Over the past four seasons, the NFC South has sent a team to the conference championship game thrice. The division goes four out of four if not for the Minneapolis Miracle. Simply put, the NFC South is a talented, if not snake-bitten division. Today we take a look at the NFC South rookie class, and decide who will make an immediate impact, and who will miss the mark. Settle in, it’s Feast or Famine time!
NFC South Rookies
Devin White – LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Devin White was phenomenal in college. The Buccaneers hope he is phenomenal in the NFL. Tampa Bay selected the linebacker out of LSU, with the fifth overall selection, in this April’s draft. White averaged 128 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks over his two seasons as a starter.
Some see White as the next Derrick Brooks, for the Tampa Bay defense. While not as lofty of a comparison, White has also been compared to Myles Jack coming out of college. Similar to Jack, White played on the offensive side of the ball in high school. White is a converted running back who has the speed to match up with receivers out of the backfield, but also the power to make plays at the line of scrimmage.
Tampa’s defense is run by defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles. The former Jets head coach, Bowles is fond of aggressiveness and will bring the blitz often. Over the past six seasons, as defensive coordinator in Arizona and head coach with the Jets, Bowles sent five or more rushers at nearly a 40 percent rate. He was near 50 percent with the Cardinals over 2013-2014. White has the potential to be the centerpiece of the Buccaneers defense for years to come. In 2019, he could very well prove his worth for Tampa Bay.
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Brian Burns – DE, Carolina Panthers
First of all, Brian Burns has the ability to be a very good player in the NFL. Circumstances place him on the short end of the stick today, but there is a reason the Panthers selected him with the 16th overall selection in the draft. The former Florida State University pass rusher played three years in Tallahassee, finishing with 23 sacks over three seasons.
Carolina needed help at pass rusher and Burns fills that role. He has a great first step and is quick out of the blocks. However, where Burns struggles, is his lack of play strength against blockers. Burns will undoubtedly have the ability to add mass, but his frame is not ideal to pile much on. It would not surprise to see him struggle if solely used as a defensive end. Burns’ body type suits that of a hybrid edge rusher, someone who can utilize an impressive speed rush, while also using his length to cause problems in space. An optimal season for Burns would be similar to Aldon Smith’s rookie season in San Francisco.
Odd Man Out
Truth be told, Burns and White are both exciting players who are must-see talents. White is in the better situation to succeed immediately, which is the primary reason he was selected. Burns is equally talented, but it will take some time to adjust to the trenches of the NFL. At the end of the day, both players should have long and prosperous careers in the league. However, in this hypothetical battle, White reigns supreme.