We’ve been using this space of late to unveil our preseason All-Division teams, as is our annual tradition around this time of year. As always, the rosters were compiled largely by a panel of one, though there was significant input from the writing and editorial staff at CBSSports.com after I took an initial run at the rosters on my own.
We began last week by working our way through the AFC. Here are the rosters for the AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, and AFC West. This week, it’s on to the NFC. We started Tuesday with the NFC East, continued on Wednesday with the NFC North, move on today with the NFC South, and finish things up Friday with the NFC West. Without further ado …
Offensive skill positions
QB: Tom Brady (TB)
RB: Christian McCaffrey (CAR)
TE: Kyle Pitts (ATL)
FLEX: Alvin Kamara (NO)
Perhaps the easiest quarterback selection of this entire exercise was Brady over the likes of Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, and Baker Mayfield. If CMC can just stay on the field, he is going to be the most productive running back in the NFL. We know that based on his history. The injuries he’s suffered are not of the type that should be career-changing, so we’re betting on his finally getting back to himself. Kamara is essentially CMC-lite, and with a suspension looking less likely for him this season, we chose to go with him over Leonard Fournette, who has more threats to his workload.
In two seasons with Brady, Evans has gone for 70-1,006-13 and 74-1,035-14. He’s never had less than 1,000 yards in a season, and has reached double-digit touchdowns 50% of the time. He’s going to be a monster once again. Pre-injury, Godwin was Brady’s top target last year. He’s not going to start the season on the PUP list, so he should be back fairly early in the year. Even if it takes him a few weeks to get fully up to speed, he’s going to be a huge part of what should be one of the NFL’s best offenses. And Moore has consistently put up very good seasons despite being saddled with consistently poor quarterback play. Even if Mayfield isn’t great, Moore should produce in a big way. And Pitts is our next great tight end. He showed it in flashes last year, and should get even more consistent as the Falcons surround him with literally anyone else who can get open and draw at least some attention.
C: Bradley Bozeman (CAR)
There were a bunch of good tackles to choose from in this division, including Jake Matthews, Donovan Smith, and Taylor Moton, but in the end we went with two guys who are among the small handful of best players on the right side of the line in the league. Wirfs had an injury in camp but initial reports after the injury sounded like he will be back and playing for most of the season. If he’s on the field, we expect him to perform at a very high level.
The Bucs absolutely stole Mason from the Patriots as a very nice rebound after losing both Ali Marpet (retirement) and Alex Cappa (free agency). He’s been a consistently above-average guard during his career, and that should continue even amidst Tampa’s injury issues. Lindstrom could still use some work in pass protection but he has been an excellent run blocker to date, and is getting better at the more important part of the job. Somehow, the Panthers got Bozeman at an extreme discount this offseason after he had been a solid starter in Baltimore. After Ryan Jensen’s injury, Bozeman is looking like the top center in this division.
FLEX: Shaquil Barrett (TB)
We were very aggressive in pushing a breakout season from Burns a year ago, and we got it. He matched his 2020 sack total with nine, but made more plays in the backfield, increased his pressure rate, and got himself to the Pro Bowl. He’s an ascending player and should have another excellent year. Jordan is one of the most consistent two-way edge players in the league, and the anchor of what should again be a very good Saints defense. And every season that Shaq Barrett has played for Todd Bowles, he’s been dynamite. Even with Bowles taking on more responsibility as the head coach, that shouldn’t change.
Vea is a hilariously good player, one of the few players of his size who can play the nose and get deep enough into the pocket to make an impact in the passing game. Whenever he’s been on the field, he’s been dominant. Jarrett took a step backward as a pass rusher last year but he’d been so consistently good for several years before that, that we’re willing to bet on a bounce back as the Falcons manage to put slightly more talent together on that side of the ball.
Devin White gets more hype but David remains the best linebacker on the Bucs. He’s getting closer to his mid-30s and might slow down soon, but if he stays healthy we’re confident enough in his ability to land him on this team. Davis has been an All-Pro for three consecutive seasons, and has consistently excelled in Dennis Allen’s defense. Like Barrett with Bowles, Davis’ production shouldn’t change even with his coach’s new responsibilities.
Terrell broke out last season as one of the very best corners in the NFL. It was somewhat unexpected despite his lofty draft position, but it shouldn’t be unexpected going forward. Lattimore is always going to give up some yards due to his aggressive style of play, but he’s very good and he really gets up for matchups with the best receivers — of which there are plenty in this division. Horn is a bit of a projection but his physical style of play and coverage skills make him an ideal modern corner, and we’re betting he takes a step forward from last year’s solid start that was cut short by an injury. Winfield and Chinn would actually make for a really good safety pairing, with Chinn doing the physical, in-the-box, covering-tight-ends work and Winfield doing, well, everything else — just like he does for Tampa.
K: Younghoe Koo (ATL)
P: Johnny Hekker (CAR)
RET: Andre Roberts (CAR)
I won’t lie … I asked our resident kicking expert (John Breech) who he thinks are the best kickers and punters in each division, and copy/pasted those names onto each All-Division team. Roberts has been an effective return man for quite some time now, and should continue to be one in Carolina.