Over the next few weeks, Brandon Croce will be ranking the NFC South by position. The team with the best position group, based on their starters as well as their depth, will receive four points all the way down to one point. The points will be totaled up to determine who has the best team heading into 2015.
Starter: Greg Olsen
The Panthers have both star power and depth at the tight end position. Greg Olsen is one of the best in the game today and has gotten better each season as a Panther. Last year he earned his first Pro Bowl appearance thanks to 84 receptions, 1,008 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
The team was able to keep their depth after Olsen by re-signing Ed Dickson this offseason. The former Baltimore Raven was fairly quiet for most of the season but started to become more involved in the offense towards the end of the season. It would not be a surprise to see the Panthers use more two tight end sets in 2015 with the caliber of talent they have at tight end.
Starter: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a player who is on the rise and one who has a lot of potential. The Bucs drafted the tight end out of Washington in the second round last year and he finished his rookie season with 21 receptions, 221 yards and two touchdowns. He is a player who could become a favorite target for Jameis Winston in 2015.
After Seferian-Jenkins, the Bucs have excellent depth with veteran Brandon Myers, who played for the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants prior to joining the Bucs in 2014. He is certainly capable of putting up huge numbers with 79 receptions and 806 receiving yards in 2012. He is a player who could push Seferian-Jenkins for playing time.
The Bucs also brought back Tim Wright, who was traded to the New England Patriots last year for Logan Mankins. This team has a number of quality players but none on the level of Olsen and that is why they finish second in the division.
Starter: Jacob Tamme
The Falcons have struggled to find a consistent tight end threat since Tony Gonzalez retirement and they hope that Jacob Tamme can be that guy. He has had two seasons with 50+ receptions and 550+ receiving yards but both seasons were with Peyton Manning as his quarterback.
After Tamme, the Falcons have Tony Moeaki who has struggled to stay healthy after a breakout rookie season of 47 receptions, 556 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 2010. Since that season he has a total of 41 receptions, 587 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 21 games. At this point it would be hard to rely on him until he can prove to be healthy over an extended period of time.
The x-factor in this group is Levine Toilolo, who they drafted in the fourth round in 2013. The hope was that he would be able to take over for Tony Gonzalez when he retired but he isn’t quite there yet. He did improve in 2014 but having a player like Tamme on the roster could help take pressure off Toilolo and give him some more time to develop.
Starter: Benjamin Watson
At this point last year, the Saints would have been fighting with the Panthers for the top spot in the tight end rankings. However with Jimmy Graham being traded to the Seattle Seahawks, this is the worst group in the NFC South.
The team will turn to Benjamin Watson to try and step in for the dynamic Graham but at 34 years of age there has to be a question of how much he has left in the tank. In 11 seasons in the NFL, Watson has caught over 50 passes only once and broke 500 receiving yards only three times.
The one player on the roster who will come the closest to Jimmy Graham is Josh Hill. At 25 years of age, Hill has more athleticism than Watson and could become a favorite target of Drew Brees. Last season he had a total of 14 receptions but five of them were for touchdowns.
|Carolina||Tampa Bay||Atlanta||New Orleans|
Rosters courtesy of Ourlads.com
Brandon Croce is the Lead Publisher for PantherInsider.com. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonCroce.