Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South: No. 9, Matt Ryan

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterJuly 31, 2012

Matt Ryan could set the Falcons franchise record in 2012 for touchdown passes.
Matt Ryan could set the Falcons franchise record in 2012 for touchdown passes.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Welcome back to “Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South.” To see the entire list as it unfolds, scroll down to the bottom of this page. To see the rules and ranking criteria, click here.

Matt Ryan was selected with the third pick in the 2008 NFL draft and stepped onto the field as Atlanta's quarterback from Day 1. In each of his four professional seasons, Ryan's progressed statistically in some way, shape or form.

His 16 touchdown throws in 2008 inched forward to a career-best 29 in 2011. Ryan's 4,177 passing yards were not only another personal high last season, he bested the franchise record set in 1995 by Jeff George. Ryan also set a new best with a 92.2 passer rating last year.

It's safe to say that Ryan gets better each season he's in the NFL, and 2012 should be no different.

Bringing in new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter should also add to Ryan's natural development progression. Koetter's known for a vertical passing threat that should make Ryan more potent, and also promised to bring the screen pass to Atlanta, diversifying the Falcons' playbook.

Ryan will also benefit from second-year wide receiver Julio Jones' natural growth as a player. Jones showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie with 959 yards receiving and eight touchdown catches. But he missed four games due to injury. If Jones can just stay healthy for 16 games imagine what he and Ryan could do with the extra output.

What you see is what you get with Ryan—solid, intelligent and focused play calling with the leadership skills of a signal-caller twice his football age. He’s not ready to be called an elite passer yet, but the 2012 season might be his final stepping stone before those labels are used.


The 2012 Bleacher Report Top 25 Players in the NFC South List

9. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

10. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons

11. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

12. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers

13. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers

14. Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints

15. Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

16. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons

17. James Anderson, LB, Carolina Panthers

18. Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans Saints

19. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons

20. Jon Beason, LB, Carolina Panthers

21. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons

22. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers

23. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24. Curtis Lofton, LB, New Orleans Saints

25. Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Top 25 List (by team)

Atlanta Falcons:  6

Carolina Panthers: 5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3

New Orleans Saints: 3


Top 25 List (by position)

LB: 4

DE: 3

WR: 3

RB: 3

QB: 2

OL: 1

TE: 1