The 2022 NFL Draft has officially wrapped, and the influx of new rookie talent has altered the league’s landscape. We’ve spent most of our time the last few days focusing on the Falcons’ draft picks, but now we’re going to take a look around the division.
The Buccaneers, Panthers and Saints each added to their roster in the draft, meaning there are now a new crop of rivals for Falcons fans to root against. Since the Falcons are likely to see a lot of these players twice a year for the foreseeable future, let’s take a moment to get acquainted to Atlanta’s new bitter enemies and all the players you’ll soon love to hate.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick No. 33 overall: DE Logan Hall, Houston
With the first pick in the second round, the Buccaneers added to their already impressive defensive line with one of the best interior pass rushers in this class. Hall will pair with Vita Vea to give Tampa Bay an excellent interior push, and he has the versatility to move around the line and attack from multiple spots. Hall recorded 13 tackles for a loss and six sacks in his final season at Houston.
Pick No. 57 overall: OT Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan
Later in the second round, the Buccaneers stayed in the trenches but flipped to the offensive side of the ball with the selection of Goedeke. After losing a pair of guards this offseason, Goedeke fills a need for the Buccaneers and should compete for a job protecting Tom Brady as a rookie. He’s considered a better run blocker at this point of his career but will enter a good position group.
Pick No. 91 overall: RB Rachaad White, Arizona State
Despite bringing back Leonard Fournette, the Buccaneers added to their backfield in the third round by selecting White. A nicely well-rounded running back, White has breakaway speed to pair with his balance and agility. Fournette is still likely to be the bell cow out of the backfield for Tampa Bay, but White – who gained 1,456 combined yards and scored 17 touchdowns last year – will certainly factor into the game plan.
Pick No. 106 overall: TE Cade Otton, Washington
The Buccaneers stuck with offense to kick off Day 3 and selected Otton, a powerful blocker and savvy player against zone coverage. Otton won’t be scaring defenses vertically too often, but he offers a high floor at the tight end position and should be a good fit for Tampa Bay with Brady throwing him the ball. In his four seasons at Washington, Otton combined for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns on 91 receptions.
Pick No. 133 overall: P Jake Camarda, Georgia
This was a strong draft for punters, and Tampa Bay picked a good one in Camarda. The former Georgia Bulldog averaged 45.8 yards per punt throughout his career and is as reliable as they come. Camarda also is a tremendous athlete who can handle kickoffs and served as a holder on field goals.
Pick No. 157 overall: CB Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston
At 6-foot-2 and weighing nearly 200 pounds, McCollum has ideal NFL size at the cornerback position. The Buccaneers traded up to select McCollum, who ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash and shined in his other NFL Combine performances. With 13 career interceptions and six forced fumbles, McCollum has proven to be a playmaker and is reliable in run support. The Buccaneers have developed a talented secondary, and McCollum should fit right in.
Pick No. 218 overall: TE Ko Kieft, Minnesota
Kieft brings a lot to the table as a blocker, but the 6-foot-5, 265-pound tight end is not much of a receiver. He caught just 12 passes in college and lacks NFL-level athleticism as a receiver. It’s likely he’ll have a primary blocking role in Tampa.
Pick No. 248 overall: DE Andre Anthony, LSU
The Buccaneers turned back to defense for their final pick of the NFL Draft, selecting Anthony out of LSU. Anthony sustained a season-ending knee injury early last season, and he never topped 5.5 sacks in his college career. Still, Anthony looks the part and has developmental upside that Tampa Bay might be able to tap into.
Pick No. 6 overall: OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
Despite all of the speculation about the Panthers possibly taking a quarterback at No. 6, they addressed a major need with arguably the best offensive tackle in this class. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Ekwonu is immensely powerful with the punch to move defenders in the run game and length to keep pass rushers at bay. Ekwonu should be a Day 1 starter for the Panthers and finally gives them a reliable left tackle. There’s not much to dislike about Ekwonu as a player, so it’s a bit unfortunate he’s landed in the division.
Pick No. 94 overall: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Carolina did take a quarterback with its second pick of the draft, nabbing Corral near the end of the third round. As was the case with most of the quarterbacks in this class, the Panthers received praise for getting Corral when they did in the third round. He will enter the franchise as a developmental prospect at the game's most important position. Corral’s accuracy wanes as the distance for his passes increases, but he’s very solid in short-yardage throws and has quality dual-threat ability at the next level. In his final two seasons, Corral threw for 6,686 yards with 49 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions.
Pick No. 120 overall: LB Brandon Smith, Penn State
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Smith has great size at the linebacker position and the athleticism to make sideline-to-sideline plays. He’s an aggressive player whose desire to make a play sometimes leads to a missed play instead. While his athleticism makes him an intriguing player in coverage, Smith still needs a lot of work in this area. Smith recorded 81 tackles, nine tackles for a loss and five pass defenses as a junior last season.
Pick No. 189 overall: EDGE Amare Barno, Virginia Tech
Barno has outstanding speed and ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the combine. The 6-foot-5, 246-pound edge defender has the length to cause problems at the next level when he converts his speed into power. Barno’s production was acceptable but not elite at the collegiate level, and he finished with 21.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks in two years at Virginia Tech.
Pick No. 199 overall: OG Cade Mays, Tennessee
Mays brings a lot of experience to Carolina, and he played every spot along the offensive line during his college career. There are some technical deficiencies with Mays and he struggles to maintain a balanced base, but he’s got the tools to develop into a starting interior player for the Panthers with time.
Pick No. 242 overall: CB Kalon Barnes, Baylor
The Panthers clearly valued speed in this draft and used their final pick to take the uber-fast Barnes, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.23 seconds, setting a new combine record for defensive backs. While Barnes’s speed allows him to recover quickly, Barnes is tighter-hipped than most NFL teams would like and he will struggle to battle against bigger receivers at the catch point.
New Orleans Saints
Pick No. 11 overall: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
The Saints moved up in the first round to select Olave, the smoothest route runner at the top of the draft and a terrific all-around athlete. Despite being on the smaller side as a receiver, Olave displayed a natural feel for manipulating space, and he’s got all of the tools to give defensive backs headaches in man coverage. He should pair nicely with Michael Thomas to give the Saints a quality 1-2 punch at the position. Olave showed reliable hands in college, catching 175 passes for 2,702 yards and 35 touchdowns over four seasons.
Pick No. 19 overall: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
New Orleans stuck to offense with its second first-round pick, choosing Penning to take over in place of Terron Armstead at left tackle. Penning is an exceptional run blocker who mauls defenders at the point of attack, but he’s still developing as a pass protector. His kick-step on the left side needs a little work, and he must maintain his play balance better in pass protection, but once he gets his hands on a defender his strength gives him a massive advantage.
Pick No. 49 overall: CB Alontae Taylor, Tennessee
Taylor is best suited to defend against bigger receivers at the next level. The long-limbed corner can play press and has the speed to keep up with deeper routes. Where Taylor gets into trouble is against quicker, more agile receivers because he lacks the necessary hip fluidity to change direction. He wouldn’t match up well with Olave, for example. Still, Taylor has been praised for his leadership, and he should be a big addition on special teams for the Saints.
Pick No. 161 overall: LB D’Marco Jackson, Appalachian State
No other FBS player in this Millenium has posted a season like the one Jackson did in 2021 when he recorded 120 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, six sacks and six pass defenses. While the production was off the charts, Jackson shows some limitations as an athlete. The speed and range are there, though, and he should be a mainstay on special teams early in his career with the potential to develop into a quality player off the edge.
Pick No. 194 overall: DT Jordan Jackson, Air Force
The Saints were keeping up with the Jacksons on Day 3 and added another one to their defense. At 6-foot-5 and weighing 294 pounds, Jackson is a strong interior defender who needs to develop a more refined pass rush plan to really make an impact in that area of his game. He should be a rotational piece for the Saints' defense and add more power to their defensive line.