Ranking the NFC South position groups rolls on, this time diving into the cornerback rankings around the division. Arguably the weakest starting cornerback rooms in the NFL reside in the South, as just one standout player at the position exists in the entire division. The Bucs have more promise in their group than any other team in the South, but there are still question marks for their inexperienced trio.
Here’s the other rankings of the divisional position groups that have been completed so far:
The Panthers have one of the worst cornerback rooms in the entire league, including two players that appear headed toward bust status in Apple and Jackson. Already on his third NFL team entering his fifth season, Apple has been a massive disappointment since being the 10th overall pick in 2016, surrendering catches constantly while making very few splash plays and committing a host of penalties.
Panthers CB Donte Jackson – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Jackson admittedly holds more promise entering just his third season, but it has been more downs than ups for the LSU product over his first two years in the NFL. The Panthers hope Pride, their fourth-round pick, is able to beat out one of Apple or Jackson for a starting spot, but he’d have to really struggle not to at least see the field in nickel packages. Carolina simply doesn’t have anyone else they can rely on for snaps. This unit is going to get shredded in the NFC South this season.
3. Atlanta Falcons
If you put the Falcons fourth place instead of the Panthers I wouldn’t bat an eye, as they also field one of the worst secondaries in the entire NFL. Oliver enters a make-or-break season after struggling through most of his first two campaigns, while Terrell might be handed a starting spot despite being a rookie, replacing Robert Alford.
Falcons CB A.J. Terrell – Photo courtesy of Clemson
I have high hopes for Terrell however, and Sheffield has always possessed good upside even if his rookie year was ugly. The Falcons’ cornerback group has a little more room for growth and hope than the Panthers’ room, but these might be the bottom two corner depth charts in the NFL. In a division that is absolutely loaded with talent at wide receiver, that’s bad news for Carolina.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs could seize the top spot after this upcoming season, but we need to see more of Dean and Murphy-Bunting before we give them first place. Still, the team has to feel more excited about their top three cornerbacks than any team in the division, as Davis took a step forward last year and Dean closed out the final stretch of the season playing out of his mind.
Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: Getty Images
If those three can keep growing together in 2020, they will provide the Bucs with a huge advantage in a division with elite wide receiver play and below-average cornerback play. After that trio, it gets ugly fast though. Stewart hasn’t looked like a roster-able player through two seasons, and Smith is just a special teamer. The Bucs haven’t went to the veteran well for cornerback help at all this offseason, which suggests they are confident in their three young guns becoming quality starters in time.
1. New Orleans Saints
Bucs WR Mike Evans and Saints CB Marshon Lattimore – Photo by: Getty Images
Lattimore has been a lockdown starter for the team since entering the league, but like all No. 1 cornerbacks, there are ups and downs with consistently facing top-tier wide receivers. Still, Lattimore has the on-field resume of a top five corner in the NFL, which is the only thing saving the Saints cornerback group from a much worse ranking.
Jenkins has always been up and down, but it appears his best days are solidly behind him at 31 years old. Williams and Robinson are average on their best days, and they didn’t have many of those last season. The Saints cornerback room as a whole is just okay, but if they lose Lattimore things could get ugly fast.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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