If you were a GM of an NFL team, which part of the offense or defense would you consider most crucial to the success of your team? Every team needs a base from which to start and build from. I mention base because that is the priority from which you will form your team, the starting point from which everything is erected. This will be your team’s backbone, its identity from which other parts of your team draw strength from. Consider this the foundation of your house. We are building your NFL house.
Now for starters we will not consider the QB position; that is way too easy a position to pick. For our simulation we will stipulate that all the QBs in our facsimile NFL are Aaron Rodgers. Your QB can make any throw and understands the game like few before him. So there are 32 Aaron Rodgers clones in our NFL.
For whatever position that you select, the players will all be All-Pros. For example if you choose the wide receiver position, you will have some of the greatest NFL receivers as your players. Same goes for each position, All Pros across the board and Hall of Fame players galore if you so desire. This will give you that strong base to build from.
On the other hand the positions you don’t choose will not be horrible but just mediocre. So if you don’t choose the offensive line you will have the current Jets offensive line; not horrible (close but really not), just mediocre. The same goes for each position. We will use the Jets as our non elite positions because all the Jets positions (not the QB) are mediocre so lets go.
If you choose the offensive line you will have superb run blocking for your mediocre backs and solid protection for the Aaron Rodgers clone. Clean pockets and huge running lanes will be your reward for choosing this position. Your backs are tough and have decent speed. They also are good receivers out of the backfield so you have positive check down options in case of blitzes. They will struggle to get you yards that aren’t there (more on that later), but they will get you a tough yard.
Your offensive line is as follows. LT Anthony Munoz, LG John Hannah, C Mike Webster, RG Larry Allen and RT Gene Upshaw. Your swing tackle we be Willie Roaf, your backup center will be Jim Otto and you backup guard will be Bruce Matthews. You can also pick a default unit if you so desire from any era.
Third and one with his group is not a problem, they are quick off the snap, and they are powerful against even the best defensive lines. Your QB will be safe, and his uniform will be clean. Injuries are lessened for your franchise QB. Your QB will take his entire offensive line out to dinner after the season and give them each Rolex watches.
This isn’t any group of running backs this is the cream of the crop. You have Eric Dickerson who had over 13,000 rushing yards and nearly 300 receptions in his career. He ran tall, but he powered through arm tackles like a hot knife through warm butter. In the open field he had the speed to race by even the fastest CB.
In the same backfield is Barry Sanders who was the most elusive RB in NFL history. He never played on a great team and his offensive lines were (like the Jets) mediocre at best. Still he ran for over 1,100 yards in every season he played and retired at age 30 with over 15,000 yards rushing and 352 receptions. He retired with plenty of juice left in the tank and would have easily been the NFL all-time rushing leader by yards if he had played a few more years. He was one of the most explosive players in NFL history, and his highlight reel of TD plays would make even the best RBs today bow their heads in honor.
I figured I give you a clip of Barry Sanders scorching the Patriots. You have no idea how good Barry was until you watch some highlights. Then you remember how truly special he was.
As your third down back we have Marshall Faulk who had over 12,000 rushing yards and 767 career receptions. In the open field he was a terror to tackle and made many an all-pro CB look silly. He was the oil that made the Greatest Show on Turf run smoothly. He is 8th all-time in rushing TDs with 100, and his 36 receiving TDs put him in the top 5 of all-time TDs by a RB.
Your three backs on the bench need no introduction as Jim Brown (the RB GOAT), Sweetness himself Walter Payton, and Earl Campbell a monster from Tyler Texas. These special players are there to spell your trio. Of course you can select any six you like from any era; it’s your team.
This group will get the third and one no problem. They will get you yards that aren’t even there by making people miss in the hole and powering through arm tackles. They can take a sliver of space and turn it into an 80 yard TD. Defenses will need to crowd the line in hopes of stopping your powerful trio, which will open up passing lanes and turn 5 yard slant patterns into long TDs with minimal talents at receiver.
Your wide receivers will start with Jerry Rice who is the all-time leader in receptions in the NFL. He has over 200 more catches than any other player. He also has 6,961 more receiving yards than any player in NFL history. He is the statistical Wayne Gretzky of the NFL. The rules for receivers when Rice played were not as conducive to receivers as they are today. There was illegal contact and holding rules, but they weren’t called unless it was egregious. He was also a modicum of professionalism, and his offseason workouts were legendary. He was a team leader and a perfectionist in his route running. When you speak of precision passing, it was Rice who defined the term and who perfected the scheme. His 208 career TDs are 33 more than the player in 2nd place.
Your second pass catcher is Randy Moss who is the genetic equivalent of the perfect receiver. No man on earth today or ever could cover Randy Moss when he didn’t want to be covered. Moss was almost 6’5 and ran a 4.25/40 time which was faster than even Deion Sanders (4.27). Plus his hands were almost 11” long. He could hold a football easier than you could hold a baseball. He had a passion that was unquenchable but also got the better of him at times.
Here he is against on of the best cover corners of all time, in his prime..
Again from a different angle...
Moss is taller, faster and stronger than Revis, and even though he has great coverage the throw is over his head with no chance to make a play on the ball. Moss uses his catcher mitt like hands (he uses only one hand) to haul in the pass like it is nothing.
Your third receiver on your team is the player ironically who has the 3rd most receptions in NFL history. Larry Fitzgerald has over 1,250 receptions and a standard bearer for exemplary character in the NFL. He started as a Pro Bowl outside receiver and moved inside when his coach Bruce Arians asked him to do so. He has some of the best hands in NFL history that are not covered in stickum (sorry Fred Biletnikoff) and is a team leader who is respected by not only his teammates but also by the opponents he faces. When Larry Fitzgerald speaks, it carries more weight in a locker room than any coach. He is a player all other players look up to, and he has the ability to keep a team together through adversity all by himself. No other player could make that claim; that distinction is more valuable than you could know.
Your three bench receivers are Marvin Harrison. Chris Carter (all he does is catch touchdowns) and the amazing Lance Alworth. Harrison (along with Reggie Wayne) helped make Peyton Manning’s career (and visa versa). Carter started playing in 1987, before the proliferation of passing you see today and played 16 seasons in the NFL. Alworth played 11 seasons starting in 1962 and was one of the greatest game breakers in NFL history. He had over 10,000 yards receiving and a 18.9 average per catch. He also played in an era where pretty much anything went for defensive backs while defending receivers.
Your receivers can beat you with precision, they can beat you deep and they can move the chains when you need a 1st down. They are also game breakers who can change a game in an instant in your favor. They are team leaders and the best athletes on your team.
The list of Tight Ends in the NFL is long and storied. They can block like an offensive tackle, catch like an All Pro wide receiver and run the seam, beating LBs for a big play. You may not realize it, but two of the top four reception leaders of all-time in the NFL are tight ends. They are the QBs safety nets and are matchup nightmares for safeties and CBs, with the speed to run away from linebackers.
You first tight end is Tony Gonzalez who is 2nd all time in receptions in NFL history. He redefined the position to make the TE a bona fide lethal weapon in the passing game . He understood the nuances of route running and could use his big body to shield a defender from the ball, making the catch almost a foregone conclusion. He ranks 7th all-time in TD receptions. and he was more than an adequate blocker on running plays.
Your second tight end is Jason Witten who had over 1,150 career receptions (4th all-time) and was an outstanding blocker in the run game. Witten in his prime was a vertical threat and he forced defenses to use more than just a LB to guard him. At 6’ 6” and over 260 lbs he was a load to handle and he had great hands to snare passes for needed 1st downs.
Your third tight end is the “Gronk” Rob Gronkowski who if it wasn’t for recurring back problems might have been the best tight end of all time. At 6’ 6” and 265 lbs and running a 4.68/40, he is an impossible match up for any defender. Add to that a feisty demeanor and the strength of a bull he usually won the battles he fought. He is the proverbial “bull in the China shop” who is even too big for some LBs with the speed to also run away from them. He also has great hands, making catches with defenders draped all over him.
You three players on the bench are Kellen Winslow who played 9 NFL seasons and was one of the first big men (6’5 255 lbs) to run the seam and threaten safeties deep. His 541 receptions were exceptional considering he was the 4th option in the passing game in the San Diego offense. Shannon Sharpe who played 14 years, had great hands and was fearless going across the middle back when safeties dreamed of taking your head off. Ozzie Newsome who was a great TE as well as a GM, a tough player with great hands and played 13 seasons beginning in 1978 and all for one team, Cleveland which gets my respect.
These players make the tough catches for 1st downs and are impossible to cover in the red zone. When the field shrinks and the players are bunched together they are a reliable places to go and can make their own space. Their size and strength are the reason they are so proficient in making TDs at a much higher rater than wide receivers inside the 20 yard line. They are also all great in the running game as an extra lineman with power.
Since teams play a 3-4 scheme as well as a 4-3 scheme I figured there was no need to name players on these lines. Instead I will use nicknames like the Fearsome Foursome, the Purple People Eaters and the Steel Curtain just to name a few. Mix these players anyway you like or add others from different eras. It makes no difference because your team will control the line of scrimmage, maul RBs to the point they don’t want to run the play and harass the QB making him throw away passes before he is hit. Defense is about intimidation and these squads were all about intimidation.
They say the game is won in the trenches and these players controlled the trenches and then some. These men were so feared that players from opposing teams would amazingly pull a hammy on Friday before they had to play them, and don’t think that didn’t happen because it did. They put the fear of God in the offenses they faced and set the tone for their teams with their domination of the front line.
Linebackers prowl the field and bring pain when they find their prey. They fill holes, blitz into the backfield and cover in space. These players do it all on a defense. They are the heart of the defense because they can be found patrolling the entire field while making plays everywhere they go.
If you choose this group you will have some of the greatest players of all-time.
At MLB you will have Jack Lambert who menaced offenses for 11 seasons and was a 1st team All-Pro 6 times in the hard fought days in the mid 70’s. This guy really hated every player on every opposing team and his play showed it.
Just a peek at what he looked like...
Your OLB will be Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas; two players who were ferocious off the edge and legends as pass rushers. Taylor struck fear into the hearts of offensive linemen and Thomas is the original speed edge rusher who all try and emulate today. He still holds the record with 7 sacks in a game which was almost tied by... Derrick Thomas who also had 6 sacks in a single game.
To back these three up will be:
MLB Ray Lewis along with fellow Hall of Famers Junior Seau who was a 10 time All-Pro and Jack Hamm who could do it all and was a 6 time All-Pro.
These players can change a game with their all around play. They will go sideline to sideline dishing out the hurt. hey can intercept passes and go the distance. They can sack the QB as well as filing holes and causing fumbles.
In today’s NFL you could say that cornerbacks are more instrumental in wins and loses in an than any other position (sans QB). These players can shut down a passing game and turn an opponent into a plodding run oriented unit with little chance of chunk plays.
Your team will field Deion Sanders as a RCB. Hewas the first shut down corner in NFL history (but don’t ask him to tackle). He brought top end play and swagger to his team, and he also was one of the greatest punt returners ever. He could wake up, walk outside cold, and run a 4.27/40, he also brought an attitude to his team because he was Prime Time. But make no mistake. He was a serious player and one of the greatest ever.
At LCB is Mel Blount who was the first cornerback ever to be voted defensive player of the year. He was tough as nails and actually bigger than his linebackers Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. He was so physical as a corner that the 5-yard rule (where it is a penalty to hit a receiver) is called the Mel Blount Rule. He was smart with great hands, and he would control his side of the field. He also had amazing speed for a man his size.
Your slot corner is Darrell Green who was only 5’ 9” but he was tough and played in 20 NFL seasons. He was one of the fastest and quickest players in football for his entire career. He actually ran a 4.43/40 (officially timed) recently at age 50. He had 54 career interceptions and usually covered the opposing team’s best receiver.
Your three corners on the bench are Champ Bailey, Rod Woodson, and Darrelle Revis. These are all great cover corners in their prime and you have them to come in off the bench. Even in today’s NFL, this group would be tough to throw against.
Your groups of Safeties are an intimidating group with game changing skills.
SS) Ronnie Lott: Possibly the best all around safety in NFL history.
FS) Ed Reed: A man with 64 career interceptions; he just was a magic player.
SS) Jack Tatum: One of the most feared safeties in NFL history. He brought the wood FS) Paul Krause: Played 16 NFL season with 81 career interceptions.
SS) Sean Taylor: A difference-maker who patrolled the secondary who left us too early. FS) Brian Dawkins A really intelligent player who could do it all.
Safeties are much more than the last line of defense; they are part linebacker and part defensive back. They can cover and bring the wood when they tackle. You have seen recently how the Legion of Boom helped Seattle become a defensive menace and how once that group moved on the huge difference it made to the defense.
There you have it, and now you must decide. Which will it be?
How will you prioritize your roster or you can choose not to; you are the GM
BTW if you choose not to prioritize, you don’t get any of the All Pros (my rules).
Which Position will you Prioritize?
This poll is closed
1) Offensive line
2) Running Backs
3) Wide Receivers
4) Tight Ends
5) Defensive Line
9) I wouldn’t prioritize any position