The NFC South is a group that has quite a bit of strong talent across the board. The question is, do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the best group from top to bottom? One could debate that, but here’s a breakdown of where I believe they currently stack up against the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.
4. New Orleans Saints
Simply put, I don’t think there’s much of a question here. While the group includes impressive second-year receiver Brandin Cooks, next up after that is the consistent, but 32-year-old Marques Colston, followed by a whole lot of uncertainty. Currently, Nick Toon is the favorite to earn the No. 3 receiver role, with players like Joe Morgan, Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones all pushing for the gig. It’s a group with potential, but it still lands at the bottom of the NFC South.
3. Carolina Panthers
In about two seasons, I think this may end up being one of the top two, if not the very best group in the NFC South. Second-year player Kelvin Benjamin leads the charge, with rookie
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Devin Funchess getting rave reviews thus far from coaches and teammates. Funchess still has quite a bit of learning to do, but he’s expected to be the No. 2 guy when the season kicks off. Veteran Jerricho Cotchery, free agent Ted Ginn Jr. (in his second stint with the team), Stephen Hill, Jarrett Boykin and Philly Brown make up the rest of the group.
Depth won’t be a problem for the Panthers, but aside from Benjamin, none of these guys jump off the page as superstars. It’s a talented group, and one that should be pretty dangerous next season, but it’s not at the top of the division in 2015.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s close. It’s real, real close, but the Bucs still land at No. 2 on the list currently. While I’ll break down what makes them so dangerous, they’re another team who could push up with a few players stepping up in 2015 and 2016. Mike Evans is the obvious man to watch here and he’s probably the second best receiver in the South currently, behind only Julio Jones. Within a year or two though, Evans may be the best in the division.
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After Evans comes one of the most consistent receivers in the league in Vincent Jackson, but V-Jax is 32-years-old and isn’t getting any younger. I still expect him to have a strong season, meaning the Bucs are looking pretty with their top two receivers. After that? Well, it’s a few question marks.
Louis Murphy, Robert Herron, and rookies Kenny Bell and Kaelin Clay round out the group. While Murphy is expected to be the No. 3 receiver in 2015, Bell has picked up some strong reviews to this point from teammates and coaches. Could he jump Murphy? It’s definitely possible. This group has so much upside and in all honesty, should be one of the more interesting to watch this season, as long as Jameis Winston (or Mike Glennon) can consistently get them the ball.
1. Atlanta Falcons
Yep, the cake still goes to the Atlanta Falcons. Give credit where credit’s due, as Julio Jones is one of the best in the business, hands down. With that said, it’s not just Jones that puts the Falcons at No. 1 on this list. Roddy White may be 33-years-old, but he’s coming off a season where he caught 80 balls for 921 yards and seven scores, which is pretty strong.
Add in the fact that the Falcons added an intriguing free agent in Leonard Hankerson, as well as the draft pick used to bring in Justin Hardy, and you’ll find quite a bit of talent. After that comes Devin Hester, who we saw produce effectively in Atlanta last season and is the definition of a home run hitter.
Their No. 3 receiver is a question mark obviously, but if Hankerson, Hardy or even Hester is able to step up, they’re going to have a pretty dangerous group out on the field consistently.
Don’t worry though Bucs fans, Tampa is a close second on this list, and before long, I could very well see them grabbing that top spot and holding on to it for a long time.
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