NFL Players Who Deserve Their Independence
The NFL continues to morph into arguably the nation's most popular sport due to the amount of parity in the league. Yet not every talented player has benefited from playing on a winning franchise.
There are a number of star players who display their unique talents for teams that are not in contention for a championship.
This includes young quarterbacks who are trying to make names for themselves while struggling to perform with a weak supporting cast.
Here are some players who deserve to play with better players and to face fairer expectations from fans.
Note to the Reader: This is not a comparison in anyway to America's national holiday, Independence Day.
5. RB Darren McFadden
Darren McFadden hasn't exactly led people to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to mentioning him among the elite running backs in the NFL.
His inability to stay healthy and become effective over a 16-game season is frustrating both for him and for the franchise that made him a first-round pick a few years ago.
However, when he is healthy and performing at a high level, he hasn't been fortunate enough to be surrounded by a talented group of players on offense.
The lack of an elite run-blocking offensive line certainly makes it more difficult on a player like McFadden, who takes on plenty more punishing hits compared to other running backs.
He also hasn't been complemented by a quality passing game, as the instability at the quarterback and wide receiver positions in Oakland has led to McFadden becoming responsible for most of the Raiders' production.
While he displays the ability to be a top-caliber running back when healthy, he would be more suited if he played on a team for which running the football wasn't the focus, thus limiting his carries over an entire year and keeping him fresh for the most crucial parts of a season.
4. WR Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald has been a top-flight receiver for the last seven years, most notably during the Cardinals' surprising run to the Super Bowl a few years ago.
Yet since the bitter defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the title game, the former first-round pick out of Pittsburgh has unfortunately been a member of a franchise reverting back to its losing ways over the last couple of seasons.
Last season, Fitzgerald had his worst statistical season since his rookie year due in large part to the erratic quarterback play in Arizona.
While the acquisition of Carson Palmer is an upgrade over the previous talent on the roster, Fitzgerald has not benefited from playing with a talented quarterback since his time with Kurt Warner a few years back.
Fitzgerald is one of the more respected players in this game due to his great sportsmanship, and he has not voiced disappointment with the results over the last few seasons.
But that does not mean that he can't display frustration for what has occurred the last few years.
3. QB Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez faces the most pressure and scrutiny of any current player who is playing in New York. His inability to continue his development into a top-flight passer has left the Jets to turn toward the future with rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
It seems that the former USC product would benefit from a change scenery rather than staying with a franchise that hasn't fully embraced him by not upgrading his supporting cast.
Whether fair or unfair, the expectations to perform at a high level in New York are something that Sanchez understands, but he has been unable to become the sustainable franchise quarterback.
2. RB Maurice-Jones Drew
Maurice-Jones Drew has endured quite a successful career as one of the elite running backs in the NFL over the last five years. Despite being plagued with injuries last season, Jones-Drew has become the face of a Jaguars franchise that is trying to find its identity in the league.
However, while the majority of his seasons were successful as far as individual numbers, his team has not been able to take full advantage of his talents during the prime of his career.
For years, the Jaguars couldn't emerge as the team to beat in the division due to the model of consistency displayed by Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
Now the Colts are beginning a new and successful era with second-year quarterback Andrew Luck. Meanwhile, the Houston Texans have become the best in the AFC South and have showed signs of staying power.
Quite frankly, Jones-Drew can't catch a break.
1. WR Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson has become the most dominant wide receiver in the NFL today, as he exploits opposing secondaries on a weekly basis.
Yet at times, people overlook the fact that he is this accomplished despite the lack of talent he has played with over the course of his career.
During the majority of their losing seasons over the last decade, the Lions have not been able to create depth at receiver despite drafting multiple wideouts in the first round, with Mike Williams coming to mind as the biggest disappointment.
Johnson has also only experienced a berth in the postseason just one time in his career, as it has proven to be tough for an elite player of his caliber to carry such an untalented roster to double-digit wins each season.