July 19, 2006
Top Ten NFL
Part Three in my series of the top ten players in each league. Today we do the NFL. The NFL is the hardest of the leagues to compare players in, because of the completely different tasks assigned to each position. But I'm doing it anyways, to complete the series.
A quick refresher of the rules:
The top ten are determined by this question: If the NFL folded today, and teams started over and drafted their team from the pool of active players, who would go first? And who would go second? Keep going down the line like that.
Contracts do not matter. This doesn't matter as much in the NFL as in baseball, because most top rookies get a pretty big payday anyways. But I'm keeping it this way to keep it consistent with the other sports, and because I don't have to research all the contracts. Current contracts would be voided, and it would work like the rookie draft in all the sports - you'd get a contract based on where you were picked.
Age does matter. You could pick Brett Favre, but he'd only be around for another year or two. Or you could pick Carson Palmer, and have him for the next 10 years. Who is more valuable?
And a new one for the NFL...
Skill position players only. This means that, right now, I'm only dealing with quarterbacks, running backs, and wide recievers. I don't know where the first offensive lineman or defensive player would be picked, and frankly I don't care. To make things much easier, only skill position players are considered for this list.
On to the top ten. If the league folded today, and you could pick any one player, who would it be? I'm going to surprise you here...
1. Tom Brady
It was a VERY tough decision between Brady and Peyton Manning. The two are the top quarterbacks in the game today, but I went with Brady because he has the rings and he's a bit younger. Manning does have the better numbers, but not that much better. Brady's 26 TD passes were third in the league last year, and he threw for more yards last year than anyone in football (even Manning). And, in football, the numbers are sometimes misleading - a QB surrounded by great WRs and/or a great RB can have his stats inflated because of the talent around him. That's not the case in baseball, where the stats are isolated - it's just the pitcher against the batter. Brady is the pick, though I can't blame you for picking either of the next two.
2. Peyton Manning
All he needs is a ring. Not much more to say than that. He doesn't have a whole lot of time left, however, as he's already 30. After seeing Favre last year, it looks like Manning probably only has 5-6 productive years left.
3. Carson Palmer
Palmer is the youngest of the three QBs (26), and arguably has the most upside. It would be very tempting for a GM to take Palmer with either of the first two picks, but I would wait until #3 to pick him because of the injury he suffered in the playoffs last year. You never know how that might affect a person. Palmer was the only QB last year with more than 30 TD passes, and he was second only to Manning in QB rating. He is surrounded by a talented running back in Rudi Johnson, and he has some great recievers to throw to. What remains to be seen is whether he will end up resembling Joe Montana or Peyton Manning, in terms of titles won.
4. LaDainian Tomlinson
Tomlinson is not the best pure rusher in the league; that title would go to Shaun Alexander or maybe Larry Johnson, after his strong showing at the end of last year. But Tomlinson gets the fourth pick on this list because of his greatness as a recieving option - Tomlinson has caught over 50 passes every year in the league, including a remarkable 100-reception season in '03. Because of his versatility, Tomlinson gets picked first among the RBs.
5. Larry Johnson
Johnson was fourth in the league in rushing last season - and he was only playing full-time for the last nine weeks! LJ's stats over the last nine weeks of the season projected to something like 2400 years, if he had kept that up for a full season. Plus, he's only 26 years old, so he's got an extra couple years on the other running backs.
6. Shaun Alexander
He was the MVP of the league last year, but Alexander is still the last of the Big Three RB's to go due to his age. Alexander's been in the league for six years, and he's been a starter for basically all six. He's not a big guy, so you've got to wonder how long it will take for him to start to break down. I'd rather have Tomlinson's recieving abilities or Johnson's youth.
7. Eli Manning
No, I'm not being a Giants homer here - nobody I know roots harder against the Giants than I do. (Maybe I'm a contrarian - I root against pretty much all the New York teams.) But I think putting Manning here is fair - he needs to work on his completion percentage, but his other stats all look pretty good, and he didn't have great recievers to throw to. Plus, he's only 25, he has that Manning pedigree, and he's proven that he can handle the New York media. Maybe it's a bit of a stretch, but I'm not sure who else would go in this spot.
8. Reggie Bush
Is this too high for someone who's never set foot on an NFL field? Maybe. But I think some GM would be willing to take Bush this high purely on potential alone - if he can continue to play like his college self, he could be the most electrifying player since Bo Jackson. Bush seems like he can combine Deion Sanders' agility, Tomlinson's recieving ability, and a wide reciever's speed. If you're really offended, you can switch Bush with the next pick if you want.
9. Donovan McNabb
McNabb was not good last year, I'll give you that. But, in case you forgot, he was playing hurt for a while. And he made four consecutive NFC championship games without having any real legitimate threats to help him out (remember, T.O. was hurt until the Super Bowl in the year that they finally made it there). The only concern with picking him this high is his age - he'll turn 30 during next season, and he's taken quite a few hits over his careers.
10. Michael Vick
I know, I know, we've heard it all before. You can't win the Super Bowl with a running quarterback. Vick won't win until he becomes a pocket passer. But if you were a GM in the top ten, wouldn't you consider drafting him, just on his talent alone? He's only 26 years old. Wouldn't you want to try to draft Vick, then try to get him a WR to throw to in the second round (remember, he hasn't ever had that)? And, if someone else drafted him later, surrounded him with talent, and won a Super Bowl, wouldn't you be kicking yourself for all of eternity for not thinking of it? I'd give it a shot.
Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald - They're both great talents, but they're both wide recievers. And taking a wide reciever in the top ten doesn't seem right, when they need a QB to get them the ball.
Ben Roethlisberger - His motorcycle incident won't affect his play one bit, but I don't think he's quite good enough to make this list. He did win the Super Bowl last year, but it wasn't really his doing - he had some great players around him (and a great defense) that played a larger part in their championship run.
Matt Hasselbeck - Yes, Hasselbeck is a very underrated player. But, if you could have one player to build your team around for the next ten years, would you really take Hasselbeck over Vick? Really? I don't buy it.
Matt Leinart, Vince Young - Both of them have the potential to be great, and they're both obviously young, but there are too many questions surrounding each of them to take them over a more proven talent.