Every Thursday until the season begins, I’ll be going through each position group in the NFC South, ranking them by team from fourth to first.
I know, I know y’all wanted to kick things off with wide receivers, but we’ll wait a week for that and drop the receiver rankings next Thursday. Instead we’ll start with quarterbacks, the most important position on the field, which is undoubtedly why this ranking reflects the projected order the division will finish in as well.
4. Carolina Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater
Bridgewater is a decent starting option if your team is loaded and you don’t need a lot of splash plays from the passing game to compete.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t describe many teams across the NFL, and it definitely doesn’t describe the Panthers. Bridgewater simply isn’t a very aggressive quarterback, nor does he have the elite arm to test defenses down the field. He’s not often the reason a team loses, but his limitations will be part of the reason Carolina is looking to draft a quarterback in 2021.
3. Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
Ryan is still a top 8-10 quarterback in the NFL, who is just unfortunate enough to play for a franchise that lost their way quickly after the 28-3 Super Bowl occurred, and who is now saddled in a division with two of the top five quarterbacks of all time. In at least half the divisions in the NFL, Ryan would be in the conversation for best quarterback in that group of four, but in the NFC South, the competition is stiff.
The Falcons asked a LOT of Ryan this past season, and he was good, not great in response. His 616 passing attempts were the third most of any season in his career, but, not unlike Brady, Ryan needs a decent pocket to work from or his performance will suffer. The Falcons struggled to protect him well last season, and as a result Ryan was slightly more inaccurate and forced more balls than he should have.
Still, Ryan is the Falcons best chance at success in 2020, and with a rebuilding defense, question marks in the backfield and an offensive line heavily relying on two second-year players to find their way, he’ll have his work cut out for him again.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady
For the first time in his career, Brady won’t be the consensus best quarterback in his division. Granted, Brees situation was much better than Brady’s last season, which certainly played a big part in the Saints’ signal caller getting the nod or the top spot here, but Brees has also been a more accurate passer and better decision-maker over the past season.
Now, it won’t surprise me if we reach the end of the season and the two have switched places either. Reviewing Brady’s 2019 tape assured me that he hasn’t fallen off as much as the rumors would hope he has, and Brees is destined to slip a little at some point. At this point in their careers, they are both still quarterbacks you’d trust to put everything on their shoulders with a game on the line. That by itself is an incredible feat. Can’t wait to watch them battle this season.
1. New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
At some point Brees is going to stumble a bit as Brady did in 2019, but will it happen this year? The Saints offense is better than ever and few coaches and quarterbacks have ever had the chemistry that Brees and Sean Payton have. The Saints added new weapons this offseason in Emmanuel Sanders and Adam Trautman, while Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara figure to continue to vie for the top overall spot at each of their positions across the league.
If Brees can keep things rolling, the Saints will probably be the best team in the NFL, at least through the regular season. But one of their top challengers will be the Bucs, now led by Brady. When we re-visit this piece at the end of the season, whichever quarterback ranks at the top of this list then probably will be the one whose team also experienced the most success.