Power Rankings: Is Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan the best in the NFC South?

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Jan 3, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates a touchdown during the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals in the 2014 NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

3. Cam Newton

Put Cam Newton in some NFL divisions and he would be the best quarterback it had to offer. At worst, he would be the second best. In the NFC South, he’s my No. 3.

Newton’s biggest strength is on the ground. In his four seasons, he’s rushed 467 times for 2,571 yards and 33 touchdowns — that’s pretty incredible for a quarterback.

Let’s put that in some perspective. Newton was selected with the first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. Also selected in that class? Running backs Mark Ingram, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. In the same four years, Ingram has totaled 2,426 yards and 20 touchdowns; Vereen 907 yards and seven touchdowns; Ridley 2,817 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Newton has more rushing touchdowns than all three, and has more yards on the ground than two of them.

In the air, Newton has completed 1,144 passes for 14,426 yards and 82 touchdowns. His running ability is certainly his calling card, as he’s only finished in the top-10 for passing yards once in his career (10th in 2011 with 4,051 yards).

A problem last year was a lack of targets. Outside of receiver Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen, there wasn’t a whole lot of options for Newton. Draftee Devin Funchess becomes another big-time threat who can cause mismatches for defenses.

Newton is a top-tier quarterback and could lead the Panthers into the postseason once again in 2015. For now though, he ranks third on my list.

Next: No. 2