Even within our own division, the draft paths chosen present some interesting future match-ups. In real life teams don’t usually go with a "tit-for-tat" mentality. Nevertheless, these match-ups will one day become very real on the field. So in the midst of the doldrums of the football offseason, we have opportunity to prognosticate about the possibilities.
Falcons pick: Jake Matthews, OT
Panthers counter: Kony Ealy, DE
The Falcons are 1-3 against the Panthers over the past two seasons, with Matt Ryan having been sacked a total of 18 times (should’ve been 4-0 Mr. Nakamura, but I digress). The Falcons desperately needed to upgrade their protection. It came out that Falcons GM Dimitroff wanted Matthews so badly, he had a deal in place with the Jaguars to move up to pick #3. Then the Jags backed out the day of the draft. (How could you screw that up for us Jags? Did you really think Blake Bortles wouldn’t last two more picks?)
However in the 2nd round, the Panthers in turn made a move to keep their pass rush strong. Interestingly enough, the two former SEC linemen did get to face off in recent years. Matthews referred to Ealy as one of the toughest guys he has faced. Last year Ealy had a good day stat-wise (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, drew 1 holding call against Matthews), but I still feel that Matthews dominated their match-up, especially in the running game. But it also seems that Ealy was playing containment on some plays, as the Tigers were facing the elusive Johnny Manziel. Anyhow, we will be seeing these two face off again, so tell me what you think (Ealy is #47, and is usually lined up across from Matthews, inside at DT, or off the field).
Edge to Atlanta
Falcons pick: Rashede Hageman, DE/DT
Panthers counter: Trai Turner, OG
The Falcons decided to try and get big and nasty up front on defense, and Hageman was great value for them there. The Panthers meanwhile chose to shore up a season-long area of weakness along the interior offensive line. Hageman is a converted TE, with only 3 years of experience as a defensive lineman. The key for him will be trying to play low. His height works against him(6-6), whereas Trai brings leverage, speed, and power with his game. Hageman will primarily be a 3-4 DE for the Falcons, but should still get a few in game match-ups against Turner.
Edge to the Panthers
Panthers pick: Kelvin Benjamin, WR
Bucs pick: Mike Evans, WR
Saints counter: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB
Out of all the match-ups, I do actually think this pick was a tit-for-tat. New Orleans knew that they had a weakness at corner, and then watched Tampa and Carolina take the two biggest wideouts in the entire draft. Knowing they already traded away their 3rd round pick, I believe the Saints reached in the 2nd round out of desperation. Jean-Baptiste is still young at the position and has a lot of room to develop. However as of right now, he’s a guy with size, but isn’t overly physical.
Edge to the Panthers
Saints pick: Brandin Cooks, WR
Panthers counter: Bene Benwikere, CB
The Saints wanted Cooks so badly, they gave up a pick to get him. The Panthers used their early picks elsewhere, but then traded up for Benwikere as the corner market started dwindling. I got a feeling the Panthers recognized a hole on their roster, and didn’t like what was left on the board at the CB position. Cooks will likely play from the slot, and Gettleman has specifically stated that Benwikere will compete for the nickel spot. With Godfrey still recovering, we could see Bene on the field. Someone on this team will have to cover Cooks, and short passes to him could be the Saints plan against our pass rush. This match-up could eventually pair a guy known for his movement in the open field, against a guy whose tackling appears sub-par even by college DB standards.
Big advantage Saints