When it comes to highlighting top NFL talent, league-wide evaluations are the norm -- meaning some of the better players in each division are often overlooked. With his divisional all-star series, Dave Dameshek will be taking a deeper dive into the NFL's elite, putting together the best squad possible from each division -- including the All-NFC South Team below.
For additional analysis on this topic -- and a whole lot more -- listen to The Dave Dameshek Football Program.
Matt Ryan was terrific for the Falcons in 2014, and Cam Newton led the flawed Panthers to their second straight division title. Brees, though, sneaks onto the first team following another big statistical season (69.2 percent completion rate, 4,952 yards, 33 touchdown passes against 17 picks). Don't get too comfy, though, Drew: Famous Jameis is coming for your throne.
The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner finally showed his first-round pedigree in Year 4, logging 226 carries and nine starts -- both career highs -- in 13 games. But he still failed to reach the 1,000-yard mark, falling short by 36 yards, because of more injury trouble. The Saints are now constructed to be a run-dominant offense. Can Ingram be New Orleans' Terrell Davis?
Ingram's gifted former Alabama teammate ranks comfortably among the top three or four most talented players at his position.
Evans had a splendid pro debut last season, putting up 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns despite catching passes from subpar quarterbacks in Tampa Bay. Now that Evans has Jameis Winston throwing him the ball, look out.
Lots of fireworks made for a nice first go-around for the former 'Nole. Of course, there were also plenty of drops. Surer hands in his sophomore season would lead to a surefire Pro Bowl spot.
While transitioning from the Steve Smith Era to the Kelvin Benjamin Era, Cam could always sooth his soul by looking in the direction of his flaxen tight end.
The Bucs had better hope this 6-foot-9, 315-pound monster out of Southern Miss doesn't resume rebelling for more money. He's already got reason to be unhappy about being shifted out of the left tackle spot -- where he started the last three games of the 2014 season -- to make room for incoming rookie Donovan Smith.
The former Chief should sue the rest of the otherwise soft 2014 Falcons O-line for defamation of character.
Given the Saints' offseason shift toward more rugged personnel, it's as if Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton decided to mold the team around their ferocious defensive star.
Here's hoping this generational talent gets to experience more team success than all-time Bucs great Lee Roy Selmon did while wearing the creamsicles.
He's a 320-pound cinderblock who is also nimble enough to apply pressure on the quarterback. And if the Utah product needs to take a few plays off as a member of our All-NFC South Team, he can just give the snaps to his pal and linemate in Carolina, Kawann Short.
He's averaged 10.5 sacks over the last five seasons and is right in the middle of his prime.
Maybe it's because he toils for the lowly Bucs. Maybe it's because convention says his first name and surname should be flip-flopped. Whatever the reason, Tampa Bay's do-it-all linebacker continues to fly under the radar of casual football fans. Those in the know, though, will tell you he's as good as it gets.
He's the defensive version of Andrew Luck: anointed as an all-timer by Halloween of his rookie season. The striking thing is, he deserves the lofty accolades even more so than Luck.
Knee injuries delayed his rise to stardom, but the former University of Georgia safety's last two seasons have been essential to Carolina's back-to-back division titles. Little wonder the Panthers just gave him a two-year extension.
If someone asks, "Who?" you tell 'em, "The best corner in the division."
There aren't many -- if any -- young DBs whose talent is held in higher regard than the Falcons' 24-year-old corner.
He looked great as a rookie in 2013, until he broke an ankle in Week 16. His miserable 2014 can be written off as the result of multiple injuries.
Yes, Byrd landed on injured reserve with a knee injury in October, but his miserable 2014 can't be written off as the result of injury, as the Saints' big-ticket free-agent signee was dreadful in September. Still, if you can find a more talented safety on the rosters of the division's other three teams, I'm all ears.
No brainer. (Yes, I'm describing whoever thought it was a good idea to let Hester walk away from the Bears last offseason.)
Given the fact that Graham Gano did most of his work in the great outdoors in Carolina, he might deserve this spot. But even though Bryant spent nearly half his season in the Georgia Dome (minus Week 8's "home game" in London), his 90.6 percent success rate in 2014 (including 7 of 10 from 50-plus yards) was too strong to ignore.
His net punting average (42.9 yards) ranked first in the NFC.