Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports
In an effort to decide which team will win the NFC South in 2013, I’ve decided to rank the four players in the division at each of the 11 positions on offense, 11 on defense, punter, place kicker, and one specialist. Each team will have one representative at each position and will be given points based on where their player lands in relation to the others who play the same position in the division. The best player in the division will receive four points while the worst will receive just one. We will then tally the points up, and come up with the a ranking of the four teams in the NFC South.
Today we take a look at the ball carriers, the running backs.
#1 – Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4 points
The Dougernaut had a monster rookie year and would have been right atop the Rookie of the Year list in a normal year. Martin carried the ball 319 times for more than 1,400 yards and 11 scores. Martin went from a relatively unknown late first round pick to a fantasy darling and the “bell cow” of the Buccaneers offense. With the return of Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks as well as an added year of experience under his belt, Martin is the undisputed best running back in the division, and he’s closer to the top in the league than second in the NFC South.
On their own, each one of these guys probably comes in under Stephen Jackson, but together they are a nice combo backfield. Despite both being highly overpaid they each can still produce. With Cam Newton running the show, running the football will continue to be important to the Panthers, but the running back duo, while good, are still not the most dangerous weapon on the ground. I just can’t get over the value of these Stewart and Williams compared to their cost. If they were reasonably priced, the three-headed rushing monster in Carolina would be excellent, but the production simply doesn’t match the price tag.
#3 – Steven Jackson – Atlanta Falcons – 2 points
There was a time when Jackson was an elite running back in the NFL. That time is gone. His production has declined each year for the past four seasons. There is no doubt that Jackson is still a formidable back, but he’s essentially a replacement for Michael Turner. Turner scores more, while Jackson tends to rack up more yards. A lot is being made about Jackson making the Falcons have the “perfect offense” (Tony Gonzalez‘s words not mine). I’m not ready to go that far, or even close. Jackson might be a slight upgrade, but more likely he’ll put up the same numbers the Falcons used to get from Michael Turner.
When the Saints added Ingram I was concerned for the rest of the division because it seemed as though the Saints might finally add a rushing attack to their offense. Well, it didn’t happen. The Saints offense was the same as they have been since Drew Brees got there. Because of this, the bottom ranking in the division has more to do with offense identity than it does about the talent of these running backs.
The rankings are now complete. Be sure to check out the NFC South Position Rankings roundup to see point totals and observations based on the rankings.