While no team in the NFC South did enough to catch Tampa Bay during the 2022 NFL Draft, there were some quality selections (and some bad ones).
Welcome to the NFL Draft Recap series for the Say It Again Network. For those of you that followed my Mock Draft series throughout the year, I genuinely thank you. This draft season was one of the more unpredictable ones in quite some time, and it was cool to take a prediction-only spin on the draft process.
However, now we get into the nitty-gritty; seeing what players have the best chance to succeed based on the situations they went to. Some call their draft recap articles “Draft Grades,” but that concept is, forgive me for being blunt, inherently stupid. Anyone’s draft grades are strictly based on their own evaluation of players and team needs. It doesn’t take into account a player that you disliked going to a perfect situation or vice versa. In short, draft grades are just the biases of the draft analyst showing up in article form.
This is why my recap articles on the NFL Draft look a little different. I’m not giving silly letter grades to show who I think had a successful draft and who did not. Instead, I’ve created a bold prediction for each team based on the players they have selected.
Now you’ll get my draft thoughts in the breakdown of each team. However, I wanted to create a draft recap article where there was no confusion about how I came to my conclusions. Unlike my mock draft, these are my predictions based on my thoughts on players and where they wound up.
In short, draft grades don’t prognosticate which players stand the best chance to be successful at the next level. This NFL Draft Recap will do just that.
The penultimate article in this series focuses on the NFC South. A few of these teams took some sizable gambles in this draft. Will they pay off?
Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Anderson, Desmond Ridder, DeAngelo Malone, Tyler Allgeier, Justin Shaffer, John FitzPatrick
The Prediction: Troy Anderson is The Star of The Falcons’ 2022 Draft
Atlanta did some good things during this draft. They added an edge rusher that runs the arch incredibly well in Ebiketie. Desmond Ridder is a big-time athlete, making as many plays with his legs as he does with his arm. Ridder also protects the football, which gives him a chance to succeed as a modern-day game manager. They grabbed a “draft darling,” of many in Tyler Allgeier, who many thinks can be a part of a two-headed rushing attack at the next level.
The steal was Troy Anderson. Anderson has shown phenomenal athleticism and range in his limited time as a linebacker. The converted quarterback could be a true weapon in coverage as he continues to learn the position. He will have a great feel for what opposing offenses are looking to do, and he will have the athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends one-on-one. If Anderson can learn how to stack-and-shed in the run game and become more physical, he can be a star at the next level.
Editor’s Note: “Drake London is a Bust,” was a candidate for this bold call. Receivers that make their money on 50/50 plays down the field are always hit or miss. However, what gave me pause was the way he compliments Kyle Pitts in the offense. The Falcons now have two guys that can win in the red zone and along the sideline. I wasn’t a fan of London pre-draft, but I do like this fit.
Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, Matt Corral, Brandon Smith, Amaro Barno, Cade Mays, Kalon Barnes
The Prediction: Matt Corral Beats Out Sam Darnold and Starts Week One, But Carolina Still Picks a QB in Round One in 2023
Carolina didn’t have many selections in 2022. Following the selection of Ikem Ekwonu (absolutely the right pick, taking a stud left tackle instead of over-drafting a quarterback is the correct call 11 times out of 10), the Panthers chose to take a swing on Matt Corral.
Corral has the moxie and mental makeup to be successful at the next level. He’s a good athlete and he gets the ball out quickly. My questions for Corral have to do with his deep ball and his ability to go through progressions at the next level. Now, for a developmental quarterback, these are fine questions to have. Corral could sit, learn how to read defenses and go through progressions, and eventually become a high-quality game manager.
The problem is head coach Matt Rhule. I don’t think Rhule wants to run back the Sam Darnold experiment. If Corral flashes enough during training camp, Rhule might be willing to run him out there in week one. Darnold’s confidence is shot; Corral oozes confidence. The team is likely going to take to Corral quickly, which will only further Rhule’s decision.
Carolina likely struggles in 2022 regardless of who’s at quarterback. Assuming that’s the case, they’ll be in a position to take one of the talented quarterbacks in 2023. When you combine that with Carolina likely hitting the reset button as an organization if 2022 goes south, Matt Corral could be one-and-done as a starter in Carolina.
New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave, Trevor Penning, Alontae Taylor, D’Marco Jackson, Jordan Jackson
The Prediction: Chris Olave is a Good Pro, But Never Worth What New Orleans Paid For Him
This is an elaborate bold prediction, so stay with me here. New Orleans gave up next year’s first-round pick and other assets to create two selections in the first round of 2022. They nabbed Chris Olave by moving up in the draft, and then took Trevor Penning at 19. Penning might be an awkward fit in this offense because he’s best suited as a right tackle at the next level and the Saints will likely play him on the left side, but that’s a different discussion for a different day.
Olave is one of my favorite players in the 2022 class. He’s a burner and an elite route runner. I don’t have concerns about him handling physicality in his routes that others do. In fact, I think Olave can outshine Michael Thomas in this offense as early as his rookie season.
So how on earth could he not be worth the draft capital? It’s simple; New Orleans has put itself into the NFL version of the abyss. Their roster is ready to compete, but Jameis Winston is not getting them a deep run in the playoffs. They won’t be bad enough to land a top 10 selection either. Finally, New Orleans gave up their first-round pick next year, which will make it almost impossible to move up for the quarterback that could take them over the top. On top of all of this, New Orleans has cap issues moving forward. Therefore, if a veteran decided they wanted to move on from a current situation as Russell Wilson did, New Orleans cannot make a play on that player.
In short, this Olave move puts them in a great position to grab a wild card berth in 2022. Unfortunately, they don’t have the young talent to have that be deemed a successful season. In five years, despite Olave being a successful pro, the draft capital they gave up will force them into a tight spot. They will be unable to land a true franchise quarterback, which they could’ve done if they had their first-round pick next year. Their top veterans will look to pursue championships in other spots, and the Saints find their way towards the bottom of the league in a few years.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Logan Hall, Luke Goedeke, Rachaad White, Cade Otton, Jake Camarda, Zyon McCollum, Ko Kleft, Andre Anthony
The Prediction: Zyon McCollum Becomes an NFL Starter
Tampa Bay did what it had to do in this draft. They grabbed a 3-4 defensive end in Logan Hall who is a nightmare as a pass rusher from the interior. Luke Goedeke was the backup offensive lineman that they had to grab at some point. Tampa then threw a bunch of darts at other positions of need.
The most interesting dart that the Bucs threw was Zyon McCollum, who shined during the NFL Combine. Tall, lengthy corners are not expected to be big-time athletes, but McCollum is just that. Plus, McCollum has excellent ball skills. New Head Coach Todd Bowles does a wonderful job of getting long, physical corners to be more disciplined in coverage. Assuming he has that effect on McCollum, McCollum could be a real bright spot in what was a fairly mundane draft for the Bucs.