NFL Franchise Favorites: 12 Players a Team Could Be Built Around

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst INovember 2, 2010

NFL Franchise Favorites: 12 Players a Team Could Be Built Around

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    Imagine how much fun it would be if the NFL went all fantasy football on everyone. What if one day, the powers that be decided to hold a brand new kind of NFL draft. What if they said every player in the league was up for grabs?

    If you had the opportunity to build a franchise from scratch, who would be your top choice? Would you start with a top tier offensive tackle, or an all pro quarterback? What about a burner out of the backfield, or an anchor for your defense?

    There are a countless number of ways you could go with this, and I have compiled my list of the top 12 candidates of who I would start a franchise with.

12. Troy Polamalu

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    When healthy, Troy Polamalu is one of the premier players in the league. As a safety, he is an absolute game changer.

    In 100 career games, Polamalu has 22 interceptions and 62 pass defenses. On top of being an absolute ball hawk, Polamalu is also one of the games hardest hitters.

    The knock on Polamalu over the last few years has been his health. Injuries have cost Polamalu 19 games in the last four seasons, not including this season. He has only played one full season since 2005, but when on the field, Polamalu is the best at his position.

    If he could stay on the field, Polamalu is a safety that anyone would be happy to build a team around.

11. Darrelle Revis

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    In his first three full seasons, Darrelle Revis has been named to the Pro Bowl twice, and already has a defensive player of the year award in his collection.

    The spot on the field that Revis is responsible for has been aptly named "Revis Island" because of his uncanny ability to cover any receiver in the league one-on-one.

    Opposing quarterbacks have quickly learned that throwing the ball to the side of the field that Revis is not on, is the smartest thing to do. When thrown at, Revis is a ball hawk. He has fourteen career interceptions, and in just 53 games has defensed 67 passes thrown his way.

    While Revis is considered by some to be the NFL's best cornerback (though, I think there is one better, who you'll see in a minute) he could easily have a case made to be the building block of any franchise.


10. Maurice Jones-Drew

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    Playing in Jacksonville, Maurice Jones-Drew could very well be the leagues most underrated player. Jones-Drew is listed at just 5'7'' and 208 pounds, and most of that could be heart.

    In his first three seasons in the league, Jones-Drew served primarily as Fred Taylor's backup, though he saw his fair share of the carries. In those seasons he averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

    In 2009, Jones-Drew was given the starting job, as Taylor left Jacksonville, and he did not disappoint. Jones-Drew had just under 1,400 yards rushing, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and scoring 15 touchdowns.

    While Jones-Drew may lack ideal size, he more than makes up for it in speed and productivity. Aside from his running talents, Jones-Drew is a great blocker and one of the best pass catching running backs in the league. All those qualities put together, make Jones-Drew an ideal player to build a team around.

9. Aaron Rodgers

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    After spending his first three seasons sitting behind Brett Favre on the depth charts, Aaron Rodgers has quickly taken the reigns of the Green Bay Packers and become one of the elite quarterbacks in the league.

    While the win-loss record was well below average in his first season of full time duty, it turned around in 2009, as he lead the Packers into the playoffs with an 11-5 record.

    His personal numbers have been comparable with the top quarterbacks in the league over the last two seasons. In his two and a half seasons as a starter, Rodgers has 10,483 yards passing, and 70 touchdowns, compared to just 29 interceptions.

    While Rodgers may still not be mentioned in the same breath as Manning, Brady, and Brees, he is still a proven quarterback, who would be more than acceptable as a cornerstone to a franchise.

8. Patrick Willis

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    When it comes to talking about the best defensive players in the league, Patrick Willis' name has to be at or near the top of that list.

    Willis led the league in tackles in 2009 with 152 of them. For his now three and a half year career, Willis has amassed 534  tackles, including 10 sacks. He has also added four interceptions as well.

    While some people would still consider Ray Lewis to be the games best linebacker, Willis gets the nod here, due to his age. At just 25 years old, it is still possible that the best years for Willis are still ahead.

    That is a scary prospect for opposing offenses, as Willis has been selected to the Pro Bowl in all three of his years as a professional, as well as being named a two time first team All Pro.

    If you were looking to build your franchise around a defensive leader, Patrick Willis could very well be your man.

7. Nnamdi Asomugha

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    For my money, Nnamdi Asomugha is the best cornerback in the league today. In 2006, Asomugha was third in the league in interceptions with eight, including bringing back one for a touchdown.

    Since that time, Asomugha has rarely been challenged. When comparing just their statistics, Darrelle Revs is clearly far superior. But that speaks volumes to the amount of respect that opposing quarterbacks have for Asomugha.

    Over the last two seasons, Asomugha has only recorded a total of 74 tackles, 13 passes defensed, and just two interceptions. But both of those seasons have been Pro Bowl seasons, and one of them he was also named as first team All Pro.

    So, while Revis has the far superior individual numbers, due to the lack of times that Asomugha is targeted, it is the fear that opposing quarterbacks have of Asomugha that earns him a spot as one of my franchise building players.

6. Andre Johnson

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    While I would normally have a hard time building a team around a wide receiver, Andre Johnson would certainly be the exception. Over the last three seasons, in which Johnson has played all 16 games, he is averaging 106 catches per season and 1,430 yards.

    While his touchdown numbers aren't as high as you would expect, Johnson is one of the most sure handed receivers in the game, and when he gets the ball in his hands he is an absolute playmaker.

    He is a four time Pro Bowler, and has been named to the first team All Pro Team each of the last two seasons.

    At 29 years old, Johnson still figures to have a lot of football left in him, and while some would argue that you can't build a team around a wide receiver, if he has as much talent as Johnson, it might not be that big of a stretch.


5. Chris Johnson

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    In 2009, Chris Johnson became just the sixth running back in NFL history to gain 2,000 yards rushing. In just his second season in the league, Johnson amassed a total of 2,006 yards while averaging an amazing 5.6 yards per carry.

    Johnson wasn't just the workhorse either. On top of his record breaking performance, Johnson also found the endzone a total of 16 times last season.

    Johnson has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons in the league, and last season, not surprisingly, he was a member of the first team All Pro team.

    While the career length of running backs is typically far shorter than other positions, due to the constant wear and tear on the body, Johnson is only 25 years old, and as long as he can stay healthy, should have plenty of time to improve on his already impressive career numbers.

    There is no doubt that having to build a team around Chris Johnson would be a welcome challenge for any general manager.

4. Drew Brees

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    Since coming to New Orleans for the 2006 season, Drew Brees has established himself as one of the top three quarterbacks in the league. He is a four time Pro Bowler, with three of those seasons coming in the last four.

    Brees has put up some gaudy numbers since coming to New Orleans. In his four seasons with the Saints, Brees has thrown for at least 4,300 yards and 26 touchdowns in each season. On top of that, he led the franchise, and their explosive offense, to their first Super Bowl championship, in their first trip to the big game.

    In 2008, Brees threw for 5,069 yards which was just 15 yards short of breaking Dan Marino's single season record. Aside from the great statistics, it is the leadership qualities that make Brees great. He has helped turn around a Saints franchise, and transform them from a last place team into perennial playoff contenders.

    While he may only be the number three quarterback on the list, Drew Brees is a player that I would never turn down as being the centerpiece to my franchise.

3. Tom Brady

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    Tom Brady is a winner. Some seasons, take 2007 as the prime example, his individual numbers are off the charts. That season he threw for 4,806 yards and an NFL record 50 touchdowns. Other seasons, like 2006, his statistics are much more modest. And yet all he does is win games.

    Brady is a five time Pro Bowler, and also a three time Super Bowl winning quarterback. Brady, has often been praised as being one of the smartest quarterbacks in the game, and his numbers show that as well.

    In his eleven year career, Brady has never had a season in which he has thrown more than 14 interceptions. And not counting his rookie season, in which he only attempted three passes, he has also never had a season where he completed less than 60 percent of his attempts.

    Once again, I will say it, Brady is a winner. As a starter he has 103 wins in 134 starts. In the playoffs, he has won 14 of his 18 starts.

    No team could go wrong building its franchise around Tom Brady.

2. Adrian Peterson

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    What is there to not love about Adrian Peterson? Through his first 53 career games in the league, Peterson has already gained 5,260 yards on the ground. On top of that, he almost averages a touchdown per game, as he has recorded 47 scores in those 53 contests.

    There were some concerns coming out of college, about Peterson's durability. But, that has not been a real issue through his first three and a half seasons. He missed two games in his rookie season, but has played in every game since, and shows no signs of slowing down, as he is averaging a career high 110.9 yards per carry this season.

    The one flaw you could find in Peterson's game would be his tendency to fumble. He has already fumbled the ball 20 times in his career, but it is hard to worry about that too much when there is so much potential for big plays and even bigger numbers.

    While Chris Johnson may be the 2,000 yard runner, if my choice was to build my franchise around a running back, Adrian Peterson would be my top choice, "all day".

1. Peyton Manning

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    For me, this is a no brainer. Where do you begin when describing Manning's greatness? You could start with the fact that he has never missed a game. For his career, he has been in 199 games, and he has started all of them.

    Manning is a ten time Pro Bowler, and a five time first team All Pro. He is an unprecedented four time NFL MVP, and when his career is over, barring any major injuries, he could easily hold all of the major passing records.

    As it stands right now, Manning has never had a season throwing for less than 3,700 yards, and he has never had a season with less than 26 touchdown passes.

    He already ranks third in both career passing yards and passing touchdowns, and is also the third highest rated quarterback in history, as well as the fifth most accurate passer.

    In his 199 career starts, he has won 136 of those games and has also led the Indianapolis Colts to two Super Bowl appearances, having won the big game once, back in 2007.

    While there are many viable candidates as to who to build a franchise around, to me, there are none better than Peyton Manning.