Projected Starters

NFC South projected starters for 2022 NFL season: Few holes for Bucs; Saints set up for success

With the 2022 NFL Draft and most of free agency in the rearview, Gregg Rosenthal will project starting lineups for all 32 teams because that's his idea of fun. Check out the NFC South breakdowns below.

Table inside Article
OFFENSEPLAYERDEFENSEPLAYER
QBMarcus MariotaDTGrady Jarrett
RBCordarrelle PattersonDTTa'Quon Graham
WRDrake LondonOLBLorenzo Carter
WROlamide ZaccheausLBDeion Jones
TEKyle PittsLBRashaan Evans
TEAnthony FirkserOLBArnold Ebiketie
LTJake MatthewsCBA.J. Terrell
LGJalen MayfieldCBCasey Hayward
CMatt HennessyCBIsaiah Oliver
RGChris LindstromSErik Harris
RTGermain IfediSJaylinn Hawkins
  • Desmond Ridder, who compared himself to Ryan Tannehill during the pre-draft process, will do his best Tannehill impression by inspiring Arthur Smith to replace Marcus Mariota. Week 6 is a fair over/under guess.
  • This is the most unproven receiver group in the league. If Drake London doesn't pop out of the gates, it will be rough.
  • Olamide Zaccheaus and Auden Tate have the best chances to earn starter snaps in the wide-ranging receiver battle. Tate impressed with his highlight-worthy contested-catch skills in Cincinnati. Also, the Falcons made a late-round-pick swap to kick the tires on former Raider Bryan Edwards.
  • The pass-catching group is thin enough that No. 2 tight end Anthony Firkser might be a better pick for catches than any No. 3 wide receiver option.
  • Keep an eye on fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier earning some snaps at running back. Cordarrelle Patterson is not a conventional workhorse back and Smith is already talking up Allgeier’s opportunity.
  • It's impossible to fix everything in one offseason, but I expected the Falcons to address the offensive line more than they have to this point. They added a few replacement-level right tackle options and a sixth-round guard. Perhaps more veterans are coming.
  • Two starting OL jobs look set: left tackle and right guard. The Falcons signed Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkinson to compete at right tackle against 2019 first-round pick Kaleb McGary, which is usually a sign the coaching staff is ready for a change.
  • The Falcons would undoubtedly love for 2021 second-round pick Richie Grant to step into a starting role over Erik Harris. General manager Terry Fontenot's first draft was rocky beyond the selection of Kyle Pitts, and even Pitts was taken over Mac Jones and Justin Fields.
  • The Falcons' website is questioning Deion Jones’ future on the team. He looks like a trade candidate. The team has depth at inside linebacker, including rookie Troy Andersen, if it chooses to move on.
  • Defensive linemen like Marlon Davidson and Anthony Rush will get plenty of snaps but weren't listed as starters because they'll probably rotate more than the linebacker starters.
  • The cornerback group could be the strength of the team if Casey Hayward keeps up his renaissance and Isaiah Oliver recovers well from a knee injury. A.J. Terrell is already a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
  • It's telling that the defensive roster appears closer to fully formed than the offense and calling the defense average still feels like a stretch.
  • Smith did an amazing coaching job scraping out seven wins with last year's roster. That feels like the ceiling this season with the expected step back at quarterback and all the dead money on the books.
Table inside Article
OFFENSEPLAYERDEFENSEPLAYER
QBMatt CorralDEBrian Burns
RBChristian McCaffreyDTDerrick Brown
WRD.J. MooreDTMatt Ioannidis
WRRobbie AndersonDEYetur Gross-Matos
WRTerrace MarshallLBShaq Thompson
TEIan ThomasLBFrankie Luvu
LTIkem EkwonuCBDonte Jackson
LGBrady ChristensenCBJaycee Horn
CBradley BozemanCBCJ Henderson
RGAustin CorbettSJeremy Chinn
RTTaylor MotonSXavier Woods
  • I can't believe Sam Darnold is slated to be the Week 1 quarterback again. I can't believe that was the plan. He is one of the least productive quarterbacks with 45 or more starts in the last two decades.
  • The Panthers traded up to take Matt Corral in Round 3 with their second pick of the draft. This exercise is about projecting which players will get the most snaps over the course of the season, and I expect Corral to play by November.
  • Don't rule out Baker Mayfield here, either. If the Panthers were open to trading for him during the draft (reportedly if the Browns paid much of his salary), they should be willing to negotiate with him if Cleveland releases him.
  • Panthers fans must be sick of hearing about quarterbacks. The organization is entering the third year under Matt Rhule, the time when his vision should be in place. It's just hard to compete without a quarterback.
  • The larger issue is that the roster is not just a quarterback away. But it's closer than last year.
  • At least the Panthers tried to fix one of the worst offensive lines in football. Three starters from a year ago are now projected to be backups. The tackle combination of Ikem Ekonwu and Taylor Moton could be excellent. The interior line remains a projection, but it looks better.
  • Robbie Anderson changed the spelling of his first name after his worst season as a pro, for those scoring at home.
  • The wideout depth still isn't great. Rashard Higgins is the No. 4 and the team needs 2021 second-rounder Terrace Marshall Jr. to show more this year.
  • Christian McCaffrey's health and the development of backup tight end Tommy Tremble are two other variables on an offensive supporting cast that has a chance to be much better.
  • The defense started last season as a major strength before finishing average. It's a fun group up front and the secondary is a strength.
  • If recent first-round picks Jaycee Horn and CJ Henderson develop into difference-makers, the defense could get really spicy.
  • Myles Hartsfield is the favorite to start at nickel corner, so Henderson could be the CB4 here..
  • The Panthers signed Damien Wilson to play a role at inside linebacker before he was arrested in April after his ex-girlfriend said he threatened to kill her.
  • The rest of the roster beyond quarterback is average at best, so it's hard to see a path to late December relevance.
Table inside Article
OFFENSEPLAYERDEFENSEPLAYER
QBJameis WinstonDECameron Jordan
RBAlvin KamaraDTDavid Onyemata
WRMichael ThomasDTShy Tuttle
WRChris OlaveDEMarcus Davenport
WRJarvis LandryLBDemario Davis
TEAdam TrautmanLBPete Werner
LTTrevor PenningCBMarshon Lattimore
LGAndrus PeatCBC.J. Gardner-Johnson
CErik McCoyCBPaulson Adebo
RGCesar RuizSTyrann Mathieu
RTRyan RamczykSMarcus Maye
  • One of the first items on new coach Dennis Allen's agenda was to end the Taysom Hill experiment at quarterback. He's a reserve tight end now and the team is better off with backup Andy Dalton as the quarterback if Jameis Winston encounters any issues in his recovery from a torn ACL.
  • The only offseason loss to worry about beyond Sean Payton is left tackle Terron Armstead. It's a lot to ask Trevor Penning, a raw rookie from Northern Iowa, to take over on the blindside. Guard Cesar Ruiz's career is a reminder that not all first-round picks will thrive.
  • The line should still be good enough overall, especially in the running game. Backup running back Mark Ingram figures to remain active.
  • Marquez Callaway as a No. 1 receiving option on a playoff contender was wild. Callaway as a fourth option behind Michael Thomas, Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry makes a lot more sense.
  • I love Olave's chances to make an immediate impact. His route-running skills should quickly translate.
  • It would help the defense immensely if 2021 first-round pick Payton Turner stepped up. He could play end on passing downs with Cameron Jordan moving inside.
  • Last year's second-round pick, Pete Werner, had a nice rookie season. He forms a good duo with Demario Davis.
  • The Saints are so deep in the secondary that quality reserves like P.J. Williams, Bradley Roby and second-round pick Alontae Taylor could play more than the starting defensive tackles listed above. This is a highly flexible group that will play a lot of dime packages with six defensive backs on the field.
  • That depth will help if safety Marcus Maye, coming off a torn Achilles, isn't ready for the start of the season. It ranks with one of the best groups in football and Allen knows how to use it.
  • There's a narrative that the Saints took a step back this offseason, but I don't see it. They should be better at quarterback if Winston is healthy, much better at receiver and the defense remains loaded. They can be a playoff team.
Table inside Article
OFFENSEPLAYERDEFENSEPLAYER
QBTom BradyDELogan Hall
RBLeonard FournetteDTVita Vea
WRMike EvansOLBShaq Barrett
WRChris GodwinLBDevin White
WRRussell GageLBLavonte David
TERob GronkowskiOLBJoe Tryon-Shoyinka
LTDonovan SmithCBCarlton Davis
LGLuke GoedekeCBJamel Dean
CRyan JensenCBSean Murphy-Bunting
RGShaq MasonSAntoine Winfield Jr.
RTTristan WirfsSMike Edwards
  • Last year's second-round pick, Kyle Trask, will compete with Blaine Gabbert to be Tom Brady's backup. Bruce Arians had a lot of loyalty for Gabbert that perhaps Todd Bowles doesn't share.
  • Rookie running back Rachaad White is a sleeper to lead the backfield in touches. He's a fun enough prospect to be the deepest of sleepers for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
  • Chris Godwin might not be ready for Week 1, which makes the Russell Gage signing even better. The Bucs have plenty of receiver depth in the meantime, with Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Cyril Grayson and Scott Miller all having big moments with Brady.
  • Rob Gronkowski is the only unsigned NFL player to crack a projected starter depth chart. I expect him to join the team before the season and start over Cameron Brate and rookie Cade Otton.
  • Free agent Ndamukong Suh is another Buc with a ring who could return by training camp. He could rotate with Logan Hall, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and William Gholston, who should all get 300-600 snaps even if they aren't exactly every-down starters.
  • Remember when the secondary was supposed to be the team's weakness? Now it's a group with a great combination of continuity, experience, youth and high-end talent in Carlton Davis and Antoine Winfield Jr.
  • Mike Edwards should do a fine job replacing Jordan Whitehead and if he doesn't, free-agent pickup Logan Ryan figures to get a good look in three safety sets.
  • The quality of the roster and coaching staff must have helped Brady's decision to unretire. The Bucs have few holes and remain in the top tier of Super Bowl favorites.

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