I've decided to take a break from my typicl college basketball themed blogs and work on an idea that a recent TD inspired me to do: create a dream NFL team to win both now and in the future. I added my own little twist for a bit of a challenge - I could only use one player per NFL team. I also did my best to keep as much accuracy as possible in terms of scheme - you won't see a 4-3 DE in my 3-4 scheme for example, however I did give myself some leeway in allowing for tackles, guards, DEs, OLBs and safeties to be used interchangeably. However, each player is in their actual position, I didn't move an OLB inside or shift a DE inside to DT. So, without further ado, here is the team that I came up with:
QB - Aaron Rodgers
RB - LeSean McCoy
FB - Le'Ron McClain
WR - Calvin Johnson
WR - Roddy White
TE - Jermaine Gresham
T - Jake Long
T - Joe Thomas
G - Chris Snee
G - Carl Nicks
C - Ryan Kalil
DE - Calais Campbel
DT - Marcell Dareus
DE - Mark Anderson
OLB - Demarcs Ware
ILB - Patrick Willis
ILB - London Fletcher
OLB - Terell Suggs
CB - Darrelle Revis
CB - Johnathan Joseph
S - Troy Polomalu
S - Eric Weddle
K - Connor Barth
P - Shane Lechler
RET - Devin Hester
RB - Marshawn Lynch
WR - Kenny Britt
DE - Chris Long
DT - Kevin Williams
ILB - Paul Posluszny
OLB - Von Miller
S - Antoine Bethea
So there is the basic breakdown of my team. I'm sure some of you already have strong opinions, but allow me to explain each of my picks. All stats are from the 2011 season.
QB - Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) - 28 years old
4643 yards, 45 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 68.3% completion percentage, 122.5 rating
RB - LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia) - 23 years old
273 rushes, 1309 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 17 touchdowns, 48 receptions, 315 yards, 3 touchdowns
FB - Le'Ron McClain (Kansas City) - 27 years old
15 rushes, 51 yards, 3.4 yards per carry, 1 touchdown, 14 receptions, 82 yards, 1 touchdown
WR - Calvin Johnson (Detroit) - 26 years old
96 receptions, 1681 yards, 17.5 yards per reception, 16 touchdowns, 77 first downs
WR - Roddy White (Atlanta) - 30 years old
100 receptions, 1296 yards, 13.0 yards per reception, 8 touchdowns, 77 first downs
TE - Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati) - 23 years old
56 receptions, 596 yards, 10.6 yards per reception, 6 touchdowns, 31 first downs
T - Jake Long (Miami) - 26 years old
T - Joe Thomas (Cleveland) - 27 years old
G - Chris Snee (New York Giants) - 29 years old
G - Carl Nicks (New Orleans) - 26 years old
C - Ryan Kalil (Carolina) - 26 years old
DE - Calais Campbell (Arizona) - 25 years old
72 total tackles, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovered, 1 interception, 10 passes defensed
DT - Marcell Dareus (Buffalo) - 22 years old
43 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovered, 0 interceptions, 1 pass defensed
DE - Mark Anderson (New England) - 28 years old
29 total tackles, 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovered, 0 interceptions, 1 pass defensed
OLB - DeMarucs Ware (Dallas) - 29 years old
58 total tackles, 19.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovered, 1 interception, 2 passes defensed
ILB - Patrick Willis (San Francisco) - 26 years old
97 total tackles, 2 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered, 1 interception, 12 passes defensed
ILB - London Fletcher (Washington) - 36 years old
166 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 0 fumbles recovered, 2 interceptions, 8 passes defensed
OLB - Terrell Suggs (Baltimore) - 29 years old
70 total tackles, 14 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 0 fumbles recovered, 2 interceptions, 6 passes defensed
CB - Darrelle Revis (New York Jets) - 26 years old
52 total tackles, 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 fumbles recovered, 4 interceptions, 21 passes defensed
CB - Johnathan Joseph (Houston) - 27 years old
44 total tackles, 0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 0 fumbles recovered, 4 interceptions, 15 passes defensed
S - Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh) - 30 years old
91 total tackles, 1 sack, 0 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovered, 2 interceptions, 14 passes defensed
S - Eric Weddle (San Diego) - 27 years old
84 total tackles, 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 fumbles recovered, 7 interceptions, 12 passes defensed
K - Connor Barth (Tampa Bay) - 25 years old
26 field goals made, 28 field goals attempted, 92.9% field goal percentage, 83.9% career field goal percentage, 95 career extra point attempts made, 100% extra point attempt percentage
P - Shane Lechler (Oakland) - 35 years old
78 punts, 50.8 yards per punt, 9 touchbacks, 11.5% touch back percentage, 40.9 net punt average
RET - Devin Hester (Chicago) - 29 years old
28 punt returns, 16.2 yards per return, 2 touchdowns, 33 kick returns, 21.9 yards per return, 1 touchdown
RB - Marshawn Lynch (Seattle) - 25 years old
285 rushes, 1204 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns, 28 receptions, 212 yards, 1 touchdown
WR - Kenny Britt (Tennessee) - 23 years old
17 receptions, 289 yards, 17.0 yards per reception, 3 touchdowns, 14 first downs
DE - Chris Long (St Louis) - 26 years old
37 total tackles, 13.0 sacks, 1 forced fumbles, 0 fumbles recovered, 0 interceptions, 2 passes defensed
DT - Kevin Williams (Minnesota) - 31 years old
37 total tackles, 5.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 0 fumbles recovered, 0 interceptions, 2 passes defensed
ILB - Paul Posluszny (Jacksonville) - 27 years old
119 total tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumbles, 0 fumbles recovered, 2 interceptions, 9 passes defensed
OLB - Von Miller (Denver) - 22 years old
65 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 0 fumbles recovered, 0 interceptions, 4 passes defensed
S - Antoine Bethea (Indianapolis) - 27 years old
139 total tackles, 0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovered, 0 interceptions, 7 passes defensed
When I approached this project, I was only certain about four things:
1) Aaron Rodgers was going to be my QB.
2) I was going to use the 3-4 defense, and not play DE's out of position.
3) I wanted to have the best offensive line possible.
4) I wanted the best linebacker group possible.
Following these things turned out to be MUCH more difficult than anticipated. When looking at things like the best defensive ends in the league, there is a VAST difference between players like Jason Pierre-Paul who wreak havoc in a 4-3 and Mark Anderson, a player who hadn't had a solid season since his rookie year. However, I wasn't going to compromise; Houston showed us clearly that pass rushers like Mario Williams would drop back to be OLBs in a 3-4. Playing a 3-4 system is an entirely different animal, and I wanted players who are suited for just that.
With Campbell, I found one of the best young DEs in the league. While he isn't the best at getting after the QB, he doesn't have to be on this team. Ware and Anderson can bring plenty of pressure, and Campbell can take up space and stop the run. Anderson is young, and I believe getting his career back on track. He seems to have gotten down how to be a pressure DE in a 3-4, something I wanted to pair with Campbell's presence. Add in an incredibly talented rookie in Marcell Dareus, who had a very outstanding season for a rookie 3-4 nosetackle, and my defensive line is one that might seem easy to overlook but is actually very solid.
My linebackers easily erase any doubt that my line might create. Terrell Suggs is arguably the defensive MVP of this season, and is extremely versatile outside. Ware is one of the best players in the league in getting after the QB, and cannot be ignore. Willis has become an All Pro linebacker and is one of the elite players at his position. As an added bonus, he's still young with plenty of room to develop. Alongside London Fletcher, I expect him to do just that. Fletcher is one of the most underrated players in NFL history. Despite being 36, he led the league in tackles and was voted a second team All Pro player. I realize he won't have too many years ahead of him, but this selection is more for development's sake. With Posluszny on the bench behind him and developing, my linebackers have a leader who can still play at a high level and can help teach the younger players like Willis, Miller and Posluszny about being an elite LB. I knew I wanted Fletcher on this team.
The secondary is also talented, with Revis being the best cover corner in the league and Joseph being one of the most underrated. Weddle lead the league in interceptions this season, and Polamalu is an absolute animal. On the bench is Bethea, a player at safety who is a tackling machine and adds an excellent contrast to the ballhawking nature of Weddle. With my front seven putting intense pressure on the opponent's QB, these already elite players will have an even easier time.
On the offensive side, my line is absolutely loaded with talent. Long and Thomas are essentially 1A and 1B in the "best tackle" debate in the NFL, and I knew I wanted both on this team. Snee is a three time pro bowl guard who is still young, and Nicks is an All Pro guard and blocked for Brees on his record pace. At center, Kalil helped protect and block for Cam Newton and the new-found explosiveness for their offense. Combined, this line would be near-unstopabble, and even MY front seven would have difficulties with them.
Not much needs to be said about Aaron Rodgers. His level of play is elite, and he's getting better and better. The same goes for Calvin Johnson and Roddy White, two of the best wide receivers in the league. Megatron seemingly can catch anything thrown his way, and would dominate with Rodgers throwing it to him. Roddy White has had back to back 100 catch seasons and 5 straight 1000 yard seasons. I foresee White being a much more talented Jordy White for Rodgers, and much more dangerous. The two wildcards throwing to in this offense would be Gresham and Britt. Before being injured this season, Britt was already showing signs of continuing his explosive playmaking ways. With a player like Rodgers throwing it to him, I have no doubt he could be Mike Wallace-esque. Gresham isn't on the level of Gronkowski, Graham or Finley but he's young and incredibly talented.
In the backfield, I have a very solid trio. McCoy had a breakout season, proving to be a huge scoring threat when the ball is in his hands. Pairing his speed and agility with the bruising running of Marshawn Lynch is ideal, as I would have a two-back set with two RBs whose styles complement each other well. Blocking for them is McClain, an explosive and dangerous fullback. He's so talented, he even spent a season as Baltimore's feature back, carrying it for 902 yards in 2008. He blocks well, and when needed can run it or catch a pass. The Packers have used John Kuhn well, and I foresee a similar role for McClain in this offense.
My special teams is incredibly talented as well. Barth has proved to be one of the most accurate kickers in the league, and because he is young should be around for a long time. Lechler might end up in the Hall of Fame, and is still one of the best punters who will help sway field position in my team's favor. Hester gets the nod over Peterson because of his versatility in the return game; Peterson didn't return kicks for the Cardinals this season.
On my bench, I have a change of pace RB and a young talented WR to help make my offensive even more explosive. 5 of my 7 bench players however are on defense. This is because of versatility. Kevin Williams and Chris Long are two players I would insert into my lineup when I want to use a 4-3 defense; Williams is a dangerous DT who can pressure the QB and Long is finally developing into a solid, pressure DE as was expected of him. Von Miller is one of the best young players period, and I knew I had to include him on this list. Posluszny is an underrated young linebacker who has starred for Buffalo and now Jacksonville; playing behind Fletcher and Willis he would have less pressure and more time to learn. Bethea was one of the few bright spots for the Colts this season, and would be an excellent secondary player coming off of the bench.
All in all, I believe I have assembled an excellent 32 man team. The 22 starters might not feature the flashiest names possible, but together they will play well in the system I would use. My bench players all serve specific roles, and would contribute well. As a whole, my team features excellent youth, and where it doesn't (Fletcher for example) there is a youth player waiting to step in and fill the void. This is the starting's of a team I would love to have.
Thoughts? Comments? Concerns? Think you could do better, or see something with my team you'd change? Please, feel free to let me know. And thanks for reading.