In this part of the divisional quarterback rankings series, we dive deep into the NFC South quarterback rankings for the 2019 season. Outside of the AFC East/Tom Brady, the NFC South quarterback fraternity is one of the most highly decorated. The top three quarterbacks in the division boast a 325-233-1 career record, two MVPs, four Super Bowl appearances, and one Super Bowl win.
NFC South Quarterback Rankings for 2019
4. Jameis Winston
Only Jameis Winston could lose his starting quarterback job to Ryan Fitzpatrick, only to win it back later in the season. 2018 was Winston’s career-worst year statistically. In eleven games (nine starts), he threw for career-low 2992 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. His 21-33 record entering 2019 makes it seem likely that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go in a different direction at quarterback following the season. His 70.2 Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade was 24th in the league and last in the division. If Winston wants to remain in the NFL or Tampa Bay at all, he will need to have a career year in 2019.
Winston has the tools and weapons to succeed. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are a solid one-two punch outside and he has O.J. Howard at tight end. 2019 will be a make-or-break year for Winston, so look for him to play motivated and driven. Despite an atrocious 2018 grade, PFF projects that Winston will pass for over 4,400 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. If he can stay true to these projections, Winston may get more than a new contract.
3. Cam Newton
Not many quarterbacks have been as polarizing as one Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. Between his touchdown dances and his perceived lack of effort in the super bowl, many hope to see Newton fail. Newton is considered a run-first quarterback, which is good considering his size, but it is his passing that is enigmatic. The NFL has seen Cam Newton at his best, which was in 2015. That year, he was virtually unstoppable, amassing a 15-1 record, All-Pro selection, and MVP. When he’s been forced to throw the ball, the results are less-than-ideal. As of the end of the 2018 season, he has a career 59.7% completion percentage 107 interceptions. This is even after posting a career-high 67.9% completion percentage and 24 touchdowns, most since 2015. He was graded at 70.9, ranked 23rd overall.
Newton had a nagging shoulder injury in 2018, so he should be healthy and ready to go come week one. He has one of the stronger arms in the NFL, but he’s actually had to move away from the long ball due to his injury. Luckily for him, he has explosive running back Christian McCaffrey who he can dump the ball off to and let him work his magic. Newton is going to have to rely on McCaffrey and tight end Greg Olsen, now that his wide receiver corps is not as strong as it once was. Like Winston, 2019 could be a make-or-break year for Newton. The Panthers used its third-round pick on Will Grier. So, if injuries or inconsistencies plague the former MVP, fans may be calling for change.
2. Matt Ryan
Next in the list of former MVPs who faltered on the biggest stage is Matt Ryan. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback has been a model of consistency and has been getting better and better each year. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards and completed at least 64.7% of this passes in each of the last eight years. Last year, Ryan graded 10th best in the league at 84.3. When you have the arguably best wide receiver corps in the NFL, you are expected to be great. If it weren’t for the number one quarterback in the division, Ryan could very well have a few more trophies and accolades for his legacy.
The 2019 Falcons are going to be just as dangerous and Ryan should continue to play at the highest level. Through the draft, Atlanta bolstered their offensive line with two first-round picks. This is good because Ryan was graded at 83.4 in a clean pocket and a meager 60.6 when pressured. That difference of 22.8 was exactly what the Falcons sought to remedy. Even while overshadowed by the number one quarterback (and not to mention Super Bowl LI), Matt Ryan can certainly make the NFC South interesting and make a run for MVP.
1. Drew Brees
Quite possibly the greatest statistical quarterback of this generation is Drew Brees. Sure, he doesn’t have six super bowls like Tom Brady, but he’s led the league in passing yards seven times and touchdowns four times. Despite this, the top NFC South quarterback has never won the MVP. Brees currently owns 21 NFL records including career completion percentage (67.3) and passing yards (74,437). While he may be 1-1 in Super Bowls, it must be said that he did everything he could the last two years to get back, but defensive errors and controversial calls took it all away.
Last year, Brees was graded highest among all quarterbacks at 94.0. To grade that highly in his 18th season is absurd, to say the least. It would be easy to say that Brees will take a step back in 2019, but it is more likely he will repeat as a top quarterback. Regardless of whether or not the New Orleans Saints decide to pay Michael Thomas a record deal, Brees will be able to lead his team to success with no indication of slowing down.
“Summer Brees Makes Me Feel Fine”
Even after being traded, injured, and robbed of championships, Drew Brees continues to operate at the highest level. How many times can we say that a quarterback is going to compete for an MVP in his 19th season? Matt Ryan has the ability to challenge Brees for the top spot, though he will assume it once Brees eventually retires. In terms of excitement, the NFC South quarterback fraternity has plenty. Winston and Newton will have to put up big numbers to save their jobs, potentially, and Ryan and Brees will continue to fly high.
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