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Tampa Bay’s 2018 Draft Makes The NFC South The “It” Division

Cam Newtons road to the playoffs could go off a cliff. 

That goes for any team with the misfortune of having to play NFC South teams this season (Im looking at you, NFC East!).

Last year, the NFC South put three teams in the playoffs: The New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Cams Carolina Panthers, the most of any division.

Last years weakest team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, looks to be one of the most improved teams after this weekends NFL Draft. Their selection of Vita Vea, arguably the most powerful, freakishly athletic player in this years class, has made the NFC South the toughest division from top to bottom.

Bucky Brooks on Twitter

Whoa! Vita Vea and Gerald McCoy could create problems in the NFC South. Inside disruptors give classic dropback passers nightmares. In this division, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Jameis Winston are “run around” types. Another example of a team building to win the division #NFLDraft

The Bucs defense was a thoroughfare for opposing running backs, allowing the most yards and third-down conversions of any team in the league, according to NFL.com. They also generated the fewest sacks of any team.

Tired of getting flattened by opponents, the Bucs strapped up this offseason. Their emphasis: beef up the defensive line. They traded for Jason Pierre-Paul and added Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, and Mitch Unrein in free agency to help their lone star, Gerald McCoy. With their selection of Vea, a 347-pound defensive tackle that benched 225 pounds 41 times and ran a 5.11 40, the Bucs now boast one of the NFLs best lines.

You can never have enough defensive linemen, Licht said in a Thursday press conference.

Overall, the entire division improved after the draft. The Saints bolstered their defense by adding raw but talented pass rusher Marcus Davenport in the first round. In selecting Calvin Ridley, arguably the best pass catcher of this draft class, Atlanta has one of the most explosive receiving corps in the league. Carolina got Cam Newton another weapon in D.J. Moore, who many believe is better than Ridley.

On paper, none have improved quite like the Buccaneers. But what looks good on paper, can yield unsightly results just ask the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Bucs know this lesson well. Last year at this time, prognosticators declared Tampa Bay a playoff darling before they even played a game. Observers were giddy over what quarterback Jameis Winston could do in an offense that featured Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Those beautiful, slow-motion shots of Evans and Jackson running routes and plucking balls out of the air on HBOs Hard Knocks didnt help.

Injuries leveled the offense and defense, and the Bucs flopped with a 5-11 record.

But by seriously overhauling their defense this year, the Buccaneers have put Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Newton on notice.

Geoff Schwartz on Twitter

Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea… Good luck NFC South guards

Look at Philly last year, they have a lot of great defensive linemen, he said, referring to the Super Bowl champions. It always starts up front. You can never go wrong by having some ass-kickers up there.

And the NFC South appears to have ass-kickers up and down that division.

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