NFC South Wide Receivers: Where do They Rank?

Dec 6, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) reacts with wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) after scoring a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 season saw a lot of surprises and some solid passing offenses in the NFC South Division. Two teams finished in the middle of the pack, while two others cracked the top five.

The NFC South seems to be more of a star-studded wide receiver division compared to other NFC divisions (shoutout to my coworker Austin Kalt), with big names such as Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Robby Anderson, and the list goes on and on. The defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers did something rather unprecedented and retained all of their offense starters from last season. That being said, let’s look at how this year’s divisional groups match up to one another.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I feel like this was an obvious choice to put at the top of the charts because they still have all of last year’s offense starters on the team. Winning a Super Bowl also helps get you a higher ranking on the list. Overall, the Bucs were second-best in the NFL last season in passing yards and third-best in yards per game behind Kansas City and Houston. With Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin still in the mix, if health does not become an issue, the Buccaneers could very well be a top-five passing offense in the NFL again in 2021.

2. New Orleans Saints

This one was a bit of a coin flip between New Orleans and Atlanta. I mean, yes, Drew Brees is not with the team anymore, but overall, this group still has some explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball. Injuries and a suspension or two probably held the Saints to 19th in the NFL in passing yards last season, but with wideouts such as Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, and Deonte Harris, any quarterback (whether it be Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill) could help lead this high-powered group to at least a top-ten ranking come 2021.

3. Atlanta Falcons

With the rumors going around about the team “shopping” Julio Jones for a trade and then Jones saying he wants out of Atlanta, this is where the Falcons fall. However, they still do have Calvin Ridley, and a budding star in Russell Gage, this group should be in somewhat good hands for Matt Ryan in 2021, though I don’t expect them to duplicate last season when they were fifth-best in terms of passing yards league-wide.

4. Carolina Panthers

Losing a player as versatile as Curtis Samuel hurts, but the Panthers did draft Shi Smith in the fourth round to help address the need. Robby Anderson and speedy DJ Moore are still around, and with a new quarterback joining the fold in Sam Darnold, I’m not entirely sure what to expect from these Carolina Cats in 2021, given that they finished one spot ahead of division foe New Orleans in the 18th position for passing yards last year.

While the Saints and Panthers are working with quarterbacks to gel with the wide receiving corps, Tampa Bay and Atlanta have some sense of stability with their signal-callers. The NFC looks to be a division full of surprises in the 2021 season.