No division in the NFL is more loaded at quarterback right now than the NFC South.
Matt Ryan was the hottest QB in the league last year, winning the MVP award and leading the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl. He stole that title from Cam Newton, who accomplished those exact same feats for the Carolina Panthers in 2015.
Meanwhile, New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees, who turned 38 in January, is a future Hall of Famer who just led the NFL in passing yards for the third straight season. And Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston is one of the league’s best young quarterbacks, just entering his prime at age 23.
So here’s the question I posed to the rest of ESPN’s NFC South reporters: If you were building a team from scratch and you had to pick one of them for THIS YEAR only, which QB are you signing to a one-year deal to give you the best chance at winning in 2017?
David Newton, Panthers reporter: This is a trick question, right? You’re thinking there is an answer other than Brees? As was mentioned, Brees is headed to the Hall of Fame. He has been the most consistent among Newton, Ryan and Winston and has shown no sign of slowing up. Had the Saints had a defense the past three seasons, they would have been Super Bowl contenders because of Brees. My answer would be the same if you said this was a three-year deal. The other three have been too inconsistent. Ryan was horrible two years ago before having an MVP season last year. Newton was horrible last year after an MVP season. Winston hasn’t gotten the Bucs to the playoffs yet, and his touchdown to interception ratio isn’t very good. Brees has a passer rating of more than 100.0 in four of the past six seasons. In the two years he didn’t, he was close at 96.3 and 97. Newton hasn’t topped 100.0 in six seasons and has a career average of 86.1. Again, this feels like a trick question since the answer is so obvious.
Vaughn McClure, Falcons reporter: With all due respect to 38-year-old Brees, I want a durable, slightly younger guy with plenty of game experience. Winston, at 23, still has a lot of maturing to do. I’m going to say 32-year-old Matt Ryan -- who hasn’t missed a game the past seven seasons --
is the ideal guy for such a scenario. Ryan, who has seen every defensive look imaginable, is playing his best football ever and coming off an MVP season. I’d want an accurate passer, and Ryan has completed 64.9 of his career passes compared to a guy like Newton, who has completed just 58.4 percent in his career and posted a career-low 52.9 percent last season. Ryan has mastered the quick game and can rival Brees in that category. Plus, Ryan has become much better with his deep ball, with 10 completions and five touchdowns on balls thrown 30-plus yards last season. A couple of years ago, I would have gone with Newton just because of his overall combination of skills and powerful build. But right now, Ryan is the guy.
Jenna Laine, Buccaneers reporter: I have to go with the current NFL MVP in Ryan because of his ability to function in multiple offenses and because he has all the tools to carry a team on his back. The fourth-quarter comebacks don’t hurt either. Brees was certainly given strong consideration, but I give Ryan the slight edge, even though I am more enthralled with Brees’ total body of work over the course of his career. Newton had such a down year last season that I really don’t know what I’m getting from him. Winston has been impressive his first two seasons, but unless I have the Bucs’ 2002 defense or the Ravens’ defense from 2000, 20 points isn’t going to win many games.