Kings of the South!
In 2017, the NFC South division proved to be the toughest division in the NFL and arguably the most talented as well. A simple review of each position will reveal at least one to two players from the South who could be considered a top three player in the league at their natural position. After careful consideration and debate, with assistance from members of the NFC South Invasion Facebook group’s admin team, Tee Word and Shon Scott have compiled the Ultimate roster of NFC South talent. While some teams are better represented than others, the rosters have taken into account several factors, including balance of power. Today we’ll present the offensive selections including kick returners and kickers, followed by the defensive roster which will include punt returners and punters. The selections also include a brief reasoning for each selection and we of course well debate and input from the readers, so don’t pull any punches!
Without further delay, let’s start in the trenches with our NFC South all-star offensive line and tight ends:
Left Tackle: Terron Armstead, Saints – Armstead has just completed his fifth NFL season and when he’s healthy, it is evident that he is a world-class talent. Terron is a gifted pass blocker who is efficient while run blocking. He truly shines when he’s asked to get out on the edge and block in the open-field, specifically on screens and sweeps. This roster would not be complete without Armstead.
Left Guard: Andrew Norwell, Panthers – Norwell is a road-grater, simple and plain. An offense can saddle up and run behind him with success all day long. Paired with Armstead on the left side of the offensive line, an opposing defensive line would struggle to generate pressure rushing the passer or penetrating to stop the run. Norwell, identified for his run game expertise has revealed equal ability in pass blocking and graded at 85.6 by Pro Football Focus.
Center: Alex Mack, Falcons – Mack has proven to be versatile in both run and pass blocking, something our team of writers determined was necessary to field an offense that would be balanced across the board. It was evident during the 2017 season that Mack has bounced back from previous injury and can battle with the best interior defensive linemen in football. Protecting the middle of the pocket on pass plays lends to Mack’s strongest qualities.
Right Guard: Trai Turner, Panthers – Turner pairs with his Panther line-mate at guard on the our Ultimate team roster. Trai isn’t flashy or a guy who jumps off the screen during gameplay, but is consistent and as blue-collar as they come. Better suited to drive block and open running lanes, Turner is very capable of protecting the passer with efficiency.
Right Tackle: Daryl Williams, Panthers – Williams was as solid as they come in 2017. In 500 snaps, Daryl only allowed 3 sacks of the quarterback. Williams strong suit is pass-blocking and that ability will be utilized to the fullest in our Ultimate offense. Even elite pass-rushers will find a tough out against this stout edge protector.
Swing Tackle: Ryan Ramcyck, Saints – The least experienced member of the offensive line has some of the greatest potential. The 1st year tackle was thrust into a starting role and lived up to his first round draft status. Ramcyck seals the edge with aggression and has no qualms about getting his hands dirty on inside runs. Ryan is also capable of providing quality pass protection and can substitute at either tackle position if necessary.
Tight End: Greg Olsen, Panthers – Olsen is a bit long in the tooth but his value remains high. Though he’s not the best blocker in the division, he is definitely the best receiving threat at tight end. No matter which QB is tossing the football his way, Olsen is a deadly over the middle option and though not the fastest, he can put stress on the top end of most defenses. Somehow he just seems to beat a safety or linebacker (or both) and gets open for a 30 yard gain, extending drives for the offense.
Tight End: Cameron Brate, Bucs – Cameron is exactly what this Ultimate offense needs to remain balanced and competitive. He is capable as a run blocker, especially near the goal-line. A surprisingly effective pass-catcher, Brate creates and instant match-up nightmare when he and Olsen are paired in a two tight end set. It is a well kept secret that at one point during the 2016 season, Brate led all tight ends in TD catches and yards. He is a welcome addition to the Ultimate South line-up.
The skill positions are set!
What promises to be the most exciting offense in football, our team has gathered skill position players who will fit every need an Ultimate team would have. Comprised of power runners, sleek and shifty backs, world-class passers, and nearly unstoppable pass-catchers, the NFC South Ultimate team is ready to take the field and dominate. The icing on the cake is the play-calling expertise of Payton and Carmichael, who are sure to maximize each possession and keep the defense off balance all game long.
Quarterback: Drew Brees, Saints – Insert duh here. Who could possibly pass on a guy with five 5,000 yards passing seasons under his belt? Brees is one of the most accurate QBs, not just in his era, but in NFL history. The Ultimate offense will be best served by a field general who knows how to lead and carve up defenses. As Drew demonstrated in 2017, given a stout run game, he can conjure up 300+ passing yard, 3 TD performances when needed. At the tender age of 39, Brees is coming off a career-best completion percentage of 72.0, sure makes it hard to entertain too much talk of a decline.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan, Falcons – One of the two most prolific passers in the South, Ryan is a more than capable #2 to Brees. Matt has the physical ability to win a shootout and paired with Payton and Carmicheal, he’ll have the freedom to check into favorable mismatches for the offense. Ryan didn’t rapidly achieve 40,000 passing yards on the back of Julio Jones, he truly earned every yard with great touch on the deep ball and precision in the short game.
Wide Receiver: Julio Jones, Falcons – The alien we have come to identify as Julio has just become the first WR in NFL history to record three 250 plus yard performances. What do you need in a wide-out that Jones doesn’t offer plentifully? Sprinter like speed combined with an imposing physical stature that will actually block? Definitely an alien.
Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas, Saints – We are watching the unfolding of greatness in a second year player, pay attention. After somehow falling to the 47th pick of the 2016 draft, all Thomas did was come in and set a record for most catches for any player through his first two years in the league. Big and physical with vice grip hands, perfect for clutch situations.
Wide Receiver: Mike Evans, Bucs – The perfect way to round out an All-Star receiving corps is yet another big body with breakaway speed. If you can’t guard Mike Thomas, you won’t fare any better against the mismatch nightmare that is Mike Evans. After recording at least 1,000 yards in each of first four seasons in the league, 6’5 Evans demands the attention of your defense every single time he’s with catch radius of a football.
Running Back: Devonta Freeman, Falcons – Have you seen this guy? What looked like a sure tackle for little to no gain ends up going for 30 or more yards because Free snatched an impossible angle from your defense. Sharing the load seems to keep him with a fresh set of legs throughout any contest. Nifty and nimble, may run past you or over you in route to a score.
Running Back: Alvin Kamara, Saints – If you aren’t a Saints fan but your team had the misfortune of facing the Offensive Rookie of the Year, you’re wondering why your team didn’t get him. This rookie belongs on this list because he earned almost a thousand yards on the ground despite splitting the role with another runner, then another 800 in the passing game. A spectacular debut worthy of those trademark airheads he loves so much.
Running Back: Mark Ingram, Saints – Rhythm is here, its only logic for Bruise to carve out his spot as well. It’s unheard of for two backs to earn 1500 yards while sharing the responsibility but Ingram’s 1,124 on the ground coupled with 416 receiving yards made for a record setting fete. The punishing grind it out running style of Ingram is often that last nail in the coffin to close out a game.