Power Ranking the Starting Quarterbacks in the NFC South
The quarterback position is arguably the most important aspect of an NFL team. It’s why the quarterback is almost always the highest-paid player on the team.
In the 2023 season, the NFC South division will see four new quarterbacks take the field and launch their respective teams into new eras. In this write-up, the starting quarterbacks of the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons are assessed and ranked.
4. Bryce Young (Carolina Panthers)
Bryce Young was selected number one overall in the 2023 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers.
Young, who spent three seasons as the Alabama Crimson Tide’s quarterback (started two seasons), led the Crimson Tide to an SEC championship victory (2021), a National Championship game appearance (2021) and won the Heisman Trophy (2021).
The former Heisman trophy winner is stepping into a franchise that has not been to the postseason since 2017, when former 2011 number one overall pick Cam Newton was under center.
Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich is the lead man in Charlotte, as he looks for a fresh start after an underwhelming five seasons in Indianapolis (’18-’22).
Reich and the Panthers are high on Young despite his under-sized frame at 5-foot-10 and 194 pounds. But his stature did not stop him from becoming the only Alabama quarterback in school history to win the Heisman trophy in 2021 while garnering 4,872 passing yards along with 47 touchdowns.
Young is known for his calm, cool and collected demeanor in the pocket while under pressure. The former Alabama quarterback showed those attributes in games against Texas (2022), Auburn (2021) and Ole Miss (2022).
Young’s upside and ceiling are inarguably higher than any other quarterback in the NFC South currently, but as he approaches his first year in Carolina, his growth should be prioritized.
Young has yet to play an NFL game, thus, he sits in the fourth spot.
3. Desmond Ridder (Atlanta Falcons)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder has a four-game sample size of NFL experience. Ridder started the final four games of the 2022 regular season after taking over from former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota in week 15.
Ridder posted an 86.4 passer rating, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions across the four games.
The former Cincinnati Bearcat led the Falcons to a 2-2 record in his starts and earned a PFF grade of 76.7, which placed him in the top ten among quarterbacks in the last two weeks of the 2022 season.
Ridder will have wideout Drake London and the returning pro-bowl tight-end Kyle Pitts as targets on offense.
The 2023 season will be Ridder’s first full season as a starter, as Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and the Falcons have high hopes for their new franchise quarterback.
Ridder slides into the third spot due to his solid play to end the 2022 season.
2.. Baker Mayfield (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Baker Mayfield is another former number-one overall pick in the NFC South. Mayfield was drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Browns back in the 2018 NFL draft out of Oklahoma.
Mayfield has led a team to the postseason and won a road playoff game, as he piloted the Browns to a playoff victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2020 postseason.
This season is likely Mayfield’s last opportunity to prove he can be a starter in the NFL, as he is currently on his fourth team in three years (Browns ‘18-‘21, Panthers ‘22, Rams ‘22 and Buccaneers ‘23-present).
Mayfield will have four-time pro-bowl wideout Mike Evans, former second-team all-pro wideout Chris Godwin and a returning, healthy Russell Gage in the slot.
Mayfield is at the two spot because of experience and flashes of being a pro-bowl-caliber quarterback at certain points in his career thus far. 1. Derek Carr (New Orleans Saints)
Former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is at the helm in New Orleans, as he signed a four-year $150 million contract in the off-season.
Carr spent nine seasons with the Raiders (‘14-‘22) and led them to the postseason in 2021. Carr went on a four-year stretch (‘18-‘21) averaging a completion percentage of 68.7.
The former Raider comes to New Orleans a year after the Saints went back and forth between current Saints backup Jameis Winston and current Carolina Panthers quarterback Andy Dalton. New Orleans has been looking for a suitable replacement for former Saints quarterback Drew Brees since he retired after the 2020 postseason.
Carr is placed in the one spot due to his consistency(compared to the other quarterbacks in the division) and his maturity as a quarterback.