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NFL Draft

Which NFC South Team Has Best Non-QB Roster?

  • The Draft Network
  • June 30, 2021
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A once fairly top-heavy group headlined by the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons before Tom Brady’s arrival in Tampa Bay, the NFC South has now become an even more front-loaded division with the retirement of Drew Brees and the trade of Julio Jones to Tennessee. 

It’s smooth sailing for the Buccaneers as they eye their second consecutive Lombardi Trophy, while choppy waters lie ahead for the rest of the NFC South’s franchises as they attempt to muster any type of punch against Brady’s Bucs. In this exercise, however, each roster’s projected signal-caller is deemed irrelevant, as Brady, Sam Darnold (CAR), Matt Ryan (ATL), and Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill (NO), are each put to the side as we attempt to scope the remaining 10 players on offense, starting defense, and the potential success of each unit, and how it relates to each club’s success as a whole.

From top to bottom, here is how the NFC South shapes out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending Super Bowl champs return all 22 starters on both sides of the ball… need I say more? 

While it’s surely an impressive feat as teams rarely return a full group from year to year, the Buccaneers again must muster up and prove once more why they are the favorites to repeat come February. Built upon a foundation of a loaded receiving corps, and a blistering, aggressive defense, the Buccaneers’ roster challenges any in football as the top dog.

New Orleans Saints

The question of who lines up under center will remain the prevalent question as the Saints near training camp, but outside of the pocket, the Saints have presented one of the league’s strongest 53-man groups of the last couple of seasons.

It starts and ends with Alvin Kamara on offense, arguably the league’s top pass-catching back who’ll have an even larger chip on his shoulder following a divisional-round loss to the Buccaneers in which he totaled just 20 yards receiving on three catches. Who knows how the Saints’ offense will look post-Brees, but a defense led by Cam Jordan, Demario Davis, and Marshon Lattimore surely has the ability to keep New Orleans in games, even if all goes haywire offensively.

Although the Saints’ Super Bowl window is closing ever so quickly with expiring contracts nearing for their most productive players, the pieces are there for New Orleans to potentially scratch its way to a wild-card spot. 

Carolina Panthers

Let me start by saying I absolutely love how head coach Matt Rhule and first-year general manager Scott Fitterer have built Carolina’s roster. It’s talent galore in Christian McCaffrey, Terrace Marshall Jr., Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Jaycee Horn, Jeremy Chinn... the names go on and on. The only reason I don't have them slotted above the Saints is a lack of production over time and amount of veteran experience, but who is it to say they can’t serve as the thorn in the side of the Buccaneers as the year progresses?

Following a 5-11 record last season, it would be an understatement to say Fitterer did a nice job during the draft. Adding Horn in the first round is one thing and the addition of Marshall with D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson could round out an impressive receiving corps, but the selection of one of my favorite ball-carriers in the entire class in Chuba Hubbard in the fourth round is just doggone impressive. The haul was near the best of any class in football, and it has now offered the Panthers a total of 10 fresh faces who look to be in line to make a major impact as seasons progress.

Despite the inexperience, the Panthers aren’t a team to turn your back to, as they are primed to make major, major waves in the near future. Rhule and Fitterer deserve much more attention for the unit they've established.

Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley present two of football’s elite from a pass-catching standpoint, but other than that, there just isn’t much to get excited about as Atlanta enters a full-blown rebuild with newly minted general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith. The trade of Jones to the Titans inherently ushered in a new era of Falcons football, and as the team looks to maneuver its way back to relevance following three consecutive under-.500 campaigns. There are many questions left unanswered as Smith attempts to construct his final 53-man group come late summer.

In his first season, it will be about the progression of Ridley, and the presence of Pitts, who has all the makings to develop into the NFL’s top tight end in due time. In fact, it would be far-fetched to find an in-line pass-catching option with the athletic makeup and fundamental ability that Pitts has anywhere else in football. He’s a special, special talent that the Falcons hope can progress into a generational player for an organization expected to land in the basement of the NFC South.

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