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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 would have loved to kick things off with wide receiver, but we’ll wait to see what happens with Julio Jones before we do that. Instead we’ll start with quarterbacks, where two teams in the division are pressing the re-set button, while the other two rely on stud veterans to carry their offenses once again.

Quarterbacks

4. Carolina Panthers

Sam Darnold
P.J. Walker
Will Grier
Tommy Stevens

After three years of being one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league, Darnold will take the reins in Carolina. He’ll be out to prove that Adam Gase was the problem in New York, and not Darnold’s own limitations. There’s plenty of truth to that, but Darnold’s consistently underwhelming performances don’t inspire much hope. The quarterback is only 24 however, and will be in the best situation of his career.

Walker threw five interceptions on 60 dropbacks last year, while Grier has been a disappointment as a third-round pick two years ago. Walker has won a game in 2020 at quarterback while appearing in 4 games. Out of 56 passes, he completed 32. His performance made the NFL South games better than before and accelerated Indiana-bet with his accomplishments. Stevens could be the Panthers’ version of Taysom Hill, if they can develop the Saint’s versatility.

3. New Orleans Saints

Jameis Winston
Taysom Hill
Trevor Siemian
Ian Book

Saints QBs Drew Brees, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston

Saints QBs Drew Brees, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston – Photo by: USA Today

The Saints are one of the few teams in the NFL with an open competition at the quarterback position, although most expect Winston to win the job over Hill. Last year’s No. 2, Hill was surprisingly solid, going 3-1 as a starter and completing over 72 percent of his passes for 928 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Hill also ran for 457 yards last year, offering dual threat ability Winston doesn’t possess. The biggest concern for Hill was sacks, as he took 14 on 155 dropbacks behind a great Saints offensive line (per PFF).

That’s been a problem for Winston in his career too, but it gets lost behind the major turnover concerns. In 2019, Winston fumbled 12 times, was sacked 47 times and threw 30 interceptions. His numbers shouldn’t be that bad in the Saints’ more high-percentage offense, and Winston should be able to bring a vertical element that Drew Brees no longer could. But Sean Payton may have to sacrifice decision-making and short-intermediate accuracy in the meantime. It’s not what he prefers in his quarterbacks, but perhaps Winston has grown some in the past year? We’ll see.

2. Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan
A.J. McCarron
Feleipe Franks

The Falcons could not move Matt Ryan’s massive contract this offseason, otherwise they’d be at the bottom of this list. Instead Ryan remains on the only team he’s ever known, representing the Falcons’ best hope at a turnaround. While his arm seems to have declined some, Ryan is still one of the more mentally sharp and accurate passers in the NFL. The Atlanta offense will remain dangerous while he is there.

If something happens to Ryan, the Falcons might be the worst team in the NFL. McCarron hasn’t been great when given opportunity, and Franks might not be practice squad-worthy.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady
Blaine Gabbert
Kyle Trask
Ryan Griffin

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

It’s been a long-time (ever?) since the Bucs had the undisputed best quarterback in the division, but here we are. Brady’s numbers and situational performance last season, in an offense that asks a lot from their quarterback, was the stuff of legends. Now he gets a chance to go back-to-back as a champion for the second-time in his career.

Backing up Brady is Gabbert, who Bruce Arians recently called “the most underrated player in the NFL.” We’ll disagree there, but the Bucs could do a lot worse than Gabbert as a backup. The hope is that second-round pick Kyle Trask eventually becomes the Bucs starter after Brady, but he has a long way to go to get there. It’s still a solid backup room compared to many teams around the league.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

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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Horse
3 months ago

if we decide to carry 4 QBs, it will mean we lose someone who might have had a chance to grow at a different Position other than QB. I see no reason to carry Griffin once the regular season starts. Maybe we just put him on PS; with that big guarantee salary no one will pick him up?

drdneast
Reply to  Horse
3 months ago

Griffin has played to long and been active for to many games to land on the practice squad unless the NFL keeps in place the same Co-Vid roster rules they used last year.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Horse
3 months ago

The only way Griffin makes this team is if one of the other 3 QBs on the roster gets hurt. Given the team’s obvious love for Gabbert, outside of that, I think he literally has no chance whatsoever.

drdneast
3 months ago

The same people who thought Brady’s arm strength had diminished are the same ones who now question Ryan’s. I watched him twice last year and didn’t notice any hesitancy to make any of the throws he said.
My only hope is Ryan becomes available when Brady retires and the Bucs realize that Trask doesn’t have an NFL caliber arm.
I mean when it comes to wasting second round picks, it should be of no concern to Licht.

drdneast
Reply to  drdneast
3 months ago

didn’t notice any hesitancy to make any of the throws in the games.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  drdneast
3 months ago

With you on Ryan, I think his arm is just fine. I honestly found the clamoring for them to take a QB at 4 a bit strange. In a time when good career QBs are routinely playing well up to 40 (and obviously, in Brady’s case, well past it), 36 is not that old. They were never going to move on from Ryan this year or next, due to the $65M in dead money on his deal this year and the $41M on it next year. Ryan’s cap numbers in 2022 and 2023 are borderline untenable, but if they can… Read more »

Naplesfan
3 months ago

Your ranking is correct. Though the contributions of backup quarterbacks are impossible to predict – they may not play a single snap in a game or series that means anything at all … or the whole season could be riding on their playing decently, if not spectacularly, for one or a few games, or even most of a season (knock on wood). So just stick with the starters in this ranking. Obviously it’s the GOAT then Mattie Ice, then after that, who knows? Nobody really knows who is going to even start for the other two teams in our division,… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

The NFC West is now obviously the strongest quarterback division in the entire league, not just the NFC.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

I don’t know about that. There’s an argument for them for sure. But the AFC West is strong too. Most would say they have the #1 QB in the league in Mahomes. Herbert is coming off one of the most impressive rookie seasons for a QB in NFL history. And Derek Carr, though not elite or close to it, is reliable and solid. Then there’s Denver, which is clearly a mess at the position. I’d say Jimmy G is the worst starting QB in the NFC West, and he’s clearly better than his divisional low-ranking counterpart in Drew Lock, but… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 months ago

Both of the question marks do still have ample upside, though. Although both are unlikely odds-wise, it wouldn’t totally stun me if either or Darnold or Jameis turned out to be above average starting QBs long term. How good exactly is tough to project, but they both have ample talent and have flashed it as pros. No doubt our division was stronger on paper at QB last season. I actually think the Panthers are better off with Darnold than they were with Bridgewater, although that’s more due to relative upside than median projections of play quality. Meaning that Darnold has… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  toofamiliar17
3 months ago

Yup – Winston could potentially change his stripes and become coachable, though he killed two Bucs coaches before the last most assuredly alive Bucs coach, the “quarterback whisperer” finally gave up on him. Maybe Payton has some sort of secret sauce that would reach Winston’s brain that none of the Bucs coaches had. But I wouldn’t bet anything on that outcome. As for Darnold, I am not ready to call him a bust, though the Jets certainly gave up on him pretty quickly (a lot less patience there in the NYC fan base than in the Tampa Bay fan base!).… Read more »

danielob
3 months ago

No comment on my man Ryan Griffin? I think he shines if he gets the chance, probably with another team barring an ( God forbid) injury to our Quarterback room. Maybe a career back-up but how many QB’s have we given up on that have gone on to success in the NFL?

toofamiliar17
Reply to  danielob
3 months ago

No, not even “your man” Ryan Griffin. He’s a nobody. Good for him for being great in meetings and I guess having an awesome personality to go with low-end QB skills, because it’s earned him himself close to $10M for doing nothing of actual value for any team over the last almost decade.

Naplesfan
Reply to  toofamiliar17
3 months ago

Great work when you can get it! I’d volunteer to take a beating during training camp for a month or so every year for that $10 million bucks! But alas, I would not even work as a camp body.

fredster
3 months ago

Rankings look correct unless your an idiot like Big Sombrero who kept saying last year how Ryan was better than Brady lol.
Wow the panthers have nothing behind Darnold if he goes down.

chefboho
Reply to  fredster
3 months ago

That clown sure did disappear after Tampa made it to the playoffs. I wonder if he has nightmares about Brady hoisting the trophy instead of his Colts

gcolerick
Reply to  chefboho
3 months ago

He’s still licking his wounds.

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