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NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About NFC South Teams

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What do rival scouts think of the Falcons, Panthers, Saints, and Buccaneers?

For a moment, it was unclear who would be the favorite to win the NFC South this fall. That lasted about 40 days: the period in which Tom Brady. Now that Brady is back, the Bucs enter the 2022 NFL season as heavy favorites to win back-to-back division titles for the first time ever. Of course, that's not guaranteed yet. The Saints are starting a new era after Sean Payton's for-real retirement, and the Panthers and Falcons are breaking in new quarterbacks. So what's in store for this historically topsy-turvy division?

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In order to get an accurate assessment of the NFC South heading into 2022, 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.

Atlanta Falcons

"After whiffing on a Deshaun Watson trade attempt, they pivoted and shipped off Matt Ryan, the best quarterback they could have had on the roster. Now, it's more leaning into the rebuild with Marcus Mariota as the bridge guy and Desmond Ridder as the QB for the future. Mariota isn't bad at all, but he's not going to put them over the top. I liked Ridder at the Senior Bowl. He's got leadership qualities. I'm just not sure if he does anything quite well enough."

"Drake London is a big catch radius, contested-catch guy. That complements Kyle Pitts very well. Pitts is unique."

"Getting a new deal for Jake Matthews was a smart move. He's a pro's pro. I'm not a big fan of the rest of their offensive line except for Chris Lindstrom, the right guard. He's gritty."

"Cordarrelle Patterson was another key re-signing. Why not run it back after what he did last year?"

Related: Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart

"The Falcons take care of their guys, and they did right by Grady Jarrett."

"I thought signing Rashaan Evans added some toughness and playmaking to their linebacker group."

"Drafting Arnold Ebiketie gives them a really talented pass rusher from a school that's been producing a lot of good defensive prospects."

"Closest thing to a shutdown corner they have is A.J. Terrell, who has huge upside."

"I'm lukewarm on this secondary."

Carolina Panthers

"They took a chop at a Baker Mayfield trade during the draft, but they wind up with Matt Corral. Corral is not bad, but I don't see him being ready to take over for Sam Darnold for a while. Darnold is very underwhelming. I like P.J. Walker and feel like he could win a game in a pinch."

[Editor's note: This anonymous scouting report came before the Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield in early July.]

"The good news is they drafted Ikem Ekwonu. He's nasty"

"DJ Moore is very explosive. He's very difficult to stay with. They have more than one deep threat because Robbie Anderson routinely creates separation."

"Taylor Moton gives them a good right tackle, but they need to keep getting better in the interior line. Bradley Bozeman isn't coming off a great season with the Ravens, but at least the Panthers got him at an affordable price."

Related: Carolina Panthers Depth Chart

"Christian McCaffrey's health is paramount and a lingering question for this team. They've got to get a healthier season out of him. The depth behind him is solid with Chuba Hubbard and D'Onta Foreman."

"Brian Burns is a special pass rusher."

"They've got a lot of playmakers on this defense, even without Haason Reddick. Jeremy Chinn, Shaq Thompson, Jaycee Horn, it's really good drafting by them."

"The change of scenery was good for CJ Henderson."

"Matt Rhule, no matter what anyone says, is definitely on the hot seat."

New Orleans Saints

"Jameis Winston's health is the biggest thing with this team. He's got a big arm, and he's gotten better at cutting down on the interceptions and taking less risks."

"As Dennis Allen said, having Michael Thomas back and drafting Chris Olave, it's like they got two first-round draft picks. Olave is a burner."

"Trevor Penning has a big-time mean streak and should inject some toughness into the line as they move on from Terron Armstead."

"Erik McCoy is someone the Texans were interested in when they were thinking about adding players to a potential Deshaun Watson trade. I can see why. He's really good."

"Cesar Ruiz hasn't lived up to expectations."

"If Alvin Kamara isn't suspended, they could get off to a fast start."

Related: New Orleans Saints Depth Chart

"It was smart of them to move Taysom Hill to tight end. Great athlete; he's just not a real quarterback."

"Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport are a strong pass-rushing tandem. What they need is for Payton Turner to get healthy, stay healthy and start living up to his considerable potential."

"Demario Davis and Pete Werner, that's what a good linebacker tandem looks like."

"Signing Tyrann Mathieu sends a signal: The Saints aren't done trying to compete. They're going to keep trying to win."

"Marcus Williams would have been too expensive, so they split that kind of money into two players: Honey Badger and Marcus Maye."

"Marshon Lattimore is a real difference-maker."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

"Tom Brady. Shortest retirement ever! I feel like he's going to play this year and maybe one more, but this might be his last one with Tampa Bay. Todd Bowles will do something Brady wanted Bruce Arians to do more of: Run the football and save his arm for the playoffs."

"Brady came back and the cupboard isn't bare. At all. They've got Mike Evans and Chris Godwin back and they sign Russell Gage."

"They brought back the center, Ryan Jensen."

"The offensive line is more than adequate."

Editor's note: This scouting report was submitted before Ryan Jensen suffered a knee injury early in training camp that is expected to keep him out for multiple months. Additionally, guard Aaron Stinnie will miss the season after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee during the team's second preseason game. 

"Leonard Fournette has a new deal. The offense is all set. Who knows? Maybe Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] comes back, too. I could see him coming back for another year. Run it back one more time."

"Vita Vea is an anchor inside; nobody budges him."

"Logan Hall had a lot of first-round grades across the league, and they get him at the start of the second round. That's a good value pick."

"Devin White and Lavonte David haven't missed a beat."

"I still like this secondary. It's intact from the Super Bowl team, and they also add Logan Ryan."

"Very little should change under Bowles, other than the run game thing. I expect this to be a smooth transition."

Related: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Depth Chart