2010 NFC South Preview: Will the Saints Still be No. 1 in 2010?

Jordan LoaCorrespondent IMay 20, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is interviewed in the locker room after defeating the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons had decent seasons, with both clubs hitting either the .500 mark or surpassing it.

Unfortunately for them, they're in the same division as the New Orleans Saints, who marched all over the NFL on their way to their first Super Bowl title in team history.

Then you have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were the division's only weak link in 2009.

Below are breakdowns of the four NFC South teams and how their draft classes will impact their upcoming season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa Bay went 3-13 in 2009.

With that said, the Bucs have a "B" rated draft class.

Tampa Bay's defense couldn't stop anybody, which is why they ranked 27th in the league in total yards.

With nine total picks in the draft, the Bucs dedicated six of those nine picks to the defense.

This was a wise move, considering the defense gave up 365.6 yards per game.

The two biggest defensive acquisitions were DTs Gerald McCoy from Oklahoma and Brian Price out of UCLA.

Tampa Bay looks to combine the skills of McCoy and Price to create a tough defensive front, much like Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland.

The Bucs' offense was no pleasure to watch either, settling in at the No. 28 spot in the league, producing a mere 287.5 yards per game.

However, the addition of WR Arrelious Benn from Illinois should help the stagnant unit.

In his three seasons with Illinois from 2007 to 2009, Benn collected 2,221 yards on 159Β  yards with seven TDs.

While Benn's numbers aren't off the charts, they're good enough to provide QB Josh Freeman with another offensive outlet.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers had a respectable 2009 season, finishing up at 8-8.

Carolina is looking to build upon their 8-8 season with a good balance of offensive and defensive picks in the draft. The Panthers had 10 picks in the draft, with five defensive and five offensive players.

Starting QB Matt Moore should be a little worried about his job, seeing as the Panthers drafted three QBs, the most notable of the three being Notre Dame product Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike from Cincinnati.

If Clausen performs well enough in the preseason, he could very well snatch the starting job from Moore.

With an offense that ranked 19th in the NFL in total yards per game (331.1), it would have made more sense to cut back on the QB picks and pick up offensive players they could use right away.

The Panthers did pick up WR Brandon LaFell from LSU, and he'll no doubt have a huge impact on increasing the Panthers' offensive production. I'm just not sure if Carolina needed to draft three QBs.

As for the defense, well, they don't need any help.

Carolina's defense ranked eighth in the NFL, giving up 315.8 yards per game.

They did pick up some help with LB Eric Norwood from South Carolina.

However, Carolina may have made a mistake by drafting too many QBs and defensive players, and not enough offensive play-makers.

Atlanta Falcons: The Atlanta Falcons' 2009 season ended with a 9-7 record.

Atlanta juiced up their defense, which ranked 21st in the NFL with 348.9 yards per game, with LB Sean Weatherspoon from Missouri.

In his career with the Tigers, Weatherspoon racked up an amazing 388 tackles, but only had three FF and four INTs.

Either way, there's still a place for him in the Falcons' defense, and he's primed to make his mark during his rookie season.

CB Dominique Franks from Oklahoma will be a solid piece in the Falcons' dime and nickel packages, and will help remove from memory Atlanta's pass-coverage problems.

The Falcons ranked 28th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 241.9 yards per game. Franks could be the answer to that passing problem and bolster the Falcons' defense.

Atlanta didn't add much in the way of offense, but they did add depth to their offensive line in OGs Mike Johnson from Alabama and Joe Hawley from UNLV. While Hawley and Johnson aren't a dire necessity, they do add much-needed depth to the offensive line.

New Orleans Saints: Honestly, the Saints didn't need any help from the draft.

They went 13-3 last season, not to mention claiming the Lombardi Trophy, and there's no reason they can't do it all again this season.

That being said, the Saints picked up monster talent within the draft, making them an even more formidable opponent this season.

Interestingly enough, the Saints' defense ranked 25th last season, allowing 357.8 yards per game.Β 

Lucky for them, they acquired CB Patrick Robinson, whom the Saints may move to FS or use him as a piece in their nickel packages.

Also, the Saints added depth to their defensive front with DT Al Woods out of LSU. Davis will be integral in controlling the interior of the line.

It should come as no surprise that the Saints are No. 1 in the league in total offensive yards per game with 403.8.

New Orleans locked up that No. 1 offensive ranking by adding TE Jimmy Graham from Miami. Graham will have the chance to develop behind starting TE Jeremy Shockey, and the Saints could use him as a red zone TE in his rookie season.

Final Rankings:

4. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers may have shot themselves in the foot by drafting three QBs and not enough other offensive and defensive weapons.Β  Look for another 8-8 season here.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa Bay made excellent use of their picks, as they picked up McCoy and Price to tighten up that defensive front, thus creating problems for opposing offenses.

2. Atlanta Falcons: I think the addition of Weatherspoon will great increase the Falcons' potential and they'll build off their 9-7 record from 2009.

1. New Orleans Saints: This should come as no surprise. The Saints won the Super Bowl with a defense ranked 25th in the league. They've added Robinson and Woods to the lineup, so I'm expecting the New Orleans' defense to become much better in 2010. Also, they added TE Graham, who gives Drew Brees just another outlet to beat you.

To read more of Jordan's work, click here .

Check out my other previews:


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.