By: Dillon Frazier (@dillonfrazier98)
Final Edit: (@Zachhernan)
The NFC South has been a powerhouse of a division recently in the NFL. Don’t believe me? Look at 2015-16; the Carolina Panthers participated in Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos. Not to mention giving the ’72 Dolphins a scare while going 15-1 in the regular season, taking a loss from none other than the Atlanta Falcons.
Speaking of the Falcons, they were participants in the 2016-17 Super Bowl and had it locked in until an awful choke led to the Patriots making an incredible comeback to win. Not to mention the rising team of the NFC South, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who did a lot to bolster their offense this offseason. Last season they were two wins away from the same record Atlanta had to win the division. This is including big wins against the Falcons, Raiders, Chiefs and Seahawks. Finally, the team that many don’t see as much of a threat, the New Orleans Saints. Be careful overlooking them this year with Drew Brees, who has brought the Saints to be in the top three in the NFL in passing yards for the past six years straight as well as being first in total yards last year. Also they’ve recently added the 2015 rushing-leader in Adrian Peterson.
The guys of 49ersHive decided that we enjoyed the “Choose Your Own Destiny” series so much that we would carry over into a new division – the NFC South. We first decided to select from the offenses of the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here are the choices:
Zach Hernandez: Matt Ryan
Having the title of 2016 NFL MVP makes Matt Ryan an easy candidate here. He is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league and helped to bring the Falcons oh-so-close to their first Super Bowl title. Bring that talent to the Bay to give them the skill at the position that they have been desperately craving for a while now. Not to mention we have all already seen how well Matty Ice works with Kyle Shanahan, the duo torched defenses all over the league and could have done the same in San Francisco. Atlanta was third in passing yards last year and easily could make an immediate impact for the 49ers looking to reignite their offense.
Chris Sanchez: Julio Jones
Since we just finished talking about the MVP we look to his number one target, Julio Jones. With 1,409 receiving yards Julio was second in the league. Second to the Colt’s T.Y. Hilton by only 39 yards. But Atlanta was also fifth in rushing yards on the season while Indianapolis sat at twenty-third. Julio had a lot of players around him to share that workload of being third in NFL offense and yet he still proceeded to torch corners week in and week out. Especially in week twelve vs. the Carolina Panthers where Jones put up an astounding 300 yards. In the entire 2016 campaign, 49ers leading receiver, Jeremy Kerley, barely doubled that with 667 yards. The 49ers definitely gained some serious upgrades at WR but none of those could rival the talent and dominance Julio Jones would bring to San Francisco.
Stefan Krüger: Mike Evans
Speaking of elite wide receivers in the NFL, there is another one in the division that shouldn’t go unnoticed. The most targeted player in the 2016 season also resides in the NFC South. Jameis Winston and Mike Evans have had quite the connection since they came together on the Bucs. Evans has put up over 1,000 receiving yards all three season in the NFL including one where Josh McCown was throwing to him. Not to mention he has improved his stats every season so far showing he should do nothing but grow to be one of the best in the NFL. Let’s not forget that with the new regime one of the first signees was Pierre Garcon who was brought in specifically for the targeting potential that he showed in his time with Kyle in Washington and Mike Evans has proven he can be an incredible target. In a rebuilding offense Mike Evans brings it all to the table; proven talent, young age, experience, and even more potential. He helped to bring Tampa from the worst team in the NFL to a legitimate contender once again.
Stewart Mathurin: Jameis Winston
You can’t talk about Tampa Bay’s successful turnaround story without the center-piece of it all. First overall pick of the 2015 draft, Jameis Winston. Fans all over were not exactly in agreement on whether Winston could be the guy for Tampa Bay but yet he definitely proved his doubters wrong. While I was one of the ones who doubted Winston I liked him over Mariota but then they both came out to be extremely successful quarterbacks leading two teams that will surprise everyone this year. In his two years in the league he has passed for over 4,000 yards in both. To put it in perspective, Drew Brees who is on a team with virtually nothing but a QB and some receivers that passes 63% of the time (not to discredit one of the best QB’s in the NFL) threw for 5,208 compared to Winston’s 4,090 on a team with Doug Martin that passed on only 57% of plays. While that 6% doesn’t seem like a lot, in the NFL it is a big difference. Winston is on pace to be one of the dominant passers in the NFL and just like Evans brings a lot of young, talented potential to the bay.
Dillon Frazier: Greg Olsen
Finally, for my choice I wanted to bring in a player that would excel at a position I thought we needed it the most. There was a great time in which we had both Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis together and the tight end position was doing great, but that time is not now. With sub-par tight end Vance McDonald all but shown the door as well as Blake Bell and Garrett Celek not far behind him, the tight end position is looking at all fresh faces in 2017 and after last season there’s no reason for anything different. The starting corps include Logan Paulsen as well as rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini. That is a bright crew for the future but a foundation is always good to make sure the young players start off on the right foot. What better foundation than the only tight end in NFL history to have three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Greg Olsen has without a doubt been the key to offensive success in Carolina and was a huge contributor in their near perfect season. Greg has been a playmaker everywhere he goes and that is something the 49ers could no doubt use.
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