- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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As we get to the end of the regular season, some of my colleagues have been writing about who should be the most valuable player in their respective divisions.
We won’t do that here because, quite frankly, I’d be insulting you if I threw it out there as a question. Drew Brees is so clearly the MVP of the NFC South that there’s not even room for the discussion. Heck, if I had to pick someone else, it probably would be New Orleans safety Darren Sharper. Or New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma. If you made a rule that those three couldn’t win it, I’d still probably go with a New Orleans player and take receiver Marques Colston. Heck, even guard Jahri Evans probably deserves some consideration if you want to go this deep into it.
But in this year when the Saints are magical and everything else in the NFC South is mediocre – or worse – let’s have a little fun. Let’s close our eyes for a second and imagine the Saints are not in the NFC South (and I know a lot of readers that follow the Bucs, Panthers and Falcons wish that were the case, but we’ve got to deal with the reality that the Saints are “the’’ story in the division and in the entire league most of the time).
Let’s get hypothetical and say no one from the Saints is allowed to win the award. Let’s pick a Most Valuable Player from among the other NFC South teams.
Think about that one for a second. I don’t have anyone really jumping to mind.
Look at the Falcons and Tony Gonzalez probably is the best candidate, but can a tight end really be the MVP of a division? Running back Michael Turner is extremely valuable to that team, but he’s been hurt and his numbers aren’t what they were a year ago. Linebackers Curtis Lofton and Mike Peterson have been bright spots for a defense that hasn’t had many.
Think about Carolina and the first name that pops to mind is linebacker Jon Beason. He’s having a great season even though his team is struggling. I suppose you could throw running back DeAngelo Williams and defensive end Julius Peppers at least into the argument. Sad part is receiver Steve Smith is probably the most talented (non-New Orleans player) in the division, but the little fella probably isn’t a candidate because his numbers are so far off his usual pace -- through no fault of his own.
And, finally, we’ve got to at least throw out a candidate for Tampa Bay. Tight end Kellen Winslow is quietly putting together a very nice season. And you’ve got to throw him some points for doing it quietly because he hasn’t always been this quiet and well behaved.
Really, I don’t see any one of these candidates totally jumping out. I guess I’d have to go with either Beason or Gonzalez.
But let’s hear what you think and maybe I've inadvertently left out a candidate or two. Hit the comments section below or my mailbag. We’ll see if you can come up with a consensus of some sort. At the very least, it should be a fun conversation.
Real quick: The rules again are you can’t vote for any New Orleans players. If you want to wait until this weekend’s games, that’s fine. I’m going to be traveling to New Orleans tonight, covering the Saints and Cowboys on Saturday, traveling back home Sunday morning and monitoring the Sunday games, so I won’t get a real chance to see your votes until Monday.
Sometime next week, I’ll tally them up and do a post on the non-New Orleans MVP for the NFC South.