Wake-Up Call: Players Who NEED to Play Well in the NFC South

Every team has their star players who are expected to put up numbers on a weekly basis and contribute to the success of their team. However, a handful of superstars does not make a full team. In order for a team to be successful, the non-super star players need to contribute. Looking forward to the 2017 NFL season, here are the players from each NFC South team that need to contribute for their team to be successful:

Atlanta Falcons – Austin Hooper (TE)


The reigning NFC Champs have a solid roster currently. Their offense is explosive. Their defense is relentless. Their special teams players are also solid. There really isn’t any position on this team that needs someone to step up that hasn’t already – except perhaps at tight end. Hooper is a young tight end who had a mediocre season last year but has plenty of potential. If he can bring his game up a level this coming season, quarterback Matt Ryan should see his completion percentage increase a little while throwing to his tight end for a few yards. On the other hand, if Hooper continues to be mediocre, the Falcons offense will be forced to rely on their receivers and running backs to sustain their excellent passing offense – which is still manageable, just not the most ideal situation.

Carolina Panthers – Matt Kalil (OT)


Matt Kalil leaves behind his disastrous career with the Minnesota Vikings to join his brother Ryan as the first brothers to play on the same offensive line since the New Orleans Saints had Joel and Jay Hilgenberg 24 years ago. Matt was a nightmare for Minnesota Vikings fans, he allowed his quarterback to be terrorized by pass-rushers since his rookie year in 2012. Going into his first season in the NFL, he was supposed to become an elite left tackle. However, that’s not how his career has gone thus far. With Matt signing a contract with the Panthers, this could very well be his last chance to prove he is not a draft bust. If he can play to his potential, he could still become an elite left tackle and help the Panthers return to their 2015 glory. If he fails, the Panthers will need to continue figuring out their offensive line and Matt’s career will likely come to an end.

New Orleans Saints – Willie Snead IV (WR)


It would have also been easy to stick Adrian Peterson in this spot as this could be one of his last chances to prove he can still play in the NFL. However, with the three-headed monster the Saints have at running back (Peterson, Mark Ingram, and Alvin Kamara), it made more sense to look at who will need to step up to replace Brandin Cooks – who was shipped to New England in a trade this past off-season. As a newly-retired fantasy football player, I found myself continuously being disappointed with Snead. He would demonstrate great ability as an NFL wide receiver at times, and then have several weeks of minuscule fantasy scoring. Quarterback Drew Brees is not getting any younger, and for him to continue playing well he will need a guy like Snead to step up and the number two guy to emerging star receiver Michael Thomas. If Snead can become a consistently good receiver, the Saints offense will likely continue to fly high. If he can’t be consistent, opponents will be able to double-team fellow receiver Michael Thomas on every play – thus making the Saints passing attack rather weak.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jeremy McNichols (RB)

Jeremy McNichols, Maurice McKnight

With fellow Buccaneers running back, and Boise State alumnus, Doug Martin struggling with injuries and personal issues leading to a suspension, Tampa Bay will likely want to find a new answer in their backfield if they need to let Martin go. Right now, the backfield is crowded behind Martin. Of all of the options Tampa Bay has at running back, I believe their best option is to go with the rookie out of Boise State, Jeremy McNichols. If he can perform well, Doug Martin becomes a luxury that they can decide to keep or get rid of to save some money. Should McNichols not perform well, the Buccaneers may have to keep Martin and take a shot at another running back in next year’s draft, because the other running backs on their roster are decent but nowhere near good enough to be a starter.


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