2022 NFC South Fantasy Preview
Does the NFC South keep heading south or do they find traction in ’22 and turn things around?
Just a few years ago the NFC South was arguably one of the top tier divisions in the National Football League, but as the tide ebbs and flows that just is not the case anymore; other than the Brady led Buccaneers. The ’21 season seemed to plague the division with injuries, suspensions, and every positional question possible from the front office to the field. The Panthers saw injuries to phenom Christian McCaffery and quarterback Sam Darnold, the Falcons lost star wide receiver Calvin Ridley to suspension, the Saints lost starting quarterback Jameis Winston to injury and the Buccaneers lost key role player Chris Godwin to a torn ACL just before the start of the playoffs in week 15 – but given the, quite frankly, lackluster ’21 season and one of the wildest off seasons in recent memories did any of these NFC South teams turn the page and step back towards top tier level? the question remains.
Going in to the ’22 season the Atlanta Falcons will still be without star wide receiver Calvin Ridley and only to implicate the heartache even more the Falcons traded away longtime franchise quarterback Matt Ryan, although in the later part of his career still won an MVP and took the team to a Superbowl. Let us not forget the Falcons do carry the most dead money in the entire league. However, there is a glimpse of light to be had, the team added quarterback Marcus Mariota (who I strongly consider to be a huge dark horse fantasy player this upcoming season) and are returning the ’21 breakout and dual threat Cordarrelle Patterson in addition to tight end Kyle Pitts and head coach Arthur Smith. This year’s draft did provide some much needed help to fill holes throughout the team; with their first pick the Falcons selected USC wide receiver Drake London, who I am sure every single person tied to the organization hopes can produce rookie numbers similar to those of Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. They also added Penn State Edge Arnold Ebiketie and Cincinnati Quarterback Desmond Ridder to give them a consensus draft grade of B, which is easily agreeable. In what any can consider a “rebuilding” season within the organization, the potential is there; so only time will tell.
The ’21 season for the Carolina Panthers was nothing short of dismal; not only fans, but outsiders continuously questioned every one of owner David Tepper and head coach Matt Rhule’s moves, phenom running back Christian McCaffery saw another season of injuries and other than the first month of the season the quarterback situation in Carolina was completely undesirable. The only real highlight of the season was DJ Moore and what could have been a fantastic defense if they had any type of game break. The highlights that fans can look towards for the ’22 season are the return of DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, basically the entire defense and hopefully a season long healthy Christian McCaffery; also, a very solid draft class with the adding of OT Ikem Ekwonu, QB Matt Corral and LB Brandon Smith to name a few, giving them an overall grade of B+. As for the lowlights, it seems the organization has completely given up on Sam Darnold and the question remains who can we expect as the week one starter. The rumor mill keeps chirping that Baker makes his way south to Charlotte, rookie Matt Corral is in the thick of the mix and Darnold still needs to be consider given the status of a significantly improved offensive line. Under the right ownership, leadership and coaching all the tools of the trade are in Carolina to be explosive on both sides of the ball; here is to hoping they answer the quarterback question and stay healthy of ’22.
The New Orleans Saints showed some early season success in ’21 that was quickly derailed by the torn ACL of Jameis Winston and then everything trended downhill thereafter, yet they still managed a 9-8 season at the helm with combo dual threat Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian. Unfortunately, in Sean Paytons last season he failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016, what a sour note to end a career. However, the Saints had a busy offseason with the acquisitions of safety Tyrann Mathieu and re-signing Jameis Winston plus promoting defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to head coach. On the gloomier side of off season news, it is yet to be seen in star running back Alvin Kamara’s legal trouble will trickle over to preseason or regular season and how the NFL will react. Not to be missed in the cloud of off season acquisitions, replacements and troubles the Saints drafted well with a grade of B – they filled definite holes with high potential and solid players in the name of WR Chris Olave, LT Trevor Penning and DB Alontae Taylor. The saints have and added the weapons to continue their success going in to the ’22 season, it is time for first year head coach Dennis Allen to prove he was worth the promotion.
The perennial NFC South powerhouse Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the offseason with the short lived retirement of Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians stepping down leaving all kinds of questions as who can be the replacements. Luckily for them, as mentioned Tom Brady’s retirement was short lived and Todd Bowles was quickly promoted to head coach. Other than that, the Buccs had a relatively quiet offseason; they added wide receiver Russell Gage who will be a great addition to the one-two punch of Evans and Godwin – they also drafted, with a grade of B, DE Logan Hall and Guard Luke Goedeke. It seems the biggest question that remains is who the week one starter at TE will be, does Cameron Brate set up or does Gronk return to be a part of the Brady GOAT legacy.
The NFC South carries a die hard fan base, current and future stars of the game and the potential to return to top tier divisional status and it is only a matter of time of time. To all of the legacies being continued, solidified and created we at Truth Serum Football can not wait to watch how the 2022 National Football League season unfolds.
- Kirk Davenport