Is Tampa Bay a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Scouts break down the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints
New Orleans has ruled the NFC South for the past three seasons but Tampa Bay is the team generating the buzz this offseason. That's what happens when you add the Super Bowl-winning tandem of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to a roster that didn't lack for talent.
But the Saints certainly won't cede their crown without a fight with New Orleans boasting its own deep, talented roster and its own Hall of Fame quarterback. And to add a little more drama to this division rivalry — former Buccaneers starter Jameis Winston is now Drew Brees' backup.
Atlanta would love to interject itself into the conversation and the Falcons have the potential to field a potent offense, especially if new running back Todd Gurley can rediscover his All-Pro form. Carolina is undergoing a complete rebuild with former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule taking over a team that will look drastically different than the one that went 5-11 last season. Although not to be left out of the intra-division drama, the Panthers will be quarterbacked by former Saint Teddy Bridgewater.
In order to get an accurate assessment of the NFC South heading into 2020, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Falcons, Panthers, Saints and Buccaneers.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
"A strong finish and unanimous player support gave Dan Quinn another season."
"This was a bottom-five rushing offense, forcing them to release RB Devonta Freeman and bring in star RB Todd Gurley II."
"The explosive WR duo of All-Pro Julio Jones and playmaker Calvin Ridley combined for only 13 TDs."
"They lost Pro Bowl TE Austin Hooper in free agency but answered that with a trade for former first-round pick Hayden Hurst."
"GM Thomas Dimitroff invested a lot of money and draft picks into the OL last offseason, but the lack of depth showed up in an injury-ridden season. Expect a big rebound from this unit, and look for OG Chris Lindstrom to become a star."
"Defensively, they have a below-average DL, so they signed DE Dante Fowler Jr. to a big deal to pair up with former first-round pick DE Takkarist McKinley."
"The ILB position is headlined by fast and rangy Deion Jones, but they lost leading tackler De'Vondre Campbell in free agency."
"They released CB Desmond Trufant and drafted CB A.J. Terrell, with high expectations for CBs Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield to step up."
"They have solid safeties with Ricardo Allen, versatile Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal — if he can stay healthy."
"This will be the last chance owner Arthur Blank gives Quinn and Dimitroff, so this season, it's win at all costs."
"New head coach Matt Rhule recruited Joe Brady to be his offensive coordinator after Brady's record-breaking passing offense at LSU."
"New leadership prefers their own players, so they signed QB Teddy Bridgewater, who already had a relationship with Brady from the Saints in 2018 — but that led to an ugly breakup with franchise QB Cam Newton."
"All-Pro RB Christian McCaffrey is a home-run threat anytime he touches the ball, with 2,392 rushing and receiving yards and 19 TDs."
"They have a promising WR in DJ Moore, a gadget player in Curtis Samuel and they signed speedster WR Robby Anderson, who played for Rhule at Temple."
"They lost fan favorite TE Greg Olsen and will expect more production from TE Ian Thomas."
"This is a bottom-tier OL unit, so they traded for veteran LT Russell Okung to pair with underrated RT Taylor Moton with optimism for young OT Greg Little and OG Dennis Daley."
"Shaq Thompson should lead the ILBs."
"They expect their top draft picks — DT Derrick Brown and DE Yetur Gross-Matos — to complement second-year edge Brian Burns and free agent DE Stephen Weatherly."
"CB Donte Jackson is a playmaker, but the rest of the CBs are suspect. They re-signed safety Tre Boston and drafted hybrid LB-S Jeremy Chinn."
"This was one of the worst defenses on paper, so for the first time in NFL history, they used all their draft picks on defensive players."
"The organization released older players and will build their culture around younger players."
"At best, this is a six-win team, and it could be in contention for the No. 1 overall pick next year."
"Another season of heartbreak for the Saints, who have arguably the best roster in the NFL under the leadership of head coach Sean Payton and future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees."
"Backup QB Teddy Bridgewater departed to Carolina, and Taysom Hill is a dynamic chess piece — but not their QB of the future."
"Playmaker Alvin Kamara had another Pro Bowl season, and downhill RB Latavius Murray added quality depth for their backfield."
"All-Pro WR Michael Thomas played like his twitter handle, @Cantguardmike."
"TE Jared Cook had another Pro Bowl season, and the receiving unit got even better this offseason with the signing of WR Emmanuel Sanders, one of the best route runners in the NFL."
"Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are the league's best OT duo, but they needed better consistency from the interior OL, so they drafted Cesar Ruiz in the first round."
"They had a stout DL led by Pro Bowl DE Cameron Jordan, but they need DT Sheldon Rankins and DE Marcus Davenport to have a healthier season in order to reach their full potential as a defense."
"LB Demario Davis was an All-Pro for the first time in his career after leading the team in tackles, but they need to find a durable starter because LB Alex Anzalone is injury-prone."
"They have Pro Bowl CB Marshon Lattimore and re-signed CB Janoris Jenkins, with solid depth in this unit."
"Safety Marcus Williams led the team with four interceptions, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a versatile DB."
"They needed a veteran leader and signed enforcer Malcolm Jenkins."
"Watch out for electric All-Pro returner Deonte Harris to have another big season."
"Can they finally catch a break in the playoffs to give surgical QB Brees another shot in the Super Bowl?"
"Head coach and QB guru Bruce Arians landed the greatest QB of all time in Tom Brady and a future Hall of Famer in TE Rob Gronkowski, making the Buccaneers an early NFC Super Bowl favorite."
"Having a top-three passing offense with an arsenal of playmakers, it was evident that the team's 7–9 record was linked to QB Jameis Winston's egregious turnovers."
"This is arguably the best WR duo with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who combined for 17 TDs."
"And the TE unit features O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and now Gronk."
"They have elusive RB Ronald Jones II but needed more depth, so they drafted RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn."
"This is an above-average starting OL, but they didn't re-sign RT Demar Dotson and filled that void with first-round draft pick Tristan Wirfs."
"Defensively, they have some talented players, but the unit was average in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' first season."
"They found a star in edge Shaquil Barrett, who was the NFL sack leader with 19.5 and broke the franchise's single-season record."
"They re-signed edge Jason Pierre-Paul and tenacious DT Ndamukong Suh to pair back with NT Vita Vea and collapse the pocket."
"They have an underrated ILB unit with veteran leader Lavonte David, who led the team with 123 tackles, and Devin White, who had a promising rookie season."
"Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting are a young CB group that GM Jason Licht is optimistic about."
"Safeties Jordan Whitehead, Justin Evans and Mike Edwards have upside as well, but drafting Antoine Winfield Jr. shows that they felt an upgrade was needed."
"Kicker Matt Gay is a weapon."
"With Tampa hosting the Super Bowl, the QB with the most championship rings would like to participate."