Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 May 2011

Forget Cam -- NFC South Just Got Really Good

My post-draft take on the NFC South. I really like what the Falcons and Bucs did, and I am cool with what the Saints did.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 05 May 2011

22 comments, Last at 16 May 2011, 7:14pm by Parmenides


by ebongreen (not verified) :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 10:02am

Just so ya know, the second table in that article is borked nearly beyond recognition.

by Drunkmonkey :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 11:59am

Holy Cow yes. Although I can totally see White with 31 receptions for 21 yards and 305 TD's. It's just that everybody else's stats are really stupid.

by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 2:41pm

I like Harry Douglas' 10 catches for 534 yards but no TDs.

I don't think the Falcons needed another WR if they scored 507 TDs when trailing in the 4th quarter. I think they needed a new D to stop them ever being in a situation where they needed 32 TDs a game from behind in the 4th quarter.

by Drunkmonkey :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 12:04pm

OK, I totally agree that a second WR for the Falcons was a huge need. Something that I would have liked the Panthers to have gotten through their thick skulls about 6 years ago. But that playoff game against the Packers made their defense look very pathetic. Wouldn't some help on the DLine have been just as needful? I just find it hard to believe that all their problems will be solved by the addition of Jones.

I really like Jones, and think that the difference between him and Green will become literally nothing in about a year or so. However, I just think that defensive help would have benefitted the Falcons a little bit more, and might be the biggest difference between repeating as NFC South champions and barely squeaking into the playoffs, a la Tampa.

by Kibbles :: Fri, 05/06/2011 - 6:30am

Literally nothing? Will Jones and Green merge so that they're occupying the same relative position in space and time? If so, I'm curious to see what will happen the next time the Bengals play the Falcons...

by Joseph :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 12:39pm

Articles like this are why I personally question the comments of anyone who dismisses the NFCS as "weak" or some other such word. Three teams won 10+ games last year. Sure, TB had an "easy" schedule--but 5 of their 6 losses were to PIT, BAL, NO, & ATL--there's no shame in that. (Their 6th loss was to DET in OT at home. That kept them home during the playoffs, and ended up allowing GB to get the Lombardi. [Not saying GB didn't earn it or anything.])
Now, CAR is not good yet; but if they could get a replacement-level QB, they would be decent. And while I personally think that Newton won't ever be as good as his talent, he does bring a dangerous running component that Clausen, Moore, nor Delhomme did. I mean, with his size, why don't you just run a college style option: fake to Stewart/Williams up the middle, then run to one side with the option of keeping it or pitching it to the other RB? I can totally see Newton as a poor man's Daunte Culpepper this year, in that he relies on his size and ability to get away from the rush, and, when in doubt, chuck it up long to Steve Smith (provided he stays). Not that Smith has Moss' size to outjump double coverage, but he does have good ball skills.
If Newton actually develops to Vince Young levels, CAR will be that 6-10/7-9 team that nobody likes to play, a la DET & MIN last year. If he develops to Culpepper-2004 level, this will be the best division in the NFL for a while, and the Saints will need to replace Brees with somebody at least as good in about 5/6 years just to keep up with the other three teams.

I'll go out on a limb right now and say that the NFC champ, if not the SB champ, will come from the NFCS.

by JonFrum :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 3:43pm

If, if if. If pigs had wings, yadda yadda.

by Joseph :: Fri, 05/06/2011 - 12:17pm

Jon, what I meant was the same premise of Mike's article--3 teams are really good already; if Newton develops, the whole division is. My personal opinion is that he won't be any better than Vince Young in TEN--but having seen some of both of them (more of Young--my wife is from Austin), Newton has more potential.

by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 7:29pm

Interesting that you see Newton starting for most if not all of the season. I'd be surprised to see that happen. He's got to learn the offense and there's a lot of bad mechanics he needs to fix. I look at Tebow last season and when he finally got on the field the last month he was only running a small part of the offense--and he's supposed to be the hardest worker there is. To expect much more than that out of Newton seems like a real stretch.

by tuluse :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 7:44pm

Just because Tebow works hard doesn't mean he's very bright, just saying.

by Kibbles :: Fri, 05/06/2011 - 6:32am

A big reason McDaniels overdrafted Tebow was because of his high football IQ. McDaniels had a whiteboard session with Tebow, and he said that Tebow had picked up McDaniels' terminology and was using it by the end of the session. To hear Little Joshie tell the tale, the Mile High Messiah is a football savant.

by Jim Z. (not verified) :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 12:58pm

Everyone is raving about the Bucs draft because they managed to steal supposedly "elite" bookend pass rushers in the 1st and 2nd rounds.

Don't people remember that there was a *reason* Bowers slipped into the 2nd round? The kid's knee is shredded. There is a good chance that the Bucs won't even see a full season's production from this kid, ever.

And as heavily hyped as Clayborn has been throughout his career, this is a kid with marginal production (3 sacks) in his senior year, questionable conditioning (he was winded half the time when I watched him play @ Iowa), and marginal explosiveness as a pass-rusher (he was an effort/strength guy in college).

Color me unimpressed about the Bucs draft in particular.

by QQ (not verified) :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 4:55pm

The article seems pretty basic in reagrds to why the 3 teams might be improved:

ATL -Drafted a WR in the 1st Round. 1st Round receivers have a high bust rate and even if they become good often lack impact in Year 1

NO -Yeah they had RB injuries but is there any reason to suspect that he is better than a healthy Pierre Thomas? RBs often have high bust rates and it is possible Ingram isn't even very good

TB -Drafting players with huge medical/health concerns is not the ideal long term plan around which to build a Defense.

**Additionally, EVERY Division improves through the draft each year. Is there any reason to suspect that the NFC South teams improved more than the NFC North or AFC North through the Draft?

by tuluse :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 6:21pm

I think NO got excellent insurance for what is an injury prone running back. So, even if Thomas gets hurt (which is likely), they should have a good back to plug in.

The real question about NO is did they find anybody to tackle from the secondary?

by GB04 (not verified) :: Sat, 05/07/2011 - 12:47pm

Yeah, I strongly dislike these sort of articles from FO. I don't see how it's much different than the standard football writing dreck we're subjected to from other sources.

It reminds me of the article they had a year or two ago which looked exclusively at age as a sign of teams that would be elite in the near future. Houston was at the top of the list.

by AlanSP :: Tue, 05/10/2011 - 8:39pm

I mostly agree. Articles written around the time of the draft tend to be way too optimistic about what players are going to do as rookies. With rare exceptions like Boldin and Moss, even the elite talents at WR (Megatron, Fitzgerald, etc.) don't usually have great production as rookies. Ditto with DE. No matter how many times Mel Kiper says "so-and-so is going to make an immediate impact" that's really rarely the case.

The Falcons' move for Jones was utterly moronic if the justification was that they needed a #2 WR to put them over the top this year. Actually, the move for Jones was moronic regardless of their justification because they gave up way too much (for perspective, a few years ago, the Jaguars moved from 26th to 8th for the price of two 3rds and a 4th). If what they wanted was immediate help, signing someone in free agency would have been a better bet, and if they were thinking about the long term (which is usually the right way to approach the draft), they would likely have been better off with all the picks they gave up.

by morganja :: Thu, 05/05/2011 - 8:10pm

Of course the NFC South will produce three 10 win teams every year for the next decade. The Panthers have absolutely killed their franchise.The NFC South now gets three bye weeks a year. The regular one, and the two vs. Panther games in which they can rest their starters and run up the score with their special teamers starting.
The Panthers should be regulated back to Division III.

by Joseph :: Fri, 05/06/2011 - 11:47am

Well, morganja, I guess you wanted CAR to pick someone other than Newton. As a Saints fan, I see the Panthers as a decent team being held back by the QB play more than anything. To me, Clausen, Pike, nor Moore will fix that problem. Newton might. At least, IMO, he will provide some exciting moments, good and bad. One time, he might escape what looks like a certain sack, outrun a DL, fake out a LB and run over a DB and pick up 15 or 20 yds. The next time, he might escape the sack, see a "wide-open" receiver, but not see that FS anticipating the throw and get picked. To me, that's what Newton will bring to CAR this year--some good exciting plays that might push the Panthers to 5-11, and a little bit of hope that Newton might make more of the good plays and less of the bad ones. [Of course, wasn't this said about Vick for a few years in ATL? But then he did "put it together" more or less in PHI last year.]
To me, that's what CAR did (using a poker analogy): they're the short stack; they have a shot to pick up a bunch of chips and get back in the game; so they went all in--if they bust, they'll play again in another game (2 or 3 yrs. from now)--and if they win the pot, they're in the game for a while. The suits who call the shots in the org. decided to go all in. If they didn't, they are just losing chips till they're out of the game. Worst case scenario--they're looking for another QB with a top-3 pick in 2 or 3 yrs. If they DON'T pick a QB, won't they be doing this at least NEXT YEAR TOO???
(As a Saints' fan, I'm already terrified of Ryan, and will be of Freeman by next year. If Newton succeeds, this is the scariest division in football--if he busts, it's just in the discussion.)

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 05/06/2011 - 1:48pm

To me, that's what Newton will bring to CAR this year--some good exciting plays that might push the Panthers to 5-11, and a little bit of hope that Newton might make more of the good plays and less of the bad ones. [Of course, wasn't this said about Vick for a few years in ATL? But then he did "put it together" more or less in PHI last year.]

That's about the worst thing that could happen to Cam Newton.

Vick finally put it together and became a QB instead of an insane physical talent who can throw the ball when he had a year to be a backup QB under an experienced QB and a good QB coach, without having the pressure of needing to go out, run around, and win games on pure athleticism. (The prison years robbing him of his top gear contributed, too)

Really, only McNabb made that transition from "running QB" to good QB on his own. Cunningham, Vick, and Steve Young all benefited from at least a year as an understudy (at some point in their careers). Vince Young never got that tutoring, and it shows.

by Joseph :: Fri, 05/06/2011 - 8:13pm

So, ABGT, are you saying that Cam should ride the pine for a year before getting thrown to the wolves? I think you're right, I just wonder in CAR will be able to bring in somebody to help them with that. Now if the lockout goes to early August, yeah, it will be easy for CAR to justify sitting Newton because at least Clausen and Pike should know the playbook. (Even if it's a new playbook, Clausen and Pike should have an advantage. I can't see getting draft picks, esp. the high ones, signed quickly unless there's a pretty strict slotting system in the new CBA.) However, if the new CBA gets done at least a week before training camp, it will be interesting how quickly teams can get those high draft picks into camp.

by Sifter :: Sat, 05/07/2011 - 2:18am

I think I read that Clausen got his hands on a playbook in that 24hr window last week by turning up to the Panthers facility bright and early. Not sure if Newton did or not - I hear he went on holidays. Is he then allowed to get a playbook now? If not, then he's kinda stuffed for this year isn't he? Jimmy will have a big head start.

by Parmenides :: Mon, 05/16/2011 - 7:14pm

Both Clausen and Newton got their playbooks.