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Bucs Atop NFC South 2015 Draft Grades

Posted Feb 12, 2016

NFL Media Analyst Bucky Brooks assigns grades to the 2015 rookie classes of the NFC South and the Buccaneers came out on top.

As the entire NFL looks ahead to the NFL Combine to watch the best prospects from college football in preparation for the 2016 NFL Draft, NFL Media Analyst Bucky Brooks paused to review last season’s rookie crop.

With one year under their belts, the rookie classes of the NFC South stood out, with no team earning a grade lower than a B-. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers led the group, as the only NFC South team to receive an A.

The Bucs group was of course led by rookie standout and first overall pick, quarterback Jameis Winston, who started all 16 games this season and earned a spot on the Pro Bowl roster while being named the fan-voted NFL Rookie of the Year. Second-round picks tackle Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet started a combined 29 games. Third-round pick, linebacker Kwon Alexander, logged 12 games and finished second on the team in tackles.

“Jameis Winston earned rave reviews for his work as a first-year starter. He thrived as a playmaker during the second half of the season and showed great potential as a franchise quarterback,” wrote Bucky Brooks. “Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet were steady performers as rookie starters. On defense, Kwon … looked like a star in the making as a "sideline to sideline" playmaker with exceptional quickness and burst.”

Brooks also noted the positions that the Buccaneers are likely to focus on in the upcoming NFL Combine.

“The need for a legitimate CB1 will force the Buccaneers to take a long, hard look at Florida's Vernon Hargreaves, Florida State's Jalen Ramsey, Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller and Clemson's Mackensie Alexander. The team also could consider upgrading the defensive end position, which brings Clemson's Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd into the picture.”

Rounding out the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons earned a B- grade from Brooks. Their rookie class was highlighted by linebacker Vic Beasley who started all 16 games. The Carolina Panthers were given a B with 17 combined starts from their rookie class. The New Orleans Saints also received a B-.

Click here to read the Brooks’ full NFC South rookie grades breakdown.