Constructing the Ultimate 53-Man NFL Fantasy Roster
In March, Michael Baumann of Crashburn Alley posed the question,
“Let’s say that you’re tasked with winning every single one of the next 10 World Series–what 25-man roster do you construct to achieve this goal?”
This question has continued to haunt me. I have put together multiple 25-man baseball rosters and wondered how my team would compete.
I have decided to take this question one step further and apply it to football.
You are tasked with winning every single Super Bowl for the next 10 seasons; what 53-man roster do you put together to carry out this task?
As easy as that question may seem, there are rules one has to follow.
Your team can be made up of any 53 people on the planet.
Money is not an issue. You will be able to sign and re-sign any player of your choosing.
Injuries and aging are a factor. So if you choose a play with a previous injury and the individual re-injures himself, then you lose the services of that athlete.
Once the 53-man roster is complete, players cannot be replaced due to injury or declining skills due to age
No trades and no free agency. The roster you have is your roster for the next 10 seasons with no changes.
You have to win every Super Bowl over the next 10 football seasons or you and your team will be immediately terminated.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the ultimate 53-man roster I would take into this challenge.
To see all of Michael Baumann’s 25-man baseball roster please see the full story here.
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Quarterbacks: Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton
The quarterback position proved to be a little tricky.
The first question one has to ask himself is whether you want to carry two or three quarterbacks. I went into this process just wanting two quarterbacks, but I decided to go against my first thought to protect myself from injuries.
Matt Stafford is already a legitimate NFL star. At only 24 years old, Stafford has already thrown for 7,840 yards on a 59.8 percent completion percentage.
His past issues with his shoulder injuries do scare me. So I wanted to choose a young NFL-ready quarterback as my backup.
Andrew Luck fits the backup role perfectly. He is a youngster with all the tools to be very successful.
At Stanford, Luck threw for 9,430 yards while completing 67 percent of his passes. In college, Luck threw four touchdowns for every interception he had thrown.
But I am basing all of Luck’s qualities off of college numbers and projected potential.
So I wanted to look for a safety net in my third-string quarterback.
Cam Newton is the perfect complement to what my team already has in Luck and Stafford.
First off, Newton safeguards me against everything going wrong with my top two quarterbacks.
Newton is young and explosively athletic. He already has proven his NFL worth within his rookie season. In his only NFL season, Newton threw for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns. Showing his non-traditional quarterback abilities, Newton also ran for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Best case scenario for my team is Newton is used as the best Wildcat quarterback in all of the NFL.
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Running Backs: LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Trent Richardson and Dexter McCluster
I decided to carry four running backs against the more traditional three because the position of running back is always volatile and one hit away from never playing again.
All four of my running backs will offer my team much flexibility. All four of these athletes can both run with the football and catch the ball out of the backfield.
LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice are already proven NFL superstars. I gave McCoy the starting nod over Rice because McCoy will offer the offense more versatility. Plus having Rice come into the game off the bench will weaken defenses’ will to tackle late in the game.
Much like Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson is a high-reward prospect. He has yet to take a snap within the NFL, but the young runner looks to have all the needed skills to be an eventual starter for this team.
Dexter McCluster is the perfect fourth compliment to this bunch. At 23 years old, McCluster provides my team with a running back who can also lineup as a wide receiver and special teams return specialist.
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Fullback: Mike Tolbert
Mike Tolbert continues my ideals of positional flexibility.
Tolbert is a 26-year-old fullback who can also play running back for this team.
At the end of the 10-year time frame, Tolbert’s advanced age will definitely hinder his skill set. But I could not pass on the flexibility and skills he will give my team in the short term.
Tolbert already has over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving within the NFL. He has also shown the ability to be a lead blocker and pick up blitzes within passing situations.
Tolbert’s flexibility will offer my offense different options when it comes down to short yardage and passing situations.
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Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and Julio Jones
A.J. Green, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones are all young and have proven their worth within the NFL. Each have shown flashes of immense dominance.
I am banking on these three to continue progressing toward elite wide receiver level and taking over for Calvin Johnson and DeSean Jackson.
Calvin Johnson and DeSean Jackson are already proven dynamic NFL playmakers. At 26 years old and 25 years old respectively, the end of the 10-year run might be a little harsh on these two wide receivers.
More than likely, with the development of Bryant, Green and Jones, the final years of this team will relegate Johnson and Jackson to more of a situational role within the offense.
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Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez
This was the easiest selection of all of the positions. Graham, Gronkowski and Hernandez are all young and already the three most dynamic tight ends within the NFL.
None of these tight ends are blockers, but they can line up on the inside or outside and offer the passing game a lot of different options.
Hernandez has already even received carries with the New England Patriots, so later in the 10-year span, I have a player in Hernandez with the potential to develop into an H-back role to replace the aging Tolbert.
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Offensive Tackles: Ryan Clady, Jake Long, Matt Kalil and Nate Solder
Within his first two seasons in the NFL, Ryan Clady looked like an elite-level NFL left tackle.
I realize since this point, he has had knee and other injury problems, but Clady’s athleticism and skills are worth the risk.
Last year, Clady did play in all 16 games for the Denver Broncos; proving he was getting healthier and stronger as the season progressed.
I will admit that I am taking a calculated risk with Clady. I am hoping his injuries are behind him and he has a successful, long-term comeback.
Jake Long as a right tackle is unprecedented. He is widely considered one of the better left tackles in the NFL, and moving him over to the right side should be no issue.
Long has been nothing but consistent since entering the NFL, and I see none of his skills deteriorating over the next 10 seasons.
Much like the other rookies on my team, Matt Kalil is a promising addition. The first couple of seasons, he will have the ability to learn from the starters and play a key backup role. As the seasons progress, more will be expected of Kalil.
Nate Solder continues to impress within the NFL. Since 2011, Solder has shown all the makings of an elite-level offensive tackle.
Solder continues to offer flexibility to my offense, as he went to college as a tight end and could provide my offense with some of the in-line blocking it will miss out on with my three tight ends.
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Offensive Guards: Carl Nicks, Mike Iupati, Dave DeCastro and Jon Asamoah
Carl Nicks just signed a huge contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and it was well deserved. He is a pure offensive guard that can provide your offensive line with great leadership and skills within the passing and running game.
Mike Iupati is a road grader. The former first round selection of the San Francisco 49ers can clear a hole for any running back. To have him next to Jake Long on the right side of my offensive line is terrorizing for opposing defensive linemen.
David DeCastro is another choice based off of potential. The former Stanford Cardinal can play either offensive guard position. He should provide a valuable service as a backup that can work his way into the starting lineup.
Jon Asamoah started all 16 games last season for the Kansas City Chiefs. In addition to that impressive feat, Asamoah was also replacing a future Hall of Famer in Brian Waters. The 23-year-old has already proven nothing will intimidate him, and he will overachieve anytime he is given the opportunity.
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Offensive Centers: Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Pouncey
The Pouncey brothers have dominated at every level of competition.
Bringing them back together should only bring out the best in each of them.
Their versatility will also help out the offense, as either can play multiple positions along the offensive line.
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Defensive Ends: Von Miller, Jason Pierre Paul, Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt
Flexibility and versatility reign supreme once again when discussing my defensive ends. Von Miller and JPP can flat out rush the passer. Each recorded over 11 sacks last season; with JPP leading the way with 16.5.
Von Miller, Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt are all capable of playing in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 base defense. Within the 3-4, Miller and Smith could move to the outside linebacker position.
J.J. Watt on the other hand, can be a run-stopping defensive end within the base 3-4 or 4-3. Watt also has the ability to move in to the defensive tackle position during predominant passing situations.
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Defensive Tackles: Ndamukong Suh, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley and Dontari Poe
My defensive tackles might be the riskiest of positions for my entire team. I threw aside off-the-field issues, demeanor and injuries for talent and flexibility.
Ndamukong Suh can play defensive tackle in either the 3-4 or the 4-3. Suh would also offer extra depth at end within the base 3-4.
Dontari Poe is a potential-based choice I see playing the nose tackle position in either the 4-3 or the 3-4. Plain and simple, I expect Poe to generate a pass rush, while also stopping the run in any defensive front.
Nick Fairly and Marcell Dareus can play either end of the defensive tackle position in either the 3-4 or the 4-3. Both would offer depth and versatility within any defense we would run.
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Outside Linebackers: Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Ayers
Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing have proven to be so talented, it does not really matter what defense they play within.
Matthews has 161 career tackles and 29.5 career sacks.
Cushing has trumped his former USC teammate’s numbers by recording 324 tackles. 216 of those tackles are solo in nature.
Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Ayers are more suited to play outside linebacker with the 4-3. With that said, I like the speed and agility that they add to this defense. These skills can also translate to special teams when needed.
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Inside Linebackers: Patrick Willis, Daryl Washington, Luke Kuechly and Curtis Lofton
Much like his fellow linebackers, Patrick Willis is so talented he can play in any defensive scheme.
Daryl Washington is more suited to play a run-stopping 3-4 inside linebacker, as those are the skills he has shown to be successful while playing for the Arizona Cardinals.
Luke Kuechly is like his fellow rookies. His choice is based off of potential and promise. But the expected starting middle linebacker for the Carolina Panthers looks to be living up to expectations.
Curtis Lofton fits better into a 4-3 base defense. But with his athleticism, he can prove to be a valuable contributor to this team. His skills will be appreciated on special teams and in coverage situations. Plus, having linebackers in front of him, with the skills of a Willis and Washington, will give him the time to adjust to any defensive formations or schemes.
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Cornerbacks: Darrelle Revis, Tracy Porter, Joe Haden, Patrick Peterson and Maurice Claiborne
At 26 years old, Darrelle Revis is a star. He is hands down the top shutdown corner in the NFL. Even though he may not help this team toward the end of the 10 seasons, it does not matter. The continued dominance of his career will be well worth the later more useless years.
Tracy Porter is a young and underrated corner. He has 194 career tackles with seven interceptions. Placing Porter next to Revis will form a cornerback tandem that has never been seen before within the NFL.
Joe Haden is another young corner that is just scratching the surface of his potential. Haden’s NFL experience has already shown him to have upside and promise in a developing Browns defense.
With the amount of talent around him on this team, Haden’s skills should only continue to flourish.
Patrick Peterson is a unique NFL player. He is young and already a proven playmaker on both special teams and defense. His presence will not only help this secondary, but it will also benefit the return game.
Maurice Claiborne projects to be a very good NFL corner for years to come. He will have the opportunity to develop with this team, and will likely become the eventually replacement for Revis in the starting lineup.
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Safeties: Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, T.J. Ward and Nate Allen
Eric Berry and Earl Thomas are proven starters within the NFL. Each can line up in any defensive scheme and impact the action on the field. Both provide a defensive coordinator so much talent and flexibility; there is not even a need to classify one as a strong and one as a free safety.
Both of these safeties will also allow the defensive coordinator to stay within his base defense more often. Either safety can cover a slot receiver on any given team.
Nate Allen is a true center field, ball-hawking free safety. He will play in the middle of the defense and give opposing quarterbacks fits with his ability to cover ground and intercept passes.
T.J. Ward has had his injury concerns. But with a more limited role on defense and special teams, I am hoping Ward’s injury woes are behind him.
He is a true NFL in the box strong safety. Ward can and will play near the line of scrimmage and affect the opposing offenses' ability to run the ball.
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Kicker: Conner Barth
Punter: Kevin Huber
The kicker and punter position are basically two positions that should have no issues with lasting 10 NFL seasons. 99 percent of the time, these two are barely touched so injuries should not be a major concern.
Both of these positions have an NFL track record of long term success.
I picked the youngest two players who seem to be holding down their current NFL jobs without too many question marks surrounding them.
Barth made 93 percent of his field goals last season, while hitting a career long of 55 yards.
In 91 punts last season, Huber averaged 44.2 yards per punt. Over his career, Huber has only kicked 10 percent of his punts for touchbacks, while also punting 31 percent of his punts inside the 20 yard line.