Wednesday, July 6, 2022

NFC South 2022 NFL Draft order, needs, picks, grades: Team-by-team updates, selections, tracker and more

The NFC South is at a crossroads as the 2022 NFL Draft approaches. The division became wide open with Tom Brady announcing his retirement, only to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 40 days later. Bruce Arians stepped down as head coach weeks later and Tampa Bay gave the job to former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, so there will be new leadership among the Super Bowl contenders. 

Sean Payton retired from the New Orleans Saints, who tasked Dennis Allen to keep the most successful run in franchise history going. New Orleans was in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes before deciding to bring Jameis Winston back for two more seasons, hoping to make a playoff run with one of the top defenses in the NFL

The Atlanta Falcons moved on from longtime quarterback Matt Ryan, the organization’s leader in passing yards and touchdowns. A rebuilding Falcons team is entrusting Marcus Mariota to steer the ship in 2022, the first year of the post-Ryan era. The Carolina Panthers have a defense good enough to compete for a playoff berth, but have an issue at quarterback in Sam Darnold. This is a problem for head coach Matt Rhule, who needs to improve the team in 2022 in order to solidify his coaching future. Both teams were also in the mix for Watson before he chose the Cleveland Browns

While the Buccaneers are looking to repeat as division champions, the Saints are seeking their fifth division title in six years as they look to regain the division throne. This year’s draft will be crucial toward the rebuild of the Falcons, the Panthers searching to become a playoff team, the Saints seeking to make a playoff berth of their own, and the Buccaneers emerging as the top team in the conference. 

All the NFC South teams must identify their most crucial needs, starting with this weekend’s draft: 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top 5 needs (unranked): IOL, CB, IDL, TE, RB

The Buccaneers are still waiting on what Rob Gronkowski or Ndamukong Suh will do in the coming weeks, making tight end and defensive tackle paramount in this draft. Tampa Bay did acquire Shaq Mason to help out the offensive line, yet still needs help to overcome the retirement of Ali Marpet and the loss of Alex Cappa in free agency. Tampa Bay could also give Tom Brady extra help at wide receiver, needing depth at the position until Chris Godwin is fully recovered from knee surgery. The Buccaneers could also use a No. 2 running back to pair with Leonard Fournette after Ronald Jones left in free agency. 

2022 draft picks:

1 (27)

TBD

2 (60)

TBD

3 (91)

TBD

4 (133)

TBD

7 (248)

TBD

7 (261)

TBD

New Orleans Saints

Top 5 needs (unranked): WR, QB, T, S, TE

The Saints will be getting Michael Thomas back, but another reliable option at wide receiver will be important for Winston — or whomever their quarterback is — in 2022. New Orleans added an extra first-round pick to get into the quarterback market, making the Saints a player for one of the top signal-callers available. The Saints will also need to find long-term solutions for departed tackle Terron Armstead and retired safety Malcolm Jenkins, two of the leaders on the roster over the last few years. 

2022 draft picks:

1 (16)

TBD

1 (19)

TBD

2 (49)

TBD

3 (98)

TBD

4 (120)

TBD

5 (161)

TBD

6 (194) TBD

Atlanta Falcons

Top 5 needs (unranked): WR, EDGE, S, LB, QB 

The Falcons have one of the worst rosters in the NFL, so they practically have a need at every position. Outside of Kyle Pitts, Marcus Mariota has no reliable pass-catching options after Russell Gage departed to the Buccaneers and Calvin Ridley was suspended a year for gambling. Wide receiver may be the primary target in the first round, even though this loaded edge rusher class may have Atlanta snatching one in the top 10. The Falcons can find value at linebacker after Foyesade Oluokun bolted for the Jaguars in free agency, on Day Two of the draft. 

2022 draft picks:

1 (8)

TBD

2 (43)

TBD

2 (58)

TBD

3 (74)

TBD

3 (82)

TBD

4 (114)

TBD

5 (151)

TBD

6 (190)

TBD

6 (213)

TBD

Carolina Panthers

Top 5 needs (unranked): QB, T, IOL, EDGE, LB

The Panthers pick in the top 10, then don’t select until near the end of the fourth round thanks to the Sam Darnold trade last offseason. Finding a franchise quarterback is crucial for Carolina, yet the Panthers may be an ideal candidate to trade down and acquire more picks. The Panthers still need help on the offensive line, which makes that No. 6 pick important for a team that could use a franchise left tackle. Having to wait 130 picks until their next selection isn’t ideal for Carolina, especially for a roster that relies on Christian McCaffrey’s health to win games. 

2022 draft picks: 

1 (6)

TBD

4 (137)

TBD

5 (144)

TBD

5 (149)

TBD

6 (199)

TBD

7 (242)

TBD

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