Thanks to the aforementioned Winston being selected number one overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2015 NFL Draft, he joins a wide-open division that features the likes of a Super Bowl champion in Drew Brees in New Orleans, one of the top QB’s in the game in Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons—a top-five pick from Boston College—and another fellow Heisman Trophy winner and BCS champion in Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers.
In a division that—up until this season—has never had a repeat champion in the Panthers, the NFC South boasts some of the best offensive playmakers in the NFL such as Kelvin Benjamin, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Marques Colston. Adding a player such as Winston, who will have the likes of Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin, will make the 2-14 Buccaneers at least a bit more watchable.
Whether or not Winston lives up to the rookie hype, will not be answered for a while, but at least Tampa Bay has their franchise signal-caller for the next 5-10 years.
Much like Winston, Mariota enters a highly competitive division in the form of the AFC South.
While the Houston Texans don’t have a franchise quarterback to hang their hat on, their calling card is mainly on defense—most notably uber-freak in defensive end J.J. Watt—the 2014 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The former Heisman Trophy winner and national title runner-up will also have to face the likes of Andrew Luck—arguably the best young quarterback in the game—and the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, one year removed from being the top QB selected in the 2014 NFL Draft and third overall, twice a year.
With both divisions stretching as far north as Indiana and as far south as the Gulf Coast, that the NFL was able to get it’s top two picks in a passionate football hotbed such as the Deep South is a big win for the league.
Matchups such as Mariota vs. Luck and Winston vs. Newton may not sound tantalizing as Manning vs. Brady, but based on regional rivalries, it could very well develop into some must-see-TV
Just be sure to tune in for the sequel to Mariota vs. Winston in Week 1, as the Titans face the Bucs in Tampa.