offseason continues. Samuel is a burner who was used in a variety of ways on offense as a rookie. He's the kind of guy who can cut upfield on a slant and take one to the house with regularity. It's his show next season, but he and Kittle can't burden all the receiving work alone.

San Franciso picks 13th overall, and they'll be aiming for one of the big three. That big three consists of Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Henry Ruggs. Given Shanahan's offensive style and the rumors of Marquise Goodwin's trade status, Ruggs feels like the most appropriate fit for this offense. Like Samuel, Goodwin has electric speed that makes him difficult to defend. Ruggs offers a similar, but more dynamic skill-set to the offense.

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Deebo is a leading breakout candidate next season for fantasy, but a meaningful addition at receiver limits his upside.

Tight End

This is not a position I had anticipated writing about. It wasn't until my phone lit up with a notification stating San Francisco's interest in trading for Evan Engram that I realized there might be something to discuss. George Kittle is arguably the best tight end in football, so this trade talk may come off as unusual or unnecessary. If you track Shanahan's history, it begins to make more sense.

In Atlanta, Shanahan relied on more 13 personnel sets than any other coordinator in the league. His tight ends didn't need statistical production to be useful to the team too. Shanahan often used his tight ends as decoys to create plays for other receivers. What's scary is the fact that he never had a tandem that came anywhere close to the talent Kittle and Engram both possess.

In the event that the Giants don't ship Engram, it's clear that San Francisco wants to leverage the position more. A rookie won't impact Kittle very much, but Engram would turn Kittle's dynasty owners hair gray. The superstar tight end would still be an elite option, but Engram could create a rift between Kelce and Kittle.

Seattle Seahawks

Dear Pete Carroll,

What could possibly be running through your head as we approach the draft?

Seattle's head coach is no stranger to draft day shakeups. Don't say I didn't warn you if the Seahawks trade back on Day 1.

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If the Seahawks want to contend for a title, their defense has to come out strong after the draft. What was once The Legion of Boom has now turned into a unit who allowed just shy of 400 yards per game to opposing offenses. Russell Wilson can only do so much on offense to keep them in games.

They tried to keep Jadeveon Clowney on board and made an offer to Everson Griffen as well. As of now, both efforts have yet to succeed. Their defensive line needs an edge rusher who can disrupt opposing quarterbacks, and their secondary could stand to see some competition being brought in to challenge their current starters.

Offensively, they need to add depth at the running back position, and Russ could always use another option in the passing game. Behind Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf though, there isn't room for another fantasy option at receiver.

Running Back

Chris Carson, though talented, has had major problems with fumbling the ball. He's been a productive player for the team, but at what point do they pull the cord?

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Depth in the backfield is also a problem.

The Seahawks had to call on the retired Marshawn Lynch to come back and play when their backfield was wiped out. They'll have to add someone new if they can't rely on Rashaad Penny to stay healthy behind Carson.

Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer calls plays like he's coaching in the 80's, so you can expect plenty of rushing attempts out of this backfield. Chris Carson is still their guy for now, and he's going to get the majority of work. He'll also be the first back on the team taken in fantasy drafts this year. With another option and his tendency to run with reckless abandon, be cautious of overspending for him in drafts.

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