The 2022 NFL Draft has come and gone, ushering in evaluations and grades for each organization. All 32 teams have assembled their rookie draft classes with hopes of building a brighter future. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the foundation for this year's all-in approach is set.
The Bucs bolstered the trenches in the second round with selections Logan Hall and Luke Goedeke. Both Ndamukong Suh and Steve McLendon remain un-signed free agents with Will Gholston entering his 10th season with the Bucs. An interior pass rusher and developmental partner for Vita Vea long-term became a top priority heading into the draft and Logan Hall projects as a three-technique with versatility potential in certain sub-packages. His relentless motor and block recognition will be a fit for the Bucs' one-gap, penetrating scheme.
With the retirement of Pro Bowler Ali Marpet and the departure of Alex Cappa in free agency to the Bengals, Luke Goedeke will add competition with Aaron Stinnie at left guard. At Central Michigan, Goedeke primarily played at the right tackle spot, but general manger Jason Licht confirmed he will work at guard.
With the loss of Ronald Jones to Kansas City in free agency, Rachaad White will join the mix behind incumbent starter Leonard Fournette, featuring Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard. White is not going to be a power runner through tackles but does present a tremendous upside with his pass-catching ability. He can quickly get to the perimeter in wide zone runs with his slash running style and adds another versatile weapon for Byron Leftwich and Tom Brady.
Later, the Bucs snagged Jake Camarda, who can compete for the team's staring punting role and the organization added depth to a thin tight end room with Cade Otton's selection. Even if Rob Gronkowski does return for the 2022 season alongside Cameron Brate and Codey McElroy, Otton adds insurance as a 'Y' tight end. The Buccaneers then rounded out the three-day draft event with Sam Houston State cornerback Zyon McCollum, Minnesota tight end Ko Kieft and LSU EDGE Andre Anthony.
After recapping the Bucs' draft, let's take a look around the NFC South. First up in the 'Scouting the South' series is the Atlanta Falcons. How will their draft potentially impact the Buccaneers twice a year? Here is a breakdown.
Atlanta's draft selections:
- WR Drake London (8)
- EDGE Arnold Ebiketie (38)
- LB Troy Anderson (58)
- QB Desmond Ridder (74)
- EDGE DeAngelo Malone (82)
- RB Tyler Allgeier (151)
- OG Justin Shaffer (190)
- TE John FitzPatrick (213)
Heading into the draft, the Falcons were in desperate need of an upgrade at wide receiver. General manager Terry Fontenot remedied the issue with the acquisition of Drake London. London uses his basketball background to his advantage as a receiver with superb high-point instincts and contested-catch prowess. He adds a much-needed reboot to the Falcons' passing game alongside Kyle Pitts and the Bucs will have to account for both on the field. Pitts presents a mismatch for cornerbacks and safeties, London possesses run-after-catch ability – dangerous on underneath routes creating cushion. The Bucs' second level of the defense will have to be disciplined in tackling with effective angles to limit Atlanta's intermediate weapons.
The Falcons' added speed to the defense and bolstered a struggling pass rush with Ebiketie, Anderson and Malone. Ebiketie has an explosive get-off and terrific acceleration, while Anderson provides athleticism in the middle to flow from sideline-to-sideline. Their main goal will be to try and get Tom Brady off his spot with effective pressure. The Bucs' offensive line will be an integral factor in winning the one-on-one battles at the line of scrimmage.
The Falcons grabbed a potential future starter in Desmond Ridder, whom they can develop behind Marcus Mariota. Ridder fell further than most analysts had projected and adds insurance to their quarterback depth.
Comments: With Calvin Ridley suspended for the season, have you taken a look at the Falcons' wide receiver depth chart? It's not good, probably the worst in the league. And oh yeah, they traded away the best quarterback in their franchise's history, with Matt Ryan headed to Indianapolis for a third-round pick. I don't know if this is a full rebuild for coach Arthur Smith & Co., but it's at least a reset on offense, and it's not like this defense is littered with stars, either.
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Comments: The combination of London and Kyle Pitts should give a needed boost to the Falcons' passing game. General manager Terry Fontenot addressed the team's other major need on Day 2, strengthening a poor pass rush with Ebiketie and Malone, while also landing an athletic second-level defender in Andersen and smartly nabbing a potential future starter in Ridder.
Comments: GM Terry Fontenot understood how desperately the Falcons needed to infuse high-end defensive tackle to his roster. And he did that. Day 2 was tremendous for Atlanta, and London was my WR1 in this class. Desmond Ridder in Round 3 was awesome value, and DeAngelo Malone has sky-high upside. The later picks were shaky.
Comments: The Falcons made one of the most intriguing picks of the draft in USC wide receiver Drake London, who combines size with catch-point prowess and run-after-the-catch ability. Together with Kyle Pitts, London could become part of one of the more fearsome pass-catching duos in the league. I loved Atlanta's second-round pick of Penn State edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie, who I viewed as a first-round talent.
Comments: The Falcons receiving corps badly needed an infusion of talent, and London should provide a nice boost. A lot has been made about his ability to separate because of how much of his production came in contested-catch situations (FBS-high 17 contested catches in 2021). But that's not all he brings to the table — he can create separation underneath, and he was productive after the catch for the Trojans.