The Most Dominant Player at Every Position in the NFL Today
To dominate at a position, a player needs to have physical ability, intelligence and technique. Obviously, the importance of each of these traits varies by position. Still, these are the crucial factors in determining the most dominant players at each position.
Production is also obviously crucial. But to be dominant means to take over, to be unstoppable. There are elite players who don't fit this bill, but the following athletes are all dominant and seem unbreakable at times.
Some single-handedly win football games.
Disclaimer: Fullbacks were excluded off this list. With the decline in usage of fullbacks and how they are often used interchangeably with running backs or tight ends (H-Backs), they aren't featured enough to be considered dominant.
Most Dominant Player: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Some may still argue for Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but Aaron Rodgers has, by this point, established himself as being in a class of his own. Rodgers' physical talent, intelligence and ball placement are all among the NFL's best.
It would be foolish to place a ceiling on what Rodgers can accomplish. The 29-year-old already has the best quarterback rating ever in a single season, and he has surpassed a rating of 100 each of the past four years.
At any given time, Rodgers is capable of carrying the Green Bay Packers to a victory, as he has proven multiple times. That is the definition of dominant.
Most Dominant Player: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
In 2012, Adrian Peterson became the second player since 2003 to rush for 2,000 yards, coming up just eight yards short of the all-time record. So yeah, he was pretty much a shoo-in here.
Last year, Peterson essentially carried the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs. This was a team that had no business being in the postseason, but still made it there because of one player.
Peterson's 2012 season was one of the best rushing performances ever, and now that he's a year further removed from a torn ACL, he could be even more dominant in 2013.
Most Dominant Player: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
This one was just as predictable as Adrian Peterson at running back, and for good reason. Calvin Johnson is on a level of his own, and no one else is close.
Last year, "Megatron" broke Jerry Rice's record for the most receiving yards in a single season, catching 122 passes for 1,964 yards and five touchdowns. This was Johnson's best season yet, but he is capable of repeating it.
The 6'5", 236-pounder is almost impossible to defend with his freakish size and athleticism. There is no player in the NFL who demands more constant attention.
Most Dominant Player: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
In just three NFL seasons, Rob Gronkowski has already caught 187 passes for 2,663 yards and, most impressively, 38 touchdowns. He puts up obscene wide receiver production at tight end.
And unlike many great receiving tight ends, Gronkowski is an amazing blocker, perhaps the best in the NFL. In the run game, Gronk is almost like an extra offensive lineman.
His 6'6", 265-pound size, physicality and athleticism make him an unstoppable force.
When the Patriots are in the red zone, Gronkowski is a lethal weapon.
Of course, he's also that same player everywhere else on the field.
Most Dominant Player: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
In six NFL seasons, Joe Thomas has made six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams. That alone is indication of just how dominant the Cleveland left tackle is.
Thomas may not be the game's most powerful run blocker, but his pass-blocking ability is unparalleled. The 6'7", 312-pounder is quick-footed and displays flawless technique.
There have been offensive tackles who have dominated like Thomas over the past few seasons, but none who have done so consistently.
Most Dominant Player: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens' right guard has also played right tackle, and he is, perhaps, the nastiest, toughest player in the NFL.
At 6'4", 305 pounds, Yanda isn't massive by any means, but he plays with strength and is a dominant run blocker. Yanda can overpower at the line of scrimmage or attack in the second level.
There are a number of great guards in the NFL right now, but Yanda stands out as the most dominant.
Most Dominant Player: Nick Mangold, New York Jets
Injuries have been a factor for Nick Mangold in recent years, as he's missed just two games in his career, but has often played hurt. When he's healthy, he is the game's top center.
Mangold is a truly dominant run blocker. He easily overpowers bigger defensive tackles at the point of attack and is quick enough to pick up linebackers in the second level.
A four-time Pro-Bowler, Mangold has been an elite player since entering the league in 2006. Few centers have the ability to change the outcome of a game, but Mangold makes a difference on every play.
Most Dominant Player: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
J.J. Watt's 2012 season was one of the best defensive performances in the NFL. Playing as a 3-4 defensive end, Watt somehow racked up 81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and 16 passes defended. His sacks and tackles are extraordinary for a 4-3 defensive end, much less a 5-technique like Watt.
The 6'5", 289-pounder is an incredible athlete with amazing power. He dominated against the run just as much as he did against the pass, making a considerable impact on every play.
There may be a correct way to block Watt, but NFL teams haven't found it yet. He is impossible to contain.
Most Dominant Player: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals
Because he isn't J.J. Watt, Geno Atkins didn't see all that much publicity for his excellent 2012 season. Atkins recorded 12.5 sacks, which is an exceptional number for a defensive tackle.
Though he is a bit smaller at 6'1", 303 pounds, Atkins is actually a terrific run defender. He uses exceptional leverage, power and quickness to penetrate the backfield, and he rarely surrenders any ground.
Still just 25 years old, Atkins is already a complete player with elite ability. Offensive lines don't know how to stop him, and the Cincinnati star should grow even more dominant with time.
Most Dominant Player: Von Miller, Denver Broncos
Despite playing linebacker in a 4-3 defense, Von Miller is the NFL's best pass-rusher. His 18.5 sacks in 2012 were third in the NFL, and he could even improve upon that number in 2013.
Miller isn't some one-dimensional pass-rusher, though. He is also a strong defender against the run, and he has no trouble dropping back in coverage.
Miller is the type of playmaker every team wants. There is almost no limit to the value he can add to a defense.
Most Dominant Player: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Willis is the NFL's most widely celebrated inside linebacker now that Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher have both retired. The 6'1", 240-pounder has dominated since his rookie year in 2007, making the All-Pro team in all six seasons.
Willis is a superb athlete who plays with power and intelligence. He is the undisputed leader of San Francisco's defense, as he makes plays from sideline to sideline.
Oddly enough, the second-place finisher for this spot is NaVorro Bowman, who plays next to Willis in the 49ers 3-4 defense.
Most Dominant Player: Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This one is a bit trickier since Darrelle Revis missed the entire 2012 season, but his résumé is far too impressive to ignore. In the past, Revis has dominated like few cornerbacks ever have. He effectively eliminates a wide receiver from the game.
It doesn't really matter how good the wideout is either. Unless it's Calvin Johnson, Revis can take him out by himself. That is an ability with value beyond measure.
If this wouldn't go to Revis because of his uncertain health, it would have to be Richard Sherman, who stepped up as a premier cornerback in Revis' absence.
Most Dominant Player: Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills
In four seasons, Jairus Byrd has earned a reputation as a ball hawk. He is more than that, though. Byrd is excellent in all forms of coverage and has turned into a decent run-defender.
Besides his rookie year, Byrd hasn't come close to double-digit interceptions, but he consistently gets a few and is frequently breaking up passes. His ability to match up with wide receivers is a valuable trait.
He isn't in-his-prime Ed Reed, but Byrd is the best coverage safety in the NFL right now.
Most Dominant Player: Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers
It is impossible to find a more complete safety than Eric Weddle. The San Diego Chargers star is excellent against the pass and run, rarely showing any holes in his game.
Weddle doesn't usually pick up too many interceptions—he did have seven in 2011—but he will break up passes and make plays on the ball. More importantly, he doesn't often get burnt in coverage.
With Troy Polamalu now past his prime, Weddle is the game's best strong safety. He doesn't make the same number of impact plays Polamalu did, but he's still solid.
Most Dominant Player: Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
As a rookie in 2012, Blair Walsh was already the NFL's best kicker. He made 92.1 percent of his kicks on the year, successfully converting all 10 of his kicks in excess of 50 yards.
No other kicker was even close to Walsh's level. The 23-year-old was immediately elite, and there is no reason why his production should diminish in the coming seasons.
It's rare when kickers receive a lot of praise, but Walsh deserved it all in 2012.
Most Dominant Player: Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints
Last year, Thomas Morstead was No. 2 in both average punt length and net punt length. The correlation between the two numbers suggests that Morstead not only kicks the ball far, but he also kicks it high.
In 2011, Morstead was also dominant, with similar numbers in both categories. The New Orleans Saints' high-powered offense means they don't often have to use Morstead, but when they do, he gets the job done like few others can.
Most Dominant Player: Jacoby Jones, Baltimore Ravens
Jones was so good as a returner last year that despite only catching 30 passes, he was still included in the NFL Top 100 Players of 2012.
The six-year veteran returned one punt and two kickoffs for touchdowns last year. He was a star in the playoffs, catching a 70-yard pass from Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter to tie the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, which catapulted the Ravens to the AFC championship. He followed that up with a 108-yard kick return touchdown in the Super Bowl that landed a yard short of the longest play in NFL history.
He was declared an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler in 2012. He's undoubtedly the most dangerous return man in the NFL today.