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Who has the best collection of tight ends in the NFC South?

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Hint: It could be the Falcons, but it’s not at the moment.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

We’re back! I think we made a solid case for the Falcons having the best group of quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers in the division, but that end runs today. Regretfully.

That’s not to say that the Falcons have nothing at tight end. Austin Hooper is a good player now and has the potential to be more than that, Eric Saubert has genuine potential himself, and Logan Paulsen is an accomplished blocking tight end. But we don’t need to spend a lot of time on those players today, because you know them well, and you know they’re at very best the second-best grouping in this division, and they’re probably not even that unless Hooper makes the leap.

To me, this comes down to either the Panthers or the Buccaneers.

We’ll start with Carolina, who is on this list because of Greg Olsen. He’s getting older and creakier by the year, which is a legitimate problem, but Olsen remains the class of the division. His backup, rookie Ian Thomas, has quite a bit of promise and could be a contributor in his first season. It goes without saying that an injury to Olsen opens up the Panthers to trouble, however, especially with capable backup Ed Dickson gone. But as long as you have Olsen, you have one of the last great tight ends in the game, and that’s worth an awful lot.

That leaves Tampa Bay as the class of the division, and I think they’ll wind up being as soon as this year. In O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, the Bucs have two starting-caliber players who are reasonably young and quite good at catching the football. Howard has huge breakout potential this year, and the Bucs are one of those rare teams that can trot out two tight end sets and cause real problems for opposing defenses. In what could be an ugly season for Tampa Bay, their tight end play promises to be a bright spot.

I’d suggest that the Saints are in the worst shape at the moment. They have whelming Josh Hill and the ancient (if still effective) Benjamin Watson as their potential starters, with Michael Hoomanawanui as their Logan Paulsen. It’s not a bad grouping, but there just isn’t much upside there at all.

Who would you rank as the best in the division?