Best Players by Position... All NFC South Team

Now that we've taken an introspective look at the strengths of our own division. I'd like to scour the NFC South for their most intimidating competition.


QUARTERBACK: Options: Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, Matt Moore

Drew Brees is the pick and we should know why based on his recent history with the Saints. I'm excited about matching up our secondary against him. Ryan tested out well after having the running game drop out from under him last year. His efficiency suffered, but he managed 22 touchdowns and only 14 picks. Freeman had an average rookie year with the ups and downs you'd expect, so the verdict is still out. Matt Moore could be good but the Vikings and Giants (who Moore had his best games against) didn't exactly have the best secondaries last year. We all remember our old friend Madieu, right? DECISION: Brees

RUNNING BACK: Options: Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Michael Turner, Cadillac Williams, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart

Derrick Ward has shown nothing as a feature back (he catches a few, I suppose). Cadillac deserves a mention after playing an entire season and beginning to get his legs back in a big way, as does Bush simply for providing such a receiving threat out of the backfield. Pierre Thomas is a tough runner and turned out to be versatile, as well, catching 39 balls for 2 TDs. The remaining three backs are the clear top 3, but the order is merely a matter of opinion. Together, Stewart and Deangelo Williams are very possibly the scariest rushing attack in the game, and even standing alone they are excellent backs. Turner, despite the injury issues, played well in '09 when he was available, and his '08 campaign was seriously productive. I'm the most worried about Stewart though. On 1st down, they throw DeAngelo in their so defenses have to acount for his jet speed (he will take it all the way at any time), but Stewart's been doing the heavy lifting. While Turner has no hands to speak of, and DeAngelo can get wrecked by one hard tackle, Stewart plays tough and faster than his 235 lbs. should let him, plus he can pluck a few out of the air as well as anybody. DECISION: Stewart

WIDEOUT: Options: Marques Colston, Roddy White, Steve Smith

Smith's injury, as well as his age, and the inexperience of the rest of their passing game, is concerning. Not that anyone is writing off the miniature monster. If not for the injury he may still get the top nod here. Roddy White has turned into an excellent receiver and is consistently a nightmare for most defensive backs. Colston, however has something the other two never will, a 6' 4" frame. That size doesn't take away from his speed as he constantly gets open deep. His production has declined slightly since the options around him have increased, but with the accuracy of Brees they could set records like Moss and Brady. DECISION: Colston

TIGHT END: Options: Jeremy Shockey, Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, Jeff King

This list of tight ends will terrorize safeties and linebackers all year. If Shockey can stay healthy he's great, but he's dinged nearly 100% of the time. Jeff King deserves a mention here purely for his excellent blocking. His hands aren't terrible either, he's just slow. Winslow will be a big part of any success the Bucs have this season and never fails to produce regardless of the team's record. Gonzalez, however, is the top TE in the NFC South. Despite his age he's only missed 2 contests his entire career. He drags in 800-1000 yards year in and year out, and barely dipped when changing systems last year. You can bet they'll have a few new plays for the savvy vet this year. DECISION: Gonzalez

LEFT TACKLE: Options: Jermon Bushrod, Sam Baker, Donald Penn, Jordan Gross

While this is a group of good left tackles, they all gave up their fair share of sacks in '09. Gross is an excellent run blocker, but was struggling to hold the pocket, giving up 5.5 sacks in 9 games before going down. His healthy return to OTA practices bodes well for an offseason of improving his pass-pro technique. Sam Baker also struggled in '09. Still adjusting to the NFL, he gave up 6 sacks and saw the run game decline as he took over the starting role. Bushrod was sometimes the weak link in an otherwise stellar passing game, but teams are much more concerned about Stinchcomb on the other side. Donald Penn, an undrafted gem mined out of Utah State by the Bucs in '07, stepped into the starting role almost immediately and has weathered the adjustment well. Many have called the young man a mauler, and if he improves in protecting at all he'll be a great LT (that goes for all these LTs really). DECISION: Penn

RIGHT TACKLE: Options: Jon Stinchcomb, Tyson Clabo, Jeremy Trueblood, Jeff Otah

Stinchcomb is the choice here having become a staple of the Superbowl champion's O-line. He rarely lets defenders by, uses his agility well in the run game, and aside from a couple false starts a year isn't really penalized. Tyson Clabo comes in at a close second. The undrafted project has turned into a solid technician and a mauler. He's a big reason for Turner's monster '08 campaign. Otah is also a beast of a run blocker but not quite as sound as Clabo and Stinchcomb in the pass-pro department. Trueblood is frightening, but not a good way. One of the more frequently penalized O-linemen, he's even liable to spear your corner in the back after the play. He only deserves a mention because he is a good run blocker. DECISION: Stinchcomb

GUARD: Options: Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks, Justin Blalock, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Zuttah, Travelle Wharton

There are plenty of good guards to go around in the NFC South. Travelle Wharton, probably the worst of this stellar group, gives up sacks but still pounds in the run game. Zuttah and Joseph are a good, but slightly undersized, combo in Tampa who started all 16 games together last year. They gave up a small handful of sacks but really had a good '09. Blalock struggled as a rookie protecting the passer, but has since taken care of business. He really pulls his weight in the run game where he'll basically manhandle anyone under 325 lbs.. Evans and Nicks in New Orleans are the best guard combo in the league. They are technical pass protectors and heavy hitters in the run game. Jahri uses his agility extremely well making him versatile, and a more integral component than the enormous Nicks who can't really string the play wide. DECISION: Evans

CENTER: Options: Jonathan Goodwin, Todd McClure, Jeff Faine, Ryan Kalil

These are all quality centers and with an outsider's view it's tough to say who's best. McClure may be on his last leg but continues to do well. Faine missed time last year but did a commendable job when he was in. Jonathan Goodwin could definitely be the top center as he did a premier job for the champs in '09, but Ryan Kalil must be doing something right in Carolina, he's given up 1 sack in two years and leads that top-tier run game. Going into only his 4th year, Kalil seems poised alongside Nick Mangold to become one of the top centers of a generation. DECISION: Kalil

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Options: Anthony Hargrove, Sedrick Ellis, Jonathan Babineaux, Gerald McCoy, Nick Hayden

The defensive tackles here have potential, but none of them strike me as particularly worrisome. Hargrove looks like the toughest competition as he does his job rushing the passer very well. Interior lineman will have a tough time when he pins his ears back on third down. A full season from Ellis would look great statistically on paper, but until he avoids the injury bug for a year he's brittle. Atlanta has serious pass rush issues and a big part of that is the interior line. Babineaux is solid though, he played the entire season and had 6 sacks in '09. McCoy, the rookie, is only being mentioned because he's a top-5 pick and expected to compete this year. Every team playing him will give him a long look. Nick Hayden has a ways to go before being considered, but after playing well last year in limited time he could be ready to really increase his production. DECISION: Hargrove

DEFENSIVE END: Options: Will Smith, Alex Brown, John Abraham, Stylez White, Tyler Brayton

Will Smith and John Abraham are both excellent pass rushers, but I give the edge to Smith for his work against the run and his age 29 (Abraham 32). Alex Brown was productive in Chicago as a full-timer and he poses a serious new threat replacing Charles Grant. Jamal Anderson's 2.5 sacks in his three years as a Falcon don't warrant any consideration, but Lawrence Sidbury, a 2nd year player who did well in small roles as a rookie, might surprise and make this list next year. White and Brayton can't be as easily discounted, but aren't truly on Will Smith's level. You have to pull for White, though, who has scratched and clawed his way into a starting position, even through the arena league, and showed lots of promise last year starting the latter half of the season for the Bucs (43 tackles and 6.5 sacks). Brayton does make plays, but may have topped out as his production seems to have been consistently good, but not great over the last couple of years across from Peppers. DECISION: Smith

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: Options: Scott Shanle, Mike Peterson, Geno Hayes, Quincy Black, Thomas Davis

Hayes and Black have a lot of potential on the Bucs, Hayes especially. He's got the speed  that Tampa Bay needs for it's defense and did well against the run, rushing the passer, and in coverage. Scott Shanle is your typical professional and can be counted on, but he' s not that impressive. Thomas Davis could return to Carolina in full force this year to make some serious plays, but I'm sure Mike Peterson will have another good year in Atlanta's defense. The former Jaguar and Colt has played great at every stop and remains a well-rounded, solid, starting linebacker. Clint Ingram, another former Jaguar who started with Peterson, may earn a good deal of playing time in New Orleans this year, in a bid to help replace Fujita. DECISION: Peterson

INSIDE LINEBACKER: Options: Jonathan Vilma, Curtis Lofton, Barrett Rudd, Jon Beason

This is quite the collection of middle linebackers we have here, all four have a chance at the pro-bowl. Lofton was an extremely competent tackler in his second year, and only looks to get better if he can improve his coverage. Vilma is great but can be a little weak in run support despite his excellent coverage and pass-rush. Rudd and Beason are both very steady centerpieces to their respective units. Rudd is way underrated and does compete with Beason for the top spot, but I bet the Panther out-produces him every year. Beason is arguably the best young linebacker in the league alongside Willis in San Fransisco. He came out of Miami in '07 and was immediately dominant. DECISION: Beason

CORNERBACK: Options: Tracy Porter, Jabari Greer, Malcolm Jenkins, Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes, Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber, Chris Gamble, Richard Marshall

Another good group of players at the cornerback position. Porter, Greer, and Jenkins aren't individually the best cornerbacks but make up the deepest, most well rounded bunch. Brent Grimes is an underrated young player who knocked down a lot of balls last year and caught 6. Dunta Robinson will really help the Atlanta secondary but has to prove himself consistently against Brees and Ryan, after failing to do so against Manning. Ronde's still got it but only deserves the mention for his solid play after all these years. Marshall and Gamble make a great pair in Carolina but it's gamble who goes toe to toe with the heavy weight's like Roddy and Marques. Aqib Talib of the Bucs is my pick, though. The sky is the limit for this 3rd year corner who has shown he's ready to play at a very high level. Speed, ball skills, tackilng, and great angles, are all his trademarks. DECISION: Talib

SAFETY: Options: Darren Sharper, Roman Harper, Thomas Decoud, Erik Coleman, Tanard Jackson, Sabby Piscitelli, Charles Godfrey, Sherrod Martin

Sharper is the best free safety, and Harper is the best strong safety, but everyone on this list deserves some consideration. Godfrey and Martin are young talented free safeties that could probably start for many teams and may end up splitting time. Piscitelli did a solid job against the run in his first full year as a starter, but struggled in coverage. Jackson is the better Buccaneer going into his fourth year as a well rounded starter. DeCoud and Coleman each make their plays in Atlanta but DeCoud is definitely an overlooked potential break-out candidate. In '09, only his second year, he started every game and made plays all over the place. DECISION: Sharper

 So the final All-NFC South Team for 2010 may look something like this...

QB- Drew Brees, ALTERNATE- Matt Ryan

RB- Jonathan Stewart, ALT- Michael Turner

WR- Marques Colston, Roddy White, ALT- Steve Smith

TE- Tony Gonzalez, ALT- Kellen Winslow

OT- Jon Stinchcomb, Donald Penn, ALT- Tyson Clabo

OG- Jahri Evans, Justin Blalock, ALT- Carl Nicks

DT- Anthony Hargrove, Jonathan Babineaux, ALT- Sedrick Ellis

DE- Will Smith, John Abraham, ALT- Stylez White

OLB- Mike Peterson, Thomas Davis, ALT- Geno Hayes

ILB- Jon Beason, ALT- Barrett Rudd

CB- Aqib Talib, Chris Gamble, ALT- Dunta Robinson

S- Darren Sharper, Roman Harper, ALT- Thomas DeCoud

(Baker, Kasay, Roby, and Prioleau on Special Teams)

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors.

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