Last week I ranked just the starting quarterbacks in the NFC South, but moving through the position groups from here on out, the rankings will be by unit. So in other words, we’re ranking the four wide receivers groups in the NFC South by team, not by individual. But because I’m such a swell guy, I’ll add individual rankings at the end due to the compelling nature of this position group.
4. Carolina Panthers
Tough luck for the Panthers, as their wide receiver group is probably the best and deepest unit on their roster, but still finishes fourth next to the rest of the ridiculously stacked NFC South WR rooms. Moore could be a budding star, and Anderson became much more of a well-rounded receiver last season in New York, although his best attribute is still his ability to win deep.
The same could be said for Samuel, who hasn’t lived up to his second round expectations after three seasons, but struggled to link up down the field with the revolving door of quarterbacks in Carolina last season. How he and Anderson, both of whom are intriguing vertical threats, gel with a quarterback who isn’t aggressive down the field in Teddy Bridgewater will be very interesting to see.
3. New Orleans Saints
It seems bizarre to have the Saints in the third spot in the NFC South when they have one of the best wide receivers in the game and an extremely high-end No. 2 wide receiver in Emmanuel Sanders. There is no doubt about what those two bring to the table as route runners, technicians and finishers on the football, but neither are burners down the field, which is a role the Saints haven’t really filled with Ted Ginn departing for the Bears.
New Orleans’ depth is still a big question mark, with Smith likely seeing No. 3 receiver duties for the third year in a row despite a startling lack of production in 2019 after a promising rookie season. The Saints have Jared Cook, Adam Trautman and Josh Hill, so a strong No. 3 receiver isn’t a necessity, but it does remain more of a question mark on their team than some others.
2. Atlanta Falcons
An argument could be made for the Falcons to occupy the top spot given that they have the best receiver in the league on their roster, but my rationale is that Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are closer to Julio Jones than Calvin Ridley is to either of them. And I say that as an avid Ridley fan who believes he is currently one of the more underrated wide receivers in the league.
But he’s not top 10, there are four receivers in the South who are and the Bucs have two of them. That’ll usually get you the top spot. Atlanta still has one of the best receiving rooms in the league, especially if Russell Gage can continue to progress after a solid second season in 2019. The Falcons roster has a lot of issues, but their wide receiver unit isn’t one of them.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you have two of the top ten wide receivers in the NFL on your roster, chances are pretty good you’ll have the best wide receiver room in your division, if not the entire league. The Bucs might have both, especially if Tyler Johnson can make an impact as a rookie. One of the more high-profile fifth round picks in memory, Johnson produced at insane rates in college, and could find a nice role as an ancillary option in the Bucs passing game if he can beat out Watson and Miller.
But even if it’s just Evans and Godwin, the Bucs are still a difficult unit to top. With Godwin’s ability to dice teams from the slot, win contested catches and make plays after the catch as well, he’s become the perfect running mate for the vertical-prowess of Evans on the outside. I Can’t wait to see how Tom Brady meshes with the two dynamic pass-catchers.
Individual NFC South Top 10 WR Rankings
1. Julio Jones
2. Michael Thomas
3. Chris Godwin
4. Mike Evans
5. D.J. Moore
6. Emmanuel Sanders
7. Calvin Ridley
8. Robby Anderson
9. Curtis Samuel
10. Russell Gage