NFC South: Jahari Evans
Off the top of my head, I’d say Drew Brees and Roddy White and you could flip a coin on the order. Well, the folks at Madden NFL 12, who are pretty good at what they do, came up with two different players when they did their annual rankings for the video game.
According to them, the best player in the division is New Orleans guard Jahri Evans, who ended up with a 98 overall grade. Carolina linebacker Jon Beason is next with a 97. I wouldn’t argue too much with either of those rankings. Evans and Beason are very good, but play positions where they sometimes don’t get the recognition they deserve. White and Brees came in right behind them, each with a 96 grade. That ties them with New Orleans guard Carl Nicks, who some scouts say may be better than Evans.
After those five, here’s the list of NFC South players with grades of 90 or better.
- Ovie Mughelli, fullback, Falcons: 94
- Michael Turner, running back, Falcons: 93
- Tyson Clabo, tackle, Falcons: 93
- John Abraham, defensive end, Falcons: 93
- Jordan Gross, tackle, Panthers: 92
- Tony Gonzalez, tight end Falcons: 92
- Jonathan Vilma, linebacker, Saints: 91
- Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons: 90
- Jabari Greer, cornerback, Saints: 90
- Curtis Lofton, linebacker, Falcons: 90
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t have a player crack the 90 mark, but they came close. Tight end Kellen Winslow is at 89, guard Davin Joseph is at 88 and quarterback Josh Freeman and tackle Donald Penn each graded out at 87. Since I know there’s big interest, Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton had an overall grade of 77.
To see complete team rankings, click the Saints, Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers.
2. Carolina’s wide receivers. With Steve Smith likely out with an ankle injury and Dwayne Jarrett released after he was charged with driving while impaired, the Panthers are down to rookie receivers Brandon LaFell, David Gettis and Armanti Edwards. They also claimed David Clowney off waivers Tuesday. Edwards has yet to be active on game day. Rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen doesn’t exactly have a stellar cast to throw to.
3. New Orleans’ offensive line. It’s not what it was a year ago. That’s a little disappointing because the line returned intact, but it hasn’t been dominant. Drew Brees is getting pressured more than usual, the running game’s been only ordinary and All-Pro guard Jahri Evans has developed a sudden knack for getting called for holding penalties.
1. Curtis Lofton, linebacker, Falcons. He’s been a pretty good middle linebacker in his first two seasons. But the knock on Lofton was that he didn’t make big plays, and he talked this summer about how he wanted to change that. It’s happening. In Sunday’s victory against San Francisco, Lofton had nine tackles, a sack and an interception. A few more big plays and Lofton could be a strong candidate for the Pro Bowl.
2. Roddy White, receiver, Falcons. It’s hard to put White’s stock much higher than it already was. We declared him the best receiver in the NFC South last week. But White went out and took his game to a higher level Sunday. He made one of the most incredible plays of his career and it didn’t even involve him catching the ball. After Nate Clements had a late interception, White ran him down from behind and popped the ball loose to cause a fumble that the Falcons recovered. Atlanta then went on a drive and kicked the game-winning field goal.
3. Usama Young, safety, Saints. He’s usually just a special-teams player. But a series of injuries forced him into the strong safety spot in Sunday’s victory against Carolina. With the Panthers close to the range where they could kick a game-winning field goal, Young stepped up and had a tackle where he dropped DeAngelo Williams for a four-yard loss. That and a sack by free safety Malcolm Jenkins on the next play took the Panthers definitively out of field-goal range.
Center Jonathan Goodwin was added to the roster because Dallas’ Andre Gurode has pulled out with an injury. Guard Jahri Evans and tackle Jon Stinchcomb already had been selected to the Pro Bowl. Goodwin was a first alternate and this will be his first Pro Bowl.
The Saints’ offensive linemen were celebrating in the locker room Wednesday, but they admitted they hope they don’t play in the Pro Bowl because it’s being played the week before the Super Bowl this year.
If the Saints make it to the Super Bowl, their players won’t be able to play in the Pro Bowl, although they’ll get whatever bonuses they might have earned if they had been selected.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The Saints placed the highest tender ($2.8 million and a first- and third-round pick as compensation if signed to an offer sheet by another team) on Evans. The tender for Moore is $1.55 million and a second-round pick if he signs with another team.
Those tenders probably will be enough to make sure other teams don't pluck Evans and Moore away. But this might not be the end of hearing about contracts for Evans and Moore.
Evans, a guard, is one of the best players on the offensive line and the Saints may try to lock him up with a long-term deal. The same is true of Moore, who emerged as a strong receiver last season. Even before last season ended, there were rumblings the Saints were trying to extend both players.