Ranking the offenseive groupings in the NFC South:
Drew Brees is closer to the end than the beginning, but the Super Bowl XLIV MVP has four All Pros to his name and is the most accurate passer in NFL history.
If you start a team right now (and certainly a fantasy team), you may very well want Carolina’s Cam Newton over Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Each has only one playoff win to its name, so the tiebreaker comes with their individual career accomplishments: Ryan is 20 games over .500 and Newton is a half-game beneath it. Ryan has four straight seasons of more than 4,000 passing yards and Newton has one. And Ryan’s least accurate season (58.3 in 2009) is one percentage point lower than Newton’s career average (59.5).
Jameis Winston is a rookie, albeit the No. 1 overall pick.
The combination of Julio Jones and Roddy White makes the Falcons the best in this category without really needing to look at a third receiver. Jones may be the most dynamic player in the entire division, and despite his age, White can still get it done when he can avoid injuries.
In Tampa Bay, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans both stand 6-foot-5 and combined for more than 2,000 receiving yards last year.
Marques Colston has a familiarity with Drew Brees and Brandin Cooks is way more than just a pass-catcher.
If the Panthers had Kelvin Benjamin this season, they’d be higher on this list. But they have a rookie (Devin Funchess), an undrafted second-year player (Corey Brown) and a 33-year-old with one 1,000-yard season (Jerricho Cotchery) as their top-three targets.
After years of misuse in Buffalo, C.J. Spiller has a chance to shine in New Orleans, where he joins Mark Ingram, if he can stay healthy. On paper these two may be one of the best true running back duos in the league.
Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart was one of the league’s best running backs to end last season, and Mike Tolbert says he feels like his 2013 Pro Bowl self. Tolbert, a fullback, is No. 2 for Carolina because their depth is suspect at the position.
Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman showed great promise in his rookie season, and he’s paired with the rookie Tevin Coleman.
Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin had that breakout season in 2012 and has hardly looked anything like it since then, but preseason play indicated he may be ready for a comeback.
There’s only one Pro Bowler on this list and it’s Carolina’s Greg Olsen. He is coming off his first 1,000-yard season, something no one else on this list has even sniffed in their careers.
Tampa Bay’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins offers the most upside of the other three on the list after a 21-catch season last year as a rookie.
Benjamin Watson, 34, is the Saints starting tight end only after they traded Jimmy Graham. They’ll probably take care of that position next year.
The Falcons still don’t know what to do at tight end two years after Tony Gonzalez’ retirement.
The Saints seem to have things figured out along the line, and it helps that their quarterback doesn’t need much time in the pocket to get rid of the ball. Terron Armstead has settled in nicely at left tackle and Max Unger is a great addition at center to solidify the line after the trade with Seattle.
After that you can really put the other three in whatever order you’d like. Sure, Carolina seems to have a good starting five, but is that relative to the league or the previous two years? Four of the five starters this year weren’t starting for the team in Week 1 last year.
Atlanta has some good pieces after throwing Jake Matthews to the wolves in his rookie season at left tackle, and Joe Hawley is back after not playing last year.
Tampa Bay has perhaps the best guard in the division in Logan Mankins but they’ve been pitiful the previous two years at figuring out left tackle. Maybe rookie Donovan Smith will be the guy, finally.
1 Drew Brees, New Orleans
2 Matt Ryan, Atlanta
3 Cam Newton, Carolina
4 Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
2 Tampa Bay
3 New Orleans
1 New Orleans
4 Tampa Bay
1 New Orleans
4 Tampa Bay