Top 10 NFC North Players: What's Your Take?
Here we go, ladies and gentlemen, the Top 10 list you have been waiting for. This list comprises who I believe to be the leaders of the NFC North.
As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the list and how you may rate differently.
While many may be missing from this list (newly acquired and drafted talent) I still felt that I cannot place them without experiencing what it is that they bring to the NFL as a longer term/developed player.
Oh, and Favre isn’t playing…yet. So he is not included whatsoever. Deal with it.
Without further banter, let’s get it on. No. 10…
10. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions - QB
It’s a matter of time for this second-year player to learn the system and to contribute exponentially to his team.
In a rookie season laden with injuries and a team lacking in depth, Stafford contributed over 2,200 yards and 13 TDs. Not bad when you really think of it.
While the future is starting to look rosier with Jahvid Best and Ndamukong Suh added to the fold, the pressure is starting to mount for Stafford to turn all of this into some wins.
The reason he is listed among the top ten is because of the pure potential this young man has. Head coach Jim Schwartz is the right man for the job to balance expectations and players in rebuilding this team.
9. Matt Forte – Chicago Bears - RB
I found myself searching for Chicago Bears players who I can name among the 10 best. Matt Forte certainly is one of them, but he is one of few on the Bears roster.
I cannot put my finger on the problem in Chicago but I can use the words 'Band-Aid solutions' to help describe what I am feeling.
Forte is a major part of the Bears offense and 2009 was a miserable year with only 4 TDs. His rookie year was astounding with a collection of 1,238 yards along with 8 TDs.
He has nowhere but up to go from here though; certainly his abilities aren’t lacking and his redzone prowess.
What is most astounding to me is that when Forte played against his own division in 2009, he ran for an average of 4.6 yards per carry but only found the end zone once.
He knows his division enough to make a dent, but can he come through in 2010?
8. Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears - QB
Coming in at No. 8 is the QB with the arm like a cannon.
While throwing the ball a great distance helps your deep threat potential, I am concerned with his rating in the red zone.
Coming in at 63.5 in 2009, I feel that maybe the Bears need to work on their offense a bit, with Forte finding a lull and Cutler needing to find his groove.
Without a doubt, Cutler does have talent. In Denver, Cutler was able to increase his accuracy and passing yards each year.
Time is Jay Cutler’s best friend right now, because his numbers dropped when he became the No. 1 gunslinger in the Windy City.
7. Percy Harvin – Minnesota Vikings – WR
The athleticism of Percy Harvin is unreal. Taking the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2009, Harvin has filled many roles for the Vikings offense.
Whether it is rushing, receiving, or kick returns, Harvin is a threat anywhere on the field. With so many accolades, there is also so much uncertainty.
Frequently, Harvin is battling migraines and illnesses, and this puts him at No. 7 mainly because of that uncertainty.
Without a doubt, he is a great player and has potential, but your chances of greatness are reduced if you cannot physically be on the field.
6. Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions – WR
I obviously know that Lions fans are booing and hissing just seeing their prized WR coming in at number six.
Yes, Calvin Johnson is a great player with more talent in his pinky finger than other starting wide receivers in the league.
Yes, Calvin Johnson amassed over 1,300 yards and 12 TDs in his 2008 season.
No, Calvin Johnson has not been consistent enough to place anywhere near the top three of the NFC North.
Consistency has caused me to place him in the No. 6 position. I do believe, however, that 2010 will be a better year for No. 81 because Stafford is healthy and they have had an entire offseason to gel their connection.
Do I dare make a prediction? Sure, why not. Calvin Johnson, 1,100 yards and 9 TDs.
5. Ryan Grant – Green Bay Packers – RB
Up, up and away! Ryan Grant is a force to be reckoned with in 2010. The Green Bay Packers are a team built for speed, agility, and toughness, and Grant is no exception.
Why does this locomotive train place fifth? The reason is because the next four spots are some exceptional athletes and leaders in their position.
Grant has been quietly building a base for a great career in the NFL. Grant is a lock for 1,100+ yards every season and will always be north of 10 TDs from here on out.
When a player is able to set a franchise record as he did against the Seahawks in 2008, as he totalled 201 rushing yards and 3 TDs in a playoff game AND play for the storied Packers, you know his potential is great.
4. Jared Allen – Minnesota Vikings – DE
‘The business in the front and party in the back’ Jared Allen has catapulted himself into the NFC with a consistent sack average of 14.8 while in Minnesota. His acceleration off the mark and passion for the game has translated into big plays and notoriety.
While many of the defensive line could have placed in the top ten list, I felt Allen was the most appropriate because of the numbers he produces for being a “younger” player compared to the rest of the Shock and AWWE amigos.
Only a whistle can stop his motor from running… and even then I would doubt it.
3. Greg Jennings – Green Bay Packers – WR
A couple of things stand out for me for Greg Jennings.
1. He is always a lock for over 1,000 yards
2. Rodgers is throwing to him
3. Effective in the red zone
Last year was a tough one for No. 85, but historically he has been a solid No. 1 option for Aaron Rodgers.
His speed and ability to shake off defenders has been his reason for success, but I would like to see an increase in his catching ability.
What’s with Green Bay and playing on turf in 2009? Not a single point for Jennings on turf.
2. Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings – RB
I can hear the state of Minnesota gasping for air for the fact the AP isn’t No. 1 on the list.
I can explain, people of 10,000 lakes… one word: fumbles. For my money, Peterson is the type of running back that has the potential to break a run every time he touches the rock. One problem, however: fumbles.
When you compare Peterson to the likes of Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Frank Gore, you find a disturbing fact.
Adrian Peterson has lost twice as many fumbles (as a minimum) than any running back I have mentioned. A fumble recovered is a wrong done right. A fumble lost is an opportunity lost forever.
Still, you cannot deny the conviction and passion of Peterson's play. That is what has made him such a great player in the NFL and a staple for the Vikings.
You can find many naturally athletic players, but it is those who play with heart who break records and place high on my list.
1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers – QB
Gifted with accuracy, a strong throwing arm, and blessed with a dynamite receiving corps, Rodgers is well on his well to building on a Packer legacy.
There are those who state Rodgers learned much from being in the shadows of Brett Favre all those years and that he acquired a better understanding of the game.
Meanwhile, others state Favre doesn’t provide much for understudies other than ‘pants on the ground,’ which may be true.
What is undeniable, however, is the numbers Rodgers puts up week after week. Since obtaining the starting gig, he has been north of 4,000 yards passing, north of 25+ TDs, and was rated 109.4 in the red zone in 2009.
Further add to the fact that his draft ranking (currently sixth overall) speaks volumes to what amount of faith fantasy owners have for Lambeau’s quarterback.