Scouting NFC South WR groups

In this Insider item, Matt Williamson takes an in-depth look at the wide receiver corps in the NFC South.

He ranks Atlanta’s receivers as the best, followed by New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Carolina. I can’t really argue with that because I think Williamson’s on target.

The only thing I will say is that Williamson seems to be going on the assumption the rookie Julio Jones is going to be very good right away. A lot of us are making that same assumption, including myself. But I will throw out the old cautionary line that rookie wide receivers can take some time to develop. But, like Williamson says, Jones is in a great situation. He should be playing opposite Roddy White and catching passes from Matt Ryan. Throw in running back Michael Turner and tight end Tony Gonzalez and defenses won’t be able to devote too much attention to Jones.

New Orleans doesn’t have a true superstar at wide receiver, but that’s mainly because the Saints spread the ball around so much. Marques Colston could put up bigger numbers in a system where he was the featured receiver. Lance Moore is very underrated and the Saints don’t want to lose him in free agency. Robert Meachem, a former first-round pick, started his career very slowly but has started to come on.

Tampa Bay has an incredibly young group of receivers. Mike Williams came in last year as a rookie and instantly became the No. 1 receiver. He should only get better. If classmate Arrelious Benn can come back from a knee injury and start grasping things the way Williams has, the Bucs could have a dynamic duo. Sammie Stroughter could be a good third receiver. But don’t rule out playing time for Dezmon Briscoe. He spent part of last season on the practice squad, but the coaching staff is very high on Briscoe.

Carolina ranks last and that may be due to the uncertainty of the future of Steve Smith. If he stays, he should help rookie quarterback Cam Newton. If Smith goes, the Panthers aren’t desperate at wide receiver. They like Brandon LaFell and David Gettis and hope Armanti Edwards can get on the field this year. They’d like to throw those guys out there with Newton and let them all grow up together.