Where Saints Drew Brees Ranks vs. Falcons Matt Ryan and Others in NFC South


May 30, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) leaves the field following organized team activities at the Saints training facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Who is the best quarterback in the NFC South? Is it the Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan? Or is it Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints? What about Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

It’s safe to say the NFC South has one of the most interesting lists of names at the position in the NFL today. Brees has broken records, Ryan continues to improve and both Freeman and Newton have the potential to be something special.

Let’s take a look at how we would rank the crop of NFC South quarterbacks.

1. Drew Brees

May 23, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during organized team activities at the Saints training facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Were you expecting anyone else? Brees is a guy on his way to the Hall-of-Fame, has won a Super Bowl and shattered countless records. He’s a major reason as to why the NFL has transitioned to more of a passing league thanks to the exceptional numbers he puts up each season.

Brees is the definition of a franchise player, whether it’s character, locker room presence or play on the field. There’s no point in rehashing his well-known stats, but it’s safe to say Brees is a player on his way to Canton. As far as the 2013 season goes, there is no reason to believe his play will take a dip.

Brees is the best quarterback in the NFC South, at least for now.

2. Matt Ryan

May 29, 2013; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during organized team activities at the Falcons Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Nipping at the heels of Brees is Ryan, who has continued to improve over the course of his five seasons with the Falcons. He’s not playing at an MVP level yet and continues to struggle in the playoffs, but it’s safe to say if the trend continues he’s well on his way to being one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

Last year along, Ryan threw for over 4,700 yards with a 32-14 touchdown to interception ratio. Ryan certainly benefits from playing with the likes of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez, but his game is a product of his outstanding skill set more than anything.

When Brees calls it quits, Ryan will inherit the mantle as the best quarterback in the NFC South. That is, unless one of the following guys can take major strides in development over the next few years.

3. Cam Newton

May 30, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throws a pass at the practice held at the Carolina Panthers practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

We’re going to take some heat for this one.

Just hear us out. Right now if you were to pick a starting quarterback to roll with for the next two or three seasons, you would be insane to not take Newton over Freeman. Newton is a dual-threat quarterback with untapped potential who could develop into one of the NFL’s best. We’re not sure if we can say the same about Freeman after four years.

Newton had a slump last year but still put up over 3,800 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air. He added another 741 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Newton also had a higher completion percentage (57.7) than Freeman (54.8).

That was in a slump. We’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg with Newton, and as the franchise (potentially) continues to improve, so should he. If there’s a darkhorse to become the best quarterback in the NFC South, it’s Cam Newton.

4. Josh Freeman

December 23, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) calls a play against the St. Louis Rams during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. St. Louis Rams defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Someone has to be the odd man out in a division absolutely stacked with quarterback talent. That man would be Freeman in Tampa Bay.

Freeman actually had the best year of his career last season as he threw for over 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Yet, the front office thought it wise to add a promising rookie quarterback in the third round of this year’s draft with Mike Glennon.

There may be a reason for that.

Freeman is in a contract year and has more than enough weapons to take the Bucs places. Whether he does or not could decide whether he is higher up on this list next season, not to mention whether he is even playing in the NFC South.

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