Every now and then my small but loyal base of readers will tweet, email, and Facebook questions to me. About 2 weeks back I received a really interesting question that I wanted some time to think about but was definitely in the tradition of what an M&M Gem should be:
Q: If you were starting an NFL Franchise from scratch today and had your choice of any five players to start your team with – who would you choose?
I have always been a person who likes to carefully analyze a question and from this I took a few key observations –
1. I have the opportunity to take any five players from the entire league to build my team around.
2. I am building an NFL Franchise so the goal is clearly to win multiple championships
3. Who would I choose now? I want to win for as long as possible so clearly age is going to be a key but I also want experienced players who I know can help me win. Therefore there are a number of players who are too young/too old for me to feel good about choosing.
4. Asking what players I would choose is actually a follow up question. The first question is what positions would I choose? In identifying the positions I can then find the players that best fit that need.
These were my four primary observations in looking at this question and after much thought, I came up with a starting five that I thought filled key positions, could help me win multiple championships, and who I believe can help me win for quite awhile.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
While you may disagree with my pick, the fact that I focused on this position first should not raise much argument. For the most part (of course the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not fit this mold), championship teams are championship teams because they have championship caliber quarterbacks. It is the most important position on the field and there is a reason why quarterbacks have accounted for more first overall picks than any other position. What I like about Aaron Rodgers is that he has developed into one of the League’s elite passers. He spent years carrying a clipboard behind a Hall of Fame quarterback but once he got the starting nod, took his team to a Super Bowl in just three short years. Rodgers has a great arm, he is patient in the pocket, and he is mobile. Most forget about his mobility but Rodgers is among the league leaders for rushing yards by a QB every single season. What I love about Aaron Rodgers is that he makes the rest of his team better. He has made no-name receivers like Jordy Nelson and James Jones into viable fantasy options. He spreads the ball around the offense and when a play breaks down, he either gets the ball to his backs or tight ends or he makes a play with his legs. Rodgers is young, mobile, smart, patient, and has a big arm. He has already won one Super Bowl and as young as he is – I see 1 – 2 more in his future. It was pretty obvious to me from the start that Aaron Rodgers would be the best quarterback for my team.
Others Considered: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons; Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens; Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
There is no quarterback I enjoy watching more than Aaron Rodgers and I believe there is no running back in the NFL that is nearly as good as Adrian Peterson. Peterson is a rare talent, as is Rodgers, and by putting them in the same backfield – they could accomplish some great things. Peterson would take pressure off Rodgers and in turn, Rodgers would allow Peterson to get more all-purpose yards and take pressure off of him. Yes Peterson is going into his fifth season which makes him a hard choice BUT he has not had any major injury concerns as a pro and his production has not diminished. Since he came into the league he has rushed for more touchdowns and yards than anyone else in the league. For me, Peterson was a no-brainer.
Others considered: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans; Jamal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs; Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
The thing that I appreciate most about Fitzgerald, I also appreciate about Peterson – loyalty to his team and a no-nonsense attitude. While Rodgers is a great quarterback and can make no-name receivers into 1000 yard targets, he is phenomenal with a true number 1. While others were considered and Larry Fitzgerald is getting up there in age, he has a work ethic that is unmatched and his leaping ability and hands are unheard of. This was the toughest position decision to make but I’m certain it’s the right one.
Others considered: Andre Johnson, Houston Texans; Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles; Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers; Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins
Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
There’s not much to say about Joe Thomas so I’ll keep it short. Joe is young, he’s athletic, and he is the best left tackle in the League. I would argue that the second most important player to a team’s success is a left tackle to protect the franchise quarterback’s blindside. For the last five years, nobody has protected his quarterback better than Joe Thomas.
Others considered: Jake Long, Miami Dolphins
Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers
I understand that defense wins championships but I love offense. So in taking only one defensive player, I wanted someone that could serve as a “quarterback” of my defense. Since his rookie year, Willis has been one of the games premier linebackers. If not for coming in with Adrian Peterson, he would have been the rookie of the year. I have always been a fan of the linebacker position because they are called on to do so much. Like Ray Lewis did for Baltimore, I believe that Willis could be the heart and soul of my defense.
Others considered: Clay Mathews, LB, Green Bay Packers; Darelle Revis, CB, New York Jets; Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions; Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs; Chad Greenway, LB, Minnesota Vikings; Jerod Mayo, LB, New England Patriots