Over the next few weeks we will be going through the division by position, handing out our rankings to determine which team has the best roster entering the 2016 season. The position groups will be ranked based not only on the starter but the depth behind them from first to fourth with the best team receiving four points. These point totals will then be added up to determine who has the best team this season.
1. Carolina Panthers (4 Points)
The Panthers lost one of their starting safeties from last year, Roman Harper, however his replacement Tre Boston is good enough to keep them in the top spot alongside the best safety in the division, Kurt Coleman.
Coleman, in his first season with the Panthers, had an exceptional season last year. He finished tied for second in the NFL in interceptions with 7 and fell three tackles short of a career-high in tackles with 90. This was his first season re-uniting with defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and he once again excelled in this defensive scheme. There is no reason not to think he will have another strong season in 2016.
Tre Boston is expected to be the other starting safety after losing the starting job last offseason to Coleman. The third-year safety started the second half of his rookie season in 2014 and exceeded expectations. Now that he has had a year to develop, this should be a breakout year for him.
2. New Orleans Saints (3 Points)
The Saints have the bigger names at the safety position, however this hasn't always equaled great results. Kenny Vaccaro is a former first round pick who appears to have finally put it all together with over 100 tackles and playing in all 16 games for the first time in his three-year career. If he can replicate that performance, it will be a major boost for this defense.
The other starter for this team is expected to be Jairus Byrd but he has dealt with injuries since joining the Saints and has yet to play in a full 16 games. The biggest disappointment though may be the fact that in five seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Byrd had 22 interceptions but has just one in two seasons with New Orleans.
The Saints though have probably the best depth with veteran Roman Harper, who played well for the Panthers last year although he isn't the same dominant player he was during his first run with the Saints. They also added rookie Vonn Bell, who has great potential in this league and could step into the starting lineup as a rookie if need be.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2 Points)
Chris Conte had one of his best seasons of his career in the first year with the Bucs, finishing with 79 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. He is expected to start alongside Bradley McDougald, who has improved every season in the league and missing only one game the past two years. Neither player really stands out but are more than capable of being starters in this league.
After these two though there are some question marks at the position and Major Wright has been a disappointment since joining the Bucs before the 2014 season.
4. Atlanta Falcons (1 Point)
The Falcons have probably the most long-term potential at safety with Ricardo Allen and using the 16th overall pick on Keanu Neal. The former Florida Gator has incredible talent and should develop into a star at the safety position.
Allen is another player who gives this defense some hope as he has improved over the seasons and the hope is that he can make a bigger leap in his second season in Dan Quinn's defense.
However, while they have potential, I don't believe that will be reached this season and that is why they were ranked where they are.
|Team||Defensive Line||Middle Linebacker||Outside Linebacker||Cornerbacks||Safety||Total|
|New Orleans Saints||3||3||4||2||3||15|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2||2||2||3||2||11|
*Depth charts courtesy of Ourlads.com