1. Saints – Drew Brees is arguably the best quarterback in the league, and he’s got solid veteran backups in Brunell and Harrington.
2. Falcons – Matt Ryan is a budding star and he’s only going to get better. The Falcons can’t afford an injury, though, because there is nothing behind him.
3. Panthers – Jake Delhomme isn’t getting any younger, and his performance in last year’s playoffs was a career worst. In Josh McCown they do have one of the league’s better backups.
4. Buccaneers – The Bucs love to collect mediocre quarterbacks. Time will tell how rookie Josh Freeman will pan out, but now that Jeff Garcia is gone the Bucs are due for a drop in performance at this position.
1. Saints – Brees helps this unit maximize their potential, but this group also deserves credit for Brees’ production. Colston, when healthy, is a top 10 receiver in the league and the Saints got huge efforts last year from Lance Moore and Devery Henderson. Don’t forgot about former 1st round pick Robert Meachem waiting in the wings, too.
2. Panthers – Outside of Steve Smith there isn’t much on the depth chart, but he is that good. Mushin Muhammad is an old slow possession guy at this point, but he’s effective in the red zone.
3. Falcons – Roddy White turned himself into a stud last year, and he may be better than Steve Smith by the end of this season. Behind him are a bunch of dangerous under the radar “potential” guys.
4. Buccaneers – Antonio Bryant put himself back on the map with a great season last year, but behind him are underperforming high draft picks.
1. Falcons – Michael Turner is a guy capable of carrying the load and he proved last year to be one of the best. Jerious Norwood has tremendous speed and gives them a nice change of pace after Turner pounds a tired defense. Jason Snelling is now in the mix too.
2. Panthers – I would never have guessed it going into last year, but the DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart tandem was nothing short of impressive. Everyone knew the Panthers we’re going to run last year and people still couldn’t stop them.
3. Saints – The Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush tandem has the potential to be better than the Panthers duo, but they haven’t proved it yet. Still, Thomas will get his chance this year to be the guy and you always have to account for Bush’s big play ability.
4. Buccaneers – The Bucs have 3 decent players in Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, but I’m not sure which one will start and the Bucs will probably run them by committee.
1. Panthers – Brad Hoover is a stud and he’s one of the big reasons why Carolina’s run game is so effective.
2. Saints – I would have had the Saints at #2 with Mike Karney (who was let go in the offseason), but with Heath Evans they’re probably even better, and certainly more versatile. Veteran Darian Barnes is a veteran backup who stepped in and played great last season.
3. Buccanneers – B.J. Askew and Jameel Cook are both good fullbacks. They would rank higher if the Panthers/Saints weren’t so stacked.
4. Falcons – Ovie Mughelli is a decent player that had the best year of his career last year, but he doesn’t compare favorably with the stud fullbacks in the NFC South.
1. Falcons – What a difference a year makes, now they have Tony Gonzalez. He’s still the best tight end in the business, and now Justin Peelle fits in much better as a number 2.
2. Buccanneers – Kellen Winslow Jr. was an offseason add for Tampa, and he’s a top 5 tight end in terms of ability. That should really help their spotty quarterback play. Jerramy Stevens is a better #2 than most teams have.
3. Saints – We’ll see how Shockey performs this season, the Saints could certainly use the production of his big time ability. Billy Miller is one of the more underrated receiving tight ends in the game and is a huge weapon for the Saints. In most divisions the Saints would have the best tight end core.
4. Panthers – Dante Rosario and Jeff King are arguably not even good enough to make the roster for any of the above 3 teams. They block well, but Delhomme needs that big reliable target over the middle and he does not have it.
1. Saints – I think Jammal Brown is a little overrated, but he obviously has the respect of the league based on his numerous Pro Bowl appearances. Jon Stinchcomb, though, is very underrated. He’s a bonifide team leader and one of the better technique guys out there. Don’t forget about Zach Strief, either, who’s been a valuable fill in.
2. Panthers – Jordan Gross is the solid veteran on the left, and Jeff Otah is the blooming young stud on the right. These guys played very well last year.
3. Buccaneers – Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood are the starters. Nothing too special about these guys.
4. Falcons – Fans should be nervous about Sam Baker protecting Matt Ryan’s blindside. Tyson Clabo on the right is solid at times, but plays inconsistent.
1. Falcons – Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl are absolute monsters on the interior. Perfect guards for a bruising type back like Michael Turner.
2. Panthers – Travelle Wharton played some at left tackle and did pretty well, but guard is a more natural position for him and he’s only better there. Keydrick Vincent of Ole Miss is also a great player.
3. Saints – Jahri Evans will make the Pro Bowl before his career is over. He’s arguably the best guard in the division. Carl Nicks played ok last year, but has lots of promise to develop. Jamar Nesbit has to be one of the best backups out there.
4. Buccaneers – Arron Sears and Davin Joseph are unspectacular players that will be pushed in training camp by Jeremy Zuttah.
1. Falcons – Former LSU man Todd McClure has been a mainstay on the Falcons offensive line, and like wine he’s gotten better with age.
2. Buccaneers – Former Saint Jeff Faine, like McClure, is regarded around the league as one of the best at his position. He’s overpaid, but he’s an awesome center.
3. Panthers – Ryan Kalil is a decent player and captain for their line.
4. Saints – Jonathan Goodwin isn’t a terrible center by any means and he’s filled in admirably since the departure of Jeff Faine, but he just doesn’t fare well stacked up against the 3 guys above.