nfc south

The NFL Draft was a month ago and now OTA’s are one week down around the league. Each team has a bunch of rookie players on its roster and they are looking to make an impact in their first year in the league. The Atlanta Falcons are looking to get back in the playoff hunt after finishing 8-8 last season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 6-10 with Jameis Winston in his first year, and they want to compete in the division to try and become a playoff caliber team. The Carolina Panthers want to go back to the Superbowl and finish what they couldn’t in 2015. The New Orleans Saints defense cost them many games and they improved it in the draft, will it turn into wins?  Let’s see which rookie on each team you need to watch out for in the upcoming season.

 

keanu neal atlan

Atlanta Falcons Rookie to Watch: Keanu Neal – S

The Falcons needed help in the secondary, and with the first pick in their draft they took safety Keanu Neal. Neal had 134 tackles, four and a half for loss, two sacks, four interceptions, five pass deflections, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles during his time with the Florida Gators. His coverage and tackling skills are what can give him a great chance to start for Atlanta, in a secondary that needed some help behind Desmond Trufant. There are many young safeties on this roster, so Neal will have plenty of playing time no matter if he starts or not.

noah spence tampa bay

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookie to Watch: Noah Spence – DE

Failing two drug tests and getting suspended from the Big Ten can easily affect a draft stock for a great player. Luckily for Noah Spence, he transferred to Eastern Kentucky and has been clean for months. Spence went from a possible first round pick, to a player that would never see a down again in collegiate football, to a second round pick in the 2016 draft. Spence has put up good numbers while at Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky, with 125 tackles, 37.5 for loss, 20 sacks, three pass deflections, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Tampa will have to make sure Spence stays on this right path of being clean from drugs and focused on football. If Spence can keep clean and perform at a high level, he could be a future all-pro defensive end and possibly even greater.

vernon butler panthers

Carolina Panthers Rookie to Watch: Vernon Butler – DT

The Panthers defense just got better. Vernon Butler was one of many impressive defensive tackles in this draft and he could end up starting for the team. Butler had 168 tackles, 28.5 for loss, five sacks, three pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Butler has power and with strong hands, can get through the gaps to stop the run. With his smart feet play and ability to change direction, he can also be an inside passer rusher. Butler is 6’4″ and 323 pounds, he is a big dude and will make an impact on any type of play.

vonn bell

New Orleans Saints Rookie to Watch: Vonn Bell – S

The Saints defense was horrible last year, allowing the second most passing and rushing yards. Rob Ryan was fired as the defensive coordinator and the secondary was the main weak point in the Saints defense. They added Sheldon Rankins in the first to beef up the line, but Bell later to help the secondary at the safety position. Bell has good man coverage skills and he knows where the ball is going, reading the quarterbacks eyes well. He knows his zones for coverage assignments, so he isn’t weak in either category. Bell ended with 175 tackles, four for loss, one sack, nine interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 15 pass deflections and two fumble recoveries in his three year stay at Ohio State. Bell should be able to help the Saints pass defense and give them some security at the safety position.

 

| Brandon Knapp covers the NFL for MyFantasySportsTalk.com |

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