- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter
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43. Tampa Bay guard Carl Nicks
Stats & Info: Nicks missed nine games last season, his first with the Buccaneers after signing a five-year, $47.5 million deal as a free agent last offseason. Nicks earned more than $24 million last season, which ranked fourth in the NFL behind only Drew Brees, Vincent Jackson and Mario Williams, according to the Roster Management System.
Yasinskas comment: There is obvious concern about his health, because he has a staph infection and is coming off a major foot injury. But, when he’s healthy, Nicks might be the best guard in the league.
44. New Orleans guard Jahri Evans
Stats & Info: Evans has played 5,242 offensive snaps since 2008, ranking second in the NFL behind only Justin Blalock. A first-team All-Pro each of the past four seasons, Evans has started every game for the Saints in the Drew Brees era (since 2006).
Yasinskas comment: Evans is the anchor of an offensive line that has been good for a long time. Other players have come and gone, but Evans has been the constant.
45. Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson
Stats & Info: Jackson was Tampa Bay's safety valve on third down last season, ranking fourth in the NFL in third-down targets behind only Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker and Calvin Johnson. On third down, Jackson had 20 catches resulting in a first down, ranking behind only Roddy White.
Yasinskas comment: He joined Tampa Bay last season and instantly became quarterback Josh Freeman’s favorite target. He and Freeman should be even more comfortable after a year together.
41. Tampa Bay safety Dashon Goldson
Stats & Info: Goldson defended the most passes (10) when lined up as a safety in 2012. Eight of them were thrown less than 20 yards downfield, which also led all safeties.
Yasinskas comment: The Bucs knew they were getting a talented player when they signed Goldson away from San Francisco. They also have discovered Goldson brings even more to the table. He already has emerged as a defensive leader.
NFC South to date:
51. Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin
65. New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston
70. Carolina center Ryan Kalil
71. Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith
86. New Orleans guard Ben Grubbs
87. Atlanta running back Steven Jackson
98. Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Gross
100. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton
51. Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy
55. Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson
80. Atlanta cornerback Asante Samuel
86. Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon
93. Atlanta safety William Moore
96. Atlanta defensive end Osi Umenyiora
97. Tampa Bay safety Mark Barron
98. Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David
The latest installment of #NFLRank is out, and it includes Nos. 41-50 for offense and defense. This segment is filled with NFC South players. Let’s take a look.