Power Ranking the 5 Best NFC South Players of the 2010s
The NFC South division was home to some of the most iconic players of the 2010s. Here, the five best players from this division are power ranked, considering what they accomplished between the years of 2010-2019. The division showcased all-time great talents from the quarterback position to the linebacker spot.
Throughout the 2010s, the four member club induced two league MVPs, four conference championship game appearances and two Super Bowl berths.
Even though the division did not win the Lombardi trophy in either of the two championship outings, it conveys the level of talent the division possessed within the decade.
5. Julio Jones (2011-2020)
Julio Jones was selected sixth overall in the 2011 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons. After being a standout receiver at Alabama, Jones established himself as one of the leagues best receivers.
Jones, who measured in at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, used his size and strength to become one of the premier wideouts throughout the decade. In/out routes is what Jones thrived on the most. Jones’ physical attributes gave him the advantage to come off presses easily and the quickness to get separation from defensive backs.
In 2016, Jones posted the highest yards per reception rate in the league at 17.0 with at least 80 catches.
In his tenure playing alongside quarterback Matt Ryan, Jones is a two-time first team All-Pro (’15-’16), three-time second team All-Pro (’17’-’19), and a two-time receiving yards leader (’15,’18). Jones and Ryan accumulated 12,744 yards and 61 touchdowns in 134 games, becoming one of the most productive quarterback-receiver duos in NFL history.
4. Luke Kuechly (2012-2019)
Luke Kuechly is a perfect example of quality rather than quantity. Kuechly was drafted ninth overall in the 2012 draft by the Carolina Panthers. Despite playing only eight seasons for Carolina, Kuechly made an instant impact when he stepped foot on NFL turf.
In his rookie season, Keuchly led the league in tackles and earned the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. In the following year, Kuechly won NFL Defensive Player of the Year and became the youngest player to win the award at just 22-years-old.
Keuchly earned five first-team All-Pro selections (’13-’15, and ’17,’18). Keuchly was an anchor on defense to help Carolina reach Super Bowl 50, ranking sixth overall defensively that year.
The 7-time pro bowler co-holds the record for the most combined tackles in a single game (24) in a regular season matchup against the Saints in 2013.
The former all-pro linebacker retired after the 2019 season at age 28 due to suffering numerous concussions over the course of his career.
3. Cam Newton (2011-2019)
Cam Newton was drafted first overall in the 2011 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. He went to school at Auburn where he won the Heisman trophy and led the Tigers to a national championship victory in 2010.
Throughout his tenure in Charlotte, Newton led the Panthers to three division titles (’13-’15) and an NFC conference championship victory in 2015, which prompted a Super Bowl 50 appearance.
In the 2015 season, Newton won the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards. Newton passed for 38 touchdowns and rushed for 10 touchdowns in that season.
Newton is one of four African-American quarterbacks to win the MVP award in league history.
The former number one overall pick holds numerous NFL records which includes having the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history with 75, and the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season with 14.
2. Matt Ryan (2008-2021)
Ryan was selected third overall in the 2008 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
Similar to Kuechly, Ryan made a quick impact playing for the dirty birds of Atlanta. In Ryan’s rookie season, he won Offensive Rookie of the Year (’08) and led the Falcons to the playoffs with an 11-5 record.
He led the Falcons to three division titles (’10, ’12, ’16), two conference championship game appearances (’12,’16) and a Super Bowl 51 berth. Ryan won the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards in 2016.
1. Drew Brees (2006-2021)
Drew Brees came to New Orleans in 2006 after spending the previous five seasons with the San Diego Chargers (now known as the Los Angeles Chargers). Despite suffering from a career-threatening shoulder injury, Brees changed the culture in the “Big Easy”.
Despite not winning an MVP or making a Super Bowl appearance in the 2010s, Brees had prolific passing seasons during the decade.
Throughout the decade, Brees led the league in passing yards five times (’11-’12, ’14-’16), and led the league in completion percentage five times (’10-’11,’17,-’19). Brees threw for 5,000-plus yards four times in the decade, more than his counterparts such as Tom Brady (1), Peyton Manning (1), Aaron Rodgers (0), Matt Ryan (0) and Cam Newton (0).
Brees led the Saints to five division titles (’11,’17-’20), the most in the decade among the division. The 2011 Offensive Player of the Year guided the Saints to seven playoff berths, the most within the division in the 2010s.
Brees accumulated the most touchdown passes in a single season within the decade compared to his division rivals. Brees threw 46 touchdowns in the 2011 season. Cam Newton threw for 35 touchdowns in his 2015 MVP season, and Matt Ryan tossed for 38 touchdowns in his 2016 MVP campaign.
Each player on this list will be in Canton, Ohio with a shrine in their honor. The division has been lowly the past two seasons. Fortunately, there are a crop of solid talent that will carry the division into the ’20’s decade.