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When will Jameis Winston be the best quarterback in the NFC South?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been operating in a franchise-quarterback-infested environment for nearly a decade now. Drew Brees was the first sign of consistent quality quarterback play in the NFC South, soon joined by Matt Ryan and then Cam Newton. Aside from one brief year of Josh Freeman's existence, the Bucs have been at the bottom of the quarterback scale for most of that decade.

If we can believe ESPN, that's going to continue to be the case for quite some time. Recently, they asked what it would take for Cam Newton to be the best quarterback in the division by rising above Drew Brees and Matt Ryan -- with nary a mention of Jameis Winston.

So here's my question: how long will it take for Winston to be the best quarterback in the NFC South? It probably won't be this year, but if Winston develops like a high-quality draft pick should -- that is, he's a successful player -- that day may come a lot sooner than people would expect.

That's because Winston has one massive advantage: time. Drew Brees' career is nearing the end, as he's visibly declined the past few years and is now 36. Matt Ryan is no spring chicken either, although he's certainly in the prime of his career at 30. Cam Newton is most likely to be Winston's primary competitor for the title of best quarterback of the division -- Newton is 26 and entering what should be the best years of his career, but Newton himself is not quite a top 10 quarterback -- he's certainly good, but he's too inconsistent as a passer to be a true, top-flight quarterback.

Winston, on the other hand, is just 21 -- he'll join Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman as the only post-2000 quarterbacks to start most of their teams' season at age 21 or younger. In fact, only nine quarterbacks have done so in the history of the NFL, six of them before 1962 and only Stafford, Freeman, and Drew Bledsoe (1993) in the 'modern' NFL. Which is to say a if Winston succeeds, the Bucs are going to have a quality quarterback for a long, long time. But that period could start very quickly, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Winston be the best quarterback in this division by his second or third year.