2012 NFL Preview: Best of the NFC South

Drew Brees

QB: Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints: Brees has done it all, Super Bowl Champion, 6-time Pro Bowler, 3-time NFC Offensive Player of the Year and he is showing no signs of slowing down. He threw for an outrageous 5,476 yards and 46 TDs last season. He has thrown for at least 4,300 yards in each of the past 6 seasons and is masterful directing the Saints prolific offense.

RB: Darren Sproles – New Orleans Saints: Sproles is a perfect fit in the Saints relentless offense. Last year he rushed for 603 yards and 2 TDs. He also caught 86 passes for 710 yards and 7 TDs. He is lightning quick and only needs a crease to inflict serious damage to opposing defenses.

RB: Michael Turner – Atlanta Falcons: He has made two Pro Bowl appearances and has led the NFC in each of the past two seasons. Turner rushed for 1,340 yards and 11 TDs last season.

WR: Roddy White – Atlanta Falcons: White is coming off back-to-back seasons of 100 receptions and has made 4 straight Pro Bowl appearances. He is a model of consistency and paired with the next guy on this list, forms a dynamic duo at receiver for the Falcons.

WR: Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons: Jones is coming off an outstanding rookie season in which he caught 54 passes for 959 yards and 8 TDs. He is one of the rising stars in the NFL.

TE: Jimmy Graham – New Orleans Saints: Last year was his second season in the league and Graham was a revelation. He hauled in 99 receptions for 1,310 yards and 11 TDs. He earned Pro Bowl honors for his efforts. At 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, Graham is a huge target for Drew Brees and a handful for opposing defenses.

OT: Jordan Gross – Carolina Panthers: A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Gross is one of the top offensive tackles in the NFC. He is a 10 year veteran and one of the Panthers team leaders.

OT: Donald Penn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: In 2011, Penn became the Buccaneers first OT to make a Pro Bowl appearance. He has started 76 straight games for Tampa Bay and begins the 2012 season in outstanding shape.

OG: Carl Nicks – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Nicks joined the Buccaneers this year after anchoring the Saints offensive line for the past 5 seasons. A punishing blocker, Nicks is probably the best guard in the NFL. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons.

OG: Jahri Evans – New Orleans Saints: Appearing in the last 3 Pro Bowls, Evans has been a stalwart for the Saints. Evan has started 96 consecutive games to begin his career, which is a Saints record. He is a road grader in the run game.

C: Ryan Kalil – Carolina Panthers: Kalil, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, is considered one of the top 5 centers in the NFL. In July, Kalil declared that the Panthers would win Super Bowl XLVII.

Jonathan Babineaux

DE: John Abraham – Atlanta Falcons: Abraham tallied 35 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles last season. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl 4 times during his illustrious career (2001, 2002, 2004, 2010). Known as The Predator, Abraham is considered one of the best pass rushers of his generation. He has racked up 112 sacks during his 13 year career.

DE:  Will Smith – New Orleans Saints: Smith is tangled up in bounty gate and as a result has been suspended for the first 4 games of the season. He registered 35 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season and ranks 4th in Saints history with 61 sacks. Smith was a 2006 Pro Bowl selection.

DT: Brodrick Bunkley – New Orleans Saints: Bunkley is generally considered one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL. He is at his best against the run and does a good job clogging things up on the line. Bunkley posted 43 tackles in 2011.

DT: Jonathan Babineaux – Atlanta Falcons: After combing for 10 sacks in 2009 and 2010, Babineaux recorded just one sacks last season. However, he remains a mainstay on the Falcons defensive line. He is a blue collar player who does all the little things right.

LB: Jon Beason – Carolina Panthers: An achilles injury limited Beason to just one game last season. The 3 seasons before that he was a Pro Bowl selection. Not counting last season, he has averaged 135 tackles per year and has twice reached the 140 tackle plateau (2007, 2009).

LB: Sean Weatherspoon – Atlanta Falcons: Weatherspoon ranked 13th in the NFL with 115 tackles last year. The third year linebacker also notched 4 sacks in 2011. “He’s a good player now, but he could be a lot better than he is,” Atlanta’s defensive coordinator Mike Nolan told the team’s official website. “And he will be. No question, because he loves football and he’s exciting to watch and he’s a playmaker, for all those reasons.”

LB: Curtis Lofton – New Orleans Saints: Lofton signed with the Saints for the 2012 season after having played the first 4 years of his career with the division rival Atlanta Falcons. He ranked 5th in the NFL last year with 147 tackles and posted 10 double-digit tackle games.

CB: Brent Grimes – Atlanta Falcons: Last season, Grimes tallied 49 tackles and 14 passes defended. He is one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL. Grimes was a 2010 Pro Bowl selection.

CB: Chris Gamble – Carolina Panthers: He is the Panthers all-time leader in interceptions (27). Gamble has led or tied for the team lead in interceptions in six of his eight seasons.

S: Malcolm Jenkins – New Orleans Saints: Jenkins was a 2010 AP second-team All-Pro selection. He tallied a career-high 77 tackles last season.

S: Charles Godfrey – Carolina Panthers: Godfrey racked up 84 tackles, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble last year.


Special Teams

K: Matt Bryant – Atlanta Falcons: Bryant drilled 27 of 29 field goals last year with a long of 5 1 yards. He was 28 for 31 in 2010. From inside 50 yards he is automatic.

P: Thomas Morstead – New Orleans Saints: He finished second in the NFL in net punting last year (43.1 yards). In his 3 years with New Orleans, Morstead has had just one punt blocked. He is also responsible for the famous onside kick to open the second half of Super Bowl XLIV.

Related articles

Best of the AFC East

Best of the NFC North

Best of the AFC North

  • Red

    I’m a Falcon fan, but it was disrespectful to put Julio over Steve Smith. And Aqib Talib is the best CB in the division. He should be on the list instead of Gamble (saying a lot since I’m an OSU fan as well).

    • thenextgenius

      I’m also Falcon fan and this guy is absolutely right. Without Steve Smith Cam does not get All Pro honors last season! I also know as Cam grows, Matty Pansy Pants Ryan drops down to the 3rd best qb in the division. Can’t wait till the “golden boy” gets exposed even further this year…

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.nelms.3 Christopher Nelms

    I agree with the guys below…Steve Smith became the 35th WR in the history of the NFL to go over 10,000 receiving yards last year. Considering that he has done that in just seven seasons as an active, healthy starter (his first two years he was just playing on special teams, and 2004 he missed the entire season except for Game 1) that means he averages over 1400 yards a season when healthy. But yeah, Julio Jones…

  • http://www.facebook.com/rerogersjr Rick Rogers

    You leave of Steve Smith for a Rookie that has only had one season under his belt. Sorry not buying it.

  • Tito Mac

    steve smith is a future hof and had 1300 yds last year and he isn’t on the WR list???

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