We are now entering division three of eight! This is fun. I hope you have liked/agreed with my picks so far. If not, leave me a comment! I’d love to talk with you. Okay, let’s get to the NFC South.
Player — DT Grady Jarrett, 3rd season, age 24
If I asked Tom Brady who his breakout candidate for the Falcons would be, I think he would have the same pick as me.
For the first time in his career, Jarrett made some noise on the biggest stage the NFL has to offer when he sacked Brady three times in the Super Bowl.
That feeling when you sack Tom Brady 3 times in the Super Bowl pic.twitter.com/QcsY1nyxtp
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) February 6, 2017
The three sacks tied the record for most sacks in the Super Bowl and made Jarrett just the second player to sack Brady three times in one game. Heck, if the Falcons would’ve won, Jarrett would have been mentioned for Super Bowl MVP. Oh well, I’ll save the super bowl jokes.
Jarrett is entering year three and isn’t waiting until the season to show he’s ready to build off his Super Bowl performance. Falcons Coach Dan Quinn said Jarrett has “jumped out” to the coaching staff after week one of OTAs earlier this month.
When Jarrett “jumps out” of the gate and puts up numbers in 2017, Brady and I won’t say, “we told you so.” Well, I might.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Player — DE Noah Spence, 2nd season, age 23
This one is easy. Spence put up good numbers in his rookie campaign, logging 5.5 sacks and 16 tackles. What stands out to me is his heart. Spence suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder last October. He didn’t have surgery to repair it until AFTER the season. Oh yeah, he also dislocated his right shoulder in October and again in week 17 and played through the pain. The dude is tough and puts his team first.
Hard work pays off. Spence is entering ’17 healthy and noticeably leaner, going from 15-16% to 9-10% body fat.
When you’re healthy, the sky is the limit. Just ask teammate Robert Ayers his thoughts on a healthy Spence.
Robert Ayers says he thinks Noah Spence can be a 15-sack player in his 2nd NFL season. “I’m excited for him. It’s going to be a big year.”
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) May 10, 2017
Expect big things from Spence in his first healthy season.
Player — CB James Bradberry, 2nd season, age 23
Being a rookie in the NFL is no easy task. Bradberry learned this the hard way when he joined a team that lost their star cornerback in Josh Norman. He was thrown into the fire immediately and stacked up against other team’s top receivers. How did he do? Pretty well.
Pro Football Focus ranked him #20 on their CB list of 2016, the highest of any rookie corner in the league. In 13 games, he finished with two interceptions. Check out the clip and watch his second pick, it’s a beauty.
— Panthers Source (@PanthersSource) June 6, 2017
Now, Bradberry suffered a broken wrist in OTAs but is expected to be 100% for the season. The funny thing is he’s still playing with a cast on his wrist, going up against the Panthers top receivers and breaking up throws. The guy is a fighter, anyone who knows him knows that much.
If Bradberry can enter ’17 healthy, opposing quarterbacks will have a hard time connecting with their top guys.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Player — CB Delvin Breaux, 3rd season, age 27
Wow, I picked all defensive players for this division. Defense wins championships, right? Anyways….
If ’17 isn’t the year Breaux breaks out, fans may write him off for good. As a rookie, Breaux had the makings for a stud CB. Year two, he suffered a broken fibula in week one and was never the same that year as he finished with just one interception and 18 tackles.
Saints fans are ready to see a healthy Breaux, and they could be in for a treat this season.
Delvin Breaux said he’s feeling 200% healthy. We’ve got the Saints Cornerback on Fox 8 News at 4 and 5.
— juan kincaid (@juangkincaid) May 24, 2017
In an interview with NOLA.com, Breaux claimed to be feeling pretty good about himself.
“My confidence level is at an all-time high. I’ve worked my behind off this offseason just to know that it’s time to be that Pro Bowl or All-Pro type guy.”
The Saints are desperate for Breaux to prove himself this year. They finished 27th in team total defense last year, giving up 375.4 yards per game and 454 total points. The Browns gave up two fewer points than the Saints…yeah, it was bad.
Expect a big year from Breaux if he can stay on the field.
Next stop: AFC South.