The 2022 NFL Draft had a ton of trades, shocks, and surprises. During the first round, nine trades got made. Yes, nine trades! There’s so much to look at over three days, seven rounds of drafting by these teams. That’s why the Nerds decided to split up our NFL Draft Grades to each division. I feel like each of the teams in the NFC South improved, but some improved way more than others. Some made questionable decisions while others didn’t. There were plenty of moves that affected our favorite dynasty players and teams. Be on the lookout for the other divisions’ draft grades! Let’s get started with my NFL Draft Grades on the NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons Draft Grade: A
The Falcons have so many needs that they could’ve used more than five first-round picks and still not been able to fill all their needs. So, they took their most pressing need at eighth overall rather than go for another position or trading down. I think they should’ve traded down, but oh well. They still winded up getting a great player in WR Drake London. London’s a tall, terrific player who can play anywhere on the line. Thanks to his 6’4″ size, he towers over DBs and easily makes catches while breaking plenty of tackles. He’s a perfect complement to Kyle Pitts.
Taking Arnold Ebikete will provide a perfect player to their awful edge-rushing room. Ebikete has Edge2 ability in IDP. Troy Andersen will serve as the star middle linebacker for a team in dire need of talent. Andersen is a quality late-round 2/3 pick in IDP rookie drafts.
Perhaps the best fit for this team was that of QB Desmond Ridder. He’s the ideal QB for head coach Arthur Smith’s system. He reminds me of a younger Tannehill. Don’t be surprised if Ridder is starting by year’s end. Take him in Round 2 of rookie drafts. Tyler Allgeier is a sneaky RB2 late-round rookie pick as he could start for the Falcons by the end of this year. DeAngelo Malone, Justin Shaffer, and John FitzPatrick will serve as quality depth for the Falcons.
Carolina Panthers Draft Grade: A-
The Panthers deserve a high grade for wisely passing on a QB at sixth overall instead of taking the best OL-man in the draft in Ickey Ekwonu. He will be the best protector on a newly rebuilt offensive line. Perhaps now Sam Darnold will be able to have a second before throwing the ball, and they can open run lanes for CMC.
Of course, the team did add insurance to Darnold by drafting QB Matt Corral. I don’t see Corral being all that great in the NFL, as evidenced by him being the fourth QB drafted and not getting drafted until the late third round. Take him in the third round of rookie drafts. He’ll start this year at some point but not sure it’s going to be a long-term arrangement.
The team furthered its depth by getting potential starters at guard in Cade Mays, Edge Amare Barno, and CB Kalon Barnes. Brandon Smith, their new LB, has some sneaky potential for the IDP and NFL world. He’s an athletic defender who could develop into a good player for the Panthers.
New Orleans Saints Draft Grade: C+
This draft was a confusing one for the Saints. They traded multiple firsts, including their 23′ one, to move up in the draft to take a WR with Chris Olave. Olave’s a terrific route runner and plays very similar to Michael Thomas. Thomas is returning from injury this year. This was a need pick, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but I’m not sure it was worth moving up for. Olave’s a late-first-round pick in your rookie drafts. He will have to learn to gain yardage after the catch while playing opposite MT. It’s a great fit in real life, but his dynasty production might not be a ton to start.
The real interesting pick was Trevor Penning, who will be replacing long-time LT Terron Armstead. Penning is a monster when run-blocking and shows a ton of potential. The giant LT will have to learn how to pass block properly to avoid those nagging penalties. He’s a project at LT but could be well worth the early struggles. A massive reach happened in the second when they took CB Alontae Taylor. He’s a fast, physical, breakout corner but only has one year of proven play. His instincts aren’t great either when covering fast or dynamic WRs. This could be a pick that either proves this as a great draft class or bogs it down. LB D’Marco Jackson and DL Jordan Jackson are quality depth picks. Overall, a decent draft with a huge wildcard risk. That’s what affects their draft grades.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft Grade: A
With Tom Brady back for at least another year, the Bucs drafted to go all-in again this year. In the second round, the Bucs took a ready-to-play player in DE Logan Hall. Hall can easily step in to replace Suh or place next to Vita Vea as a strong DL-man. Adding another guard in Luke Goedeke was perfect for replacing their lost OGs and protecting the GOAT. Meanwhile, drafting Rachaad White as the long-term plan at RB and backup to Lenny Fournette is a dream. White is a talented RB who can do it all. Don’t be surprised if he goes in the first round of rookie drafts, and he’s that good.
Cade Otton is another sneaky upside pick at TE for the Bucs, as he could be the long-term plan at TE in 2023. There’s no guarantee Gronk comes back, so take Otton with an expectation he could be the starting TE in 23′. The Bucs got another punter in Camarda, a CB in McCollum, another TE in Klieft, and an LB in Anthony. Each of these players is a quality depth option that will help the Bucs survive another Super Bowl or bust season with Brady.
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As always, May the Force be with You…