The Best NFL Player from Each State

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIMarch 7, 2012

The Best NFL Player from Each State

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    Picking the best NFL player from each state is certainly not an easy task. Sure, states like Alaska or Maine are easy because only one player needs to make it to the NFL for him to be their best.

    But states like Florida, Texas or California, where the elite football prospects grow on trees, makes it a much more difficult task.

    Here is our best effort to give you the absolute best NFL player from all 50 states.

Alabama: DeMarcus Ware, LB

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    DeMarcus Ware has been terrorizing defenses since he left Troy University for the Dallas Cowboys.

    Watching Ware attack the quarterback as an outside linebacker is a thing of beauty.

    His combination of technique, strength and athleticism is unmatched in the league.

    He is one of the top outside linebackers in the NFL and has a legitimate shot of ending his career near the top of the career sacks list.

    He's been to six straight Pro Bowls and voted to six straight All-Pro teams.

Alaska: Daryn Colledge, OG

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    There really weren't many players to chose from out of the gigantic state of Alaska, so Daryn Colledge makes this list more or less by default.

    While he has been a consistent starter for both the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals, he hasn't been anything close to an elite player.

    Of course, if there was ever a case of "global cooling" and the United States fell under an ice age, Colledge would likely be prepared, having lived so far north.

Arizona: Todd Heap, TE

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    It was actually rather surprising to see the lack of top talent from a state like Arizona.

    There just simply aren't many NFL players from this southwestern state.

    Early in his career, Todd Heap was one of the better young tight ends in the league.

    Unfortunately, injuries began to plague him, and his production dropped off greatly.

    He's now back in his home state with the Arizona Cardinals.

Arkansas: Darren McFadden, RB

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    When healthy, Darren McFadden is one of the best running backs in the NFL.

    However, McFadden has really struggled with injuries throughout his short career.

    McFadden grew up in Arkansas and also played his college football for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

    He was a unique player in college and has carried that success over into the pro game.

    Hopefully McFadden can get past his injury history, because he is a truly special player to watch when on the field.

California: Tom Brady, QB

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    The state of California is a breeding ground for the elite of the elite in the NFL.

    Players like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Jared Allen all originated from California.

    However, the one player that surpasses them all is Tom Brady.

    The NFL's golden boy is from San Mateo, California and is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

    He's a proven winner who makes everyone around him better. When he's done playing football, I wouldn't be surprised if he takes his talents into politics. 

    Heck, maybe he'll become the next Governator.

Colorado: Vincent Jackson, WR

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    Once Vincent Jackson gets the contract that he deserves, which will likely come from a team other than the San Diego Chargers, I believe he'll develop into a top-notch wide receiver.

    He's got all the physical tools, but contract negotiations have really appeared to hinder his on-field performance.

    When focused, Jackson is a superior physical and athletic talent than many of his peers.

    Look for 2012 to be a huge year for Jackson.

Connecticut: Dwight Freeney, DE

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    As one of the best pass-rushers in recent memory, Dwight Freeney is one of the most exciting defensive players to watch.

    He is the definition of a player mastering his craft, as his technique is nearly perfect.

    Freeney has been the anchor of the Indianapolis Colts defense for years and will hopefully be staying in that position for the remainder of his career.

Delaware: Montell Owens, FB

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    You may have never heard of Montell Owens, but Owens has been to two straight Pro Bowls as a special teams player.

    He is the only NFL player from Delaware worth anything.

Florida: Andre Johnson, WR

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    Of all the states, Florida might have the most overall talent.

    When you look at players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Chris Johnson, it's easy to see why college scouts flock to Florida looking for prospects.

    While the aforementioned players are all fantastic, the best player from Florida is Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans.

    When healthy, Johnson is the best wide receiver in the game.

    The problem over the past two seasons is that Johnson has really struggled with staying healthy. Maybe he needs to head back to Florida and start pounding orange juice to improve his immune system.

Georgia: Calvin Johnson, WR

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    As good as Andre Johnson is, Calvin Johnson is quickly becoming the better player.

    In fact, if he improves as much in 2012 as he did in 2011, he'll not only become the best wide receiver in the league, but it won't even be close.

    Johnson is a freak of nature who is literally unstoppable.

    The only way that defenses can stop him is by putting three defenders on him at a time. Even then, it's still pretty difficult to slow him down.

Hawaii: Al Afalava, S

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    Even with a prominent university on their island, the state of Hawaii lacks much personnel in the NFL.

    One player who has had a minuscule impact is Al Afalava.

    As a safety, he's never been a starter, but he has made a contribution as a backup player.

Idaho: Jordan Gross, OT

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    It may be hard to believe that Idaho is known for something other than potatoes, but Jordan Gross is doing his best to prove everyone wrong. 

    Gross is one of the more consistent offensive tackles in the league.

    He isn't the biggest of players, but he does a good job at using his strength to control the offensive line.

    He was one of the key players to Cam Newton having such a successful rookie season.

Illinois: Rashard Mendenhall, RB

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    The problem with all the NFL players from Illinois is that they are all washed up.

    One example of this is Donovan McNabb, who may be the master of being washed up.

    The best player from this flat state right now is Rashard Mendenhall.

    The running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers is having difficulty returning from a torn ACL, but will hopefully be back sometime during the 2012 season.

    If he can't come back, the next-best player from Illinois is David Diehl. Yep, it's that bad.

Indiana: Jay Cutler, QB

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    Everyone knows that Indiana is a basketball state, but Jay Cutler is currently doing his best job to show that great football players can come from this state also.

    While other kids were shooting hoops in their backyard, Cutler was throwing footballs as hard as he could as scarecrows and sleeping cows.

    All that practice gave Cutler one of the strongest arms currently in the NFL.

    The only problem for Cutler with the Chicago Bears is that he hasn't had any receivers that are better than the scarecrows in Indiana. 

Iowa: Dallas Clark, TE

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    One look at Dallas Clark on the football field and you just know that he is a good ol' farm boy from Iowa.

    His hard work ethic and fundamentally sound game just screams growing up on a farm, feeding pigs and shucking corn.

    He has been one of the better and more consistent tight ends in the league for last decade.

    Injuries have started to take a toll on his body, so it may not be long before Clark moves back to the cornfields of Iowa.

Kansas: Brian Moorman, P

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    When the best player from your state is a punter, it is time to build up your youth football program.

    Nothing against Brian Moorman, who has been one of the best punters of the 21st century, but a punter should never be the best player on any team or from any state.

    This just hurts, Kansas. At least you have barbecue.

Kentucky: Rob Bironas, K

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    Much like Kansas, Kentucky gets a failing grade for having a kicker be their best player from the state.

    What makes this even worse is that I had to decide between two kickers, Rob Bironas and David Akers.

    Bironas wins out because he can kick more field goals in a game than anyone else.

Louisiana: Peyton/Eli Manning, QB

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    Both Peyton and Eli Manning are from Louisiana.

    I went back and forth and back and forth between these two for hours before I finally decided to put them both on here.

    Let me explain why.

    If Peyton comes back healthy, he wins out. If he doesn't, Eli gets the nod.

    If for some crazy reason neither of them come back, well then Archie Manning gets the nod because he'll likely come back to show his kids how it's done.

Maine: Will Montgomery, OL

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    Never heard of Will Montgomery?

    Well, he is the only player from Maine currently in the NFL.

    Never heard of Maine? That's okay, seventh-grade Geography isn't for everyone.

Maryland: Cameron Wake, LB

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    Maryland has actually produced some decent NFL talent in recent years.

    You may have thought that Maryland was only for politics and the Kennedys, but you were wrong.

    The best player to come from this crab-loving state is Cameron Wake.

    As a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, Wake has been great at punishing quarterbacks in sunny Florida.

Massachusetts: Stephen Cooper, LB

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    Stephen Cooper has been one of the most consistent players for the San Diego Chargers since he joined the team.

    As an undrafted free agent in 2003, Cooper continues to make Massachusettonians, or whatever you call people from Massachusetts, proud by consistently being a top tackler in the NFL.

Michigan: Jake Long, OT

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    Antonio Gates was also born in Michigan, but injuries in the past two seasons have really diminished his impact on the game.

    Jake Long, on the other hand, who happens to bleed Michigan blue, continues to be one of the better left tackles in the NFL.

    His play did decrease in effectiveness a little in 2011, but Long is still right up there with the best in the game.

Minnesota: Larry Fitzgerald, WR

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    Since Larry Fitzgerald entered the NFL in 2004, you just knew that there was something special about this player.

    It wasn't just the spectacular catches or incredible numbers, either.

    It was the way he played the game with such an intense passion.

    Even dealing with less-than-stellar quarterbacks, Fitzgerald never complains and simply goes about his business.

Mississippi: Aldon Smith, LB

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    Aldon Smith is easily the youngest player on this list, but his impact felt in his first season was astronomical. 

    Smith was consistently in opponents' backfields in 2011, and he is only beginning to tap into his potential.

    Once Smith gets a full comprehension of the professional game, he'll be an extremely scary player.

    Other players from Mississippi won't even have a chance to dethrone him.

Missouri: Justin Smith, DT

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    Justin Smith was a pretty good defensive tackle to the Cincinnati Bengals, but once he came to the San Francisco 49ers, he's been playing at an entirely new level.

    Smith was arguably the most dominant player on the best defensive unit in the NFL in 2011.

    Yes, he played even better than Patrick Willis at times.

    That trend may not continue with Willis being completely healthy, but there is no doubt that Smith will continue to be a focal piece to the 49ers' defensive success.

Montana: Dwan Edwards, DE

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    The problem with the state of Montana is that the majority of the population is buffalo.

    While good for things like eating, buffaloes don't make the greatest football players.

    While Dwan Edwards may be roughly the same size as a buffalo, he has turned out to have quite the NFL career.

    After a scary neck injury in 2008, Edwards is coming off a career year for the Buffalo Bills in 2011.

Nebraska: Barrett Ruud, LB

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    Growing up, Barrett Ruud's workout regime involved tackling cornstalk after cornstalk.

    What's funny is that skill translated very well to the NFL, where Ruud is an absolute tackling machine.

    Ruud recently signed a nice contract with the Tennessee Titans, where he can now practice by tackling cotton stalks. It's even more painful than it sounds.

Nevada: Steven Jackson, RB

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    As one of the most underrated running backs in the NFL, Steven Jackson is a do-it-all back for the St. Louis Rams.

    For the past handful of seasons, Jackson has been the only consistent form of offense for the struggling Rams.

    Not only does he succeed as a runner, but he is also a threat as a receiver.

    Hopefully, Jackson will start getting some more love in the coming years.

New Hampshire: None

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    There currently isn't an NFL player born in New Hampshire in the NFL.

    However, I bet if they put a moose in a football jersey, he would be a pretty good player.

New Jersey: Miles Austin, WR

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    After a breakout campaign in 2010, Miles Austin struggled with injuries in 2011 but was still rather productive.

    He has become one of the premier receivers in the league and is easily the favorite target of quarterback Tony Romo.

    He should continue to be a top-flight receiver in the league and a fantasy football stud.

New Mexico: Ryan Cook, OL

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    While Ryan Cook isn't Logan Mankins or Josh Sitton, he is still a quality offensive lineman.

    He also happens to be the best player from the state of New Mexico.

    He was raised in New Mexico, played college in New Mexico and if there was an NFL team in New Mexico, he would have probably found a way to play on it. 

New York: Ray Rice, RB

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    There simply isn't a better dual-threat running back in the NFL than Ray Rice right now.

    His compact body and quick feet allow him to succeed despite his small stature.

    Rice also happens to be one of the most lovable NFL players in the league.

    The big reason why is because he wins so many fantasy football leagues for the common man.

North Carolina: Julius Peppers, DE

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    When speaking about freaks of nature, Julius Peppers deserves to be right at the top of the list. 

    He played both basketball and football for the University of North Carolina, and was pretty good at both.

    His athleticism is truly unique for a player of his size, as he constantly is able to get pressure on the quarterback.

North Dakota: None

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    Jim Kleinsasser would have made this list had I written it two months ago.

    Unfortunately, Kleinsasser retired in January, and now North Dakota has no players in the NFL.

Ohio: Charles Woodson, CB

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    Ohio is a surprisingly potent state of NFL talent, but Charles Woodson stands above them all. 

    Woodson continues to get better with age, as 2011 was one of the best statistical seasons of his career.

    He continues to anchor the Green Bay Packers defense.

Oklahoma: Wes Welker, WR

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    The small-stature wide receiver has quietly become one of the most productive wide receivers in the entire NFL.

    Forget his dropped pass in the most recent Super Bowl—Wes Welker is a top-tier football player.

    He has become Tom Brady's top target, and his elusiveness and sure hands make he and Brady one of the top quarterback-receiver duos in the NFL.

Oregon: Derek Anderson, QB

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    You know your state is lacking elite NFL talent when Derek Anderson is the best player.

    While Anderson did have one productive season for the Cleveland Browns, he has since dropped off the face of the planet.

    He is now stuck behind Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen with the Carolina Panthers.

Pennsylvania: Darrelle Revis, CB

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    Over the past three or four seasons, Darrelle Revis has separated himself from every other cornerback in the league as a true shutdown corner.

    He literally has the ability to make half the football field disappear for a quarterback.

    In fact, quarterbacks that are crazy enough to throw his direction often pay for it.

Rhode Island: Will Blackmon, CB

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    It was really surprising to see the small state of Rhode Island have a player in the NFL.

    Sure, Will Blackmon is really only used as a special teams player, but a player in the NFL is a player in the NFL.

    At least they have bragging rights over North Dakota and New Hampshire.

South Carolina: Johnathan Joseph, CB

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    Last year, Johnathan Joseph showed the rest of the NFL just how good of a player he was.

    He single-handily transformed the Houston Texans' pass defense into one of the best units in the league.

    You can be sure that the Cincinnati Bengals will continue to kick themselves for allowing such an elite talent to leave.

South Dakota: Adam Vinatieri, K

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    Look, I love kickers more than anyone else, but there is something seriously wrong with your talent pool if a kicker is the best NFL player from your state.

    At least South Dakota has Mt. Rushmore to hold on to.

Tennessee: Patrick Willis, LB

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    One of the greatest states in the South (yes, it is where I currently live) also happens to be the birthplace of one of the greatest defensive players in the NFL.

    Patrick Willis has officially overtaken Ray Lewis as the top inside linebacker and will likely continue to ravage offenses for many, many years.

Texas: Drew Brees, QB

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    Texas was by far the hardest state to decide on.

    It came down to Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson.

    Brees finally won the debate because he just threw for like 9,000 yards and Peterson can't break the 2,000-yard rushing mark.

    Things are supposed to be bigger in Texas, and Brees' 2011 statistics prove that that is absolutely true.

Utah: Haloti Ngata, DT

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    There just isn't a player in the NFL as unique as Haloti Ngata. 

    I mean, watching a 330-pound man move as nimbly as Ngata makes you want to cry.

    It is definitely better than watching a world-class ballet.

    He has certainly done the state of Utah proud.

Vermont: None

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    Well, at least Vermont still has their cheddar cheese.

Virginia: Michael Vick, QB

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    What is so crazy about Michael Vick is that he could really be a far superior player than he is.

    And I'm not just talking about his arrest and absence from the game.

    What I'm talking about is that moment when Vick first entered the league and everyone thought that this man was going to completely change the game.

    Still, Vick is one of the most dynamic players in the league right now.

Washington: Jason Hanson, K

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    Much like the states of Kentucky and South Dakota, Washington should be ashamed that the best NFL player from their state is a kicker.

    I really have nothing against kickers, but using a kicker's name, like Jason Hanson, and the phrase "best NFL player" in the same sentence is just wrong.

West Virginia: Randy Moss, WR

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    I know, I know. Randy Moss doesn't technically play in the NFL.

    But what did you expect? We're talking about West Virginia here—not California or Texas.

    Plus, Moss is making a comeback and people are interested

Wisconsin: Joe Thomas, OT

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    Wisconsin may be best known for the Green Bay Packers, beer, cows and cheese, but the best left tackle in the NFL also happens to call Wisconsin his birth state.

    I guess if you eat enough meat and cheese and drink enough beer, you'll likely end up in the NFL like Joe Thomas. I mean, just look at Gabe Carimi.

Wyoming: Chris Cooley, TE

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    I'll be honest, I almost forgot about Wyoming.

    Can you really blame me, though?

    I'm pretty sure the entire population of the state is less than the population of the city of Nashville.

    However, one of those 568,158 people is Chris Cooley, tight end for the Washington Redskins.

    He's been to two Pro Bowls, which is more than the entire population of the town he grew up in.