A flurry of young talents are rising in the NFC South. Which of them should have a breakout campaign in the NFL this year?
New Orleans Saints: Kenny Stills
One thing proven about New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is he doesn’t require the biggest or fastest receivers to execute his high octane offense. He wants receivers who can get open. Kenny Stills showed he has that ability last year as a rookie. While not big for his position, the kid can beat corners deep and has a knack for finding the football in the air. His stellar 20 yards per catch was a testament to those key factors. With another off-season to integrate, he should come out firing in 2014.
Carolina Panthers: Kawann Short
Having picked Star Lotulelei in the first round of the NFL draft last year, it was easy to overlook that the Carolina Panthers grabbed a second defensive tackle in the second round too. Kawann Short didn’t start a single game for his team last year but still managed 30 tackle and 1.5 sacks. His athletic ability is impressive to his size and another off-season will have allowed him to correct his previous issue of strength. It’s not clear whether he can overtake teammate Dwan Edwards to start next to Lotulelei, but he should increase his production regardless.
Atlanta Falcons: Levine Toilolo
The Tony Gonzalez era for the Atlanta Falcons is officially over, and what a run it was. Now the team must look to a new generation to pick up the slack. Clearly the first opportunity will go to 22-year old Levine Toilolo. The Stanford product didn’t see much action for the Falcons in 2013 thanks to the presence of Gonzalez. He only made 11 catches all year. However, two of them were touchdowns, showcasing his ability to fight off coverage. Matt Ryan is now certain to look his way more often and that should lead to a serious spike in production.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnthan Banks
Big corners are en vogue across the NFL. After their coaching change and free agent bonanza early this year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are undergoing a roster overhaul. So overlooking players becomes commonplace, which is a shame for Johnthan Banks who had a very solid 2013 campaign as a rookie starter at corner. Not only did he intercept three passes and deflect five others. He also made 55 tackles. Alterraun Verner may get the attention because of his new contract, but Banks could end up being their best corner.