Over the next two weeks, we will unveil our preseason All-Division teams, as is our annual tradition around this time of year. As always, the rosters were compiled largely by a panel of one, though there was significant input from the writing and editorial staff at CBSSports.com after I took an initial run at the rosters on my own.
We began earlier this week with the NFC East and NFC North, and will move through the rest of the conference this week. Next week, it's on to the AFC. Without further ado, the preseason All-NFC South Team...
Offensive skill positions
QB: Tom Brady (TB)
RB: Christian McCaffrey (CAR)
TE: Kyle Pitts (ATL)
FLEX: Alvin Kamara (NO)
Not that long ago, there would have been a heated debate about the quarterback spot in this division. At the very least, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees all could have laid claim to it. Now, only Ryan remains in the NFC South, and he has been replaced as the division's best pocket operator, thanks to Brady relocating to Florida. The roll Tampa got on over the latter portion of the 2020 season should lay a solid foundation for offensive success this coming year, and Brady should be the class of the division once again.
CMC missed most of last season thanks to two separate injuries, but he is by all accounts fully healthy once again. He is the league's most dynamic two-way threat out of the backfield, capable of acting as both a running back and wide receiver depending on where he lines up. Kamara is probably his closest facsimile, but McCaffrey has been trusted with more volume -- in terms of snaps, rushes, and receptions. There's enough room for both of them on this roster, though, and so both of them make it.
The receiving crop his been thinned out a bit in this division. what with Julio Jones being traded to the Titans and Michael Thomas suffering an injury that will likely keep him out for a significant chunk of the season. Ridley proved his mettle as a No. 1 wideout last season, and his role should only grow now that Jones is in Tennessee. Evans and Godwin may not draw quite the same target share as other No. 1's due to Brady's willingness -- eagerness, even -- to spread the ball around, but the combined talent level and opportunity is there for them to shine once again. We'd rather roll with those two guys than Robby Anderson or D.J. Moore with Sam Darnold at the helm. Pitts is the best tight end prospect in recent memory, and it's fitting that he's one of the only rookies on any of our All-Division teams this year.
C: Ryan Jensen (TB)
Armstead is on a pretty terrific eight-season run as one of the best left tackles in the NFL. He's better in pass protection than as a run blocker, but that's ideal for modern football, and makes him a better fit for the roster than if the reverse were true. His teammate, Ryan Ramczyk, has a very good argument for the right tackle spot here, but Wirfs' rookie season was so good -- and he showed such improvement throughout the year -- that we ultimately gave him the nod instead. We're splitting hairs when picking between the two players, though.
Marpet is one of the great small-school success stories in recent seasons. He is still an absolute mauler in the run game and his athleticism has allowed him to improve greatly in pass protection. Lindstrom only played five games and largely struggled during his rookie season, but he played and started all 16 last year and showed a ton of improvement and promise. He's a better run blocker than pass blocker at the moment but there's still plenty of time for the latter skill to catch up. With Alex Mack moving out of the division, Jensen almost becomes the best center by default. He's a damn good player in his own right, though, and worthy of a spot on the team regardless.
FLEX: Cameron Jordan (NO)
Barrett has just been straight up awesome since landing in Tampa. He racked up 77 pressures last season, per PFF, leading all edge rushers. He's heading into his age-29 season and playing on a loaded defensive front. Burns is a breakout star waiting to happen. He hasn't had the huge sacks season yet, but it's coming. He had 57 pressures last season and dramatically slashed his missed tackle rate, which was an area of relative struggle for him as a rookie. His athleticism and instincts will serve him well over the next several years as he anchors Carolina's defensive rebuild.
Vea was on his way to a monster season when he broke his ankle in Week 5. He came back and played quite well during the playoff run, even if he was not at the peak of his powers. Still, he should pick up right where he left off now that he's back at full strength. A lot of the talent on the defensive side of the ball has left the Falcons roster over the last several years, but Jarrett is still there making trouble in the middle of the defensive line. Dean Pees coming in as defensive coordinator should be great for him, too. Jordan is such a versatile edge player for the Saints, capable of stopping the run and getting after the quarterback with equal proficiency. He can move inside on early or late downs, and he can still turn the corner. That's a very valuable piece for a defense.
Corner is thinner in this division than you might think it is. The Bucs' secondary played really well down the stretch of the Super Bowl run, but was VERY up and down for much of the year. It's tough to know how much stock to put in a hot stretch. The Saints have seen their depth sapped by cap issues. Carolina has seen a lot of turnover. The Falcons... do not have much talent to speak of at the position. In the end, we went with the two guys we thought played best last year (Davis and Jackson) and the guy who has demonstrated the highest ceiling (Lattimore). It's a toss-up.
Williams is a very good center-field coverage player and improving tackler coming downhill. The former skill is more valuable and what we care about here. Winfield had a very good rookie season and despite his size has the look of a future star at the position. Teams should take note of what he did (like Tyrann Mathieu before him) and not put quite as much emphasis on needing to be a certain size to play this type of role.
K: Younghoe Koo (ATL)
P: Joseph Charlton (CAR)
RET: Cordarrelle Patterson (ATL)
I won't lie, I deferred to our resident expert, John Breech, when it came to the kickers and punters. He told me that Koo was the best kicker and Charlton the best punter in this division, and I believe him. Patterson is the best active return man in the NFL.