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NFL Fantasy Team: Building the Perfect Team for the Future

Chris FranjoineContributor IJanuary 2, 2017

NFL Fantasy Team: Building the Perfect Team for the Future

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The purpose of this slide show is to create the perfect NFL team.  What this entails is a team capable of winning the Super Bowl now as well as for the next decade.  The salary cap will be ignored in order to organize a team based purely on skill and potential.  Every player is included in the player pool including the incoming draft class.

    The purpose of this slide show is to create the perfect NFL team.  What this entails is a team capable of winning the Super Bowl now as well as for the next decade.  The salary cap will be ignored in order to organize a team based purely on skill and potential.  Every player is included in the player pool including the incoming draft class if needed.  For the most part, the players on thi team will be Under 27.

Quarterbacks

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    Well it was pretty easy to narrow it down to four choices: Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, Aaron Rodgers, and Sam Bradford.  From there, it became quite difficult because of the promise and talent that all four of these players show.

    Starting with Aaron Rodgers, we all know he just won a Super Bowl in which the offense was completely focused on him.  He only has three years of experience as a starter even though he is 27 years old.  In those three years, he has visibly improved and turned into a real team leader.  Out of the four QBs that I have narrowed this down to, Rodgers has the least amount of questions surrounding him.  While he is the oldest QB, it is almost a guarantee that he would lead this team to a Super Bowl.

    Continuing in age order, Matt Ryan had a great third year as he led the Falcons to a 13-3 record, good for best in the NFC.  He looked great passing the ball to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez on a way to a 28-9 TD to INT ratio.  Its still a little too early to tell if he can win the big games and this year was not a good start even if they did lose to the eventual champs.  Matty Ice will really show us what he is going to be in the next few years.  Will he keep getting better or have we already seen his best?  My money is on him getting better.

    Bradford and Freeman are both 23 years old but Freeman has an extra year of NFL experience so I'll cover him first.  Freeman's second year and first as a starter surprised almost everyone, including me.  He looked comfortable in the pocket and he made the correct reads.  It is tough to continue to classify Freeman as a project QB because of the year he just had, but he still is.  There have been many one year wonders in NFL history.  Will Freeman be another?

    Sam Bradford managed to live up to all of the hype that surrounded him coming out of college.  He led to the Rams to a respectable 7-9 considering how awful they were the year before.  He still has a lot to work on but he did extremely well for a rookie QB.  Many people have compared him to Peyton Manning based on Peyton's rookie year.  At 23 years old, the Rams may have a franchise QB for the next ten years.

     

    Final Choice: Aaron Rodgers

    High Risk Choice: Josh Freeman

Running Backs

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    More than any of the other skill positions, RB has the most turnover in the Top 10 in terms of yards.  Therefore, when choosing the RBs for this team, one of the biggest things I'll be looking for is consistency.  If this team had been chosen a few years ago, Steven Slaton may have been in the running.

    First up is this year's leader in rushing yards, Arian Foster.  From the start of the season, Foster dominated opposing defenses while opening up the field for Andre Johnson.  He even received some MVP hype despite not receiving any votes when the time came.  Arian Foster scored 18 TDs (rushing and receiving combined) and had 66 receptions.  The RB chosen for this team should be a complete back and Arian Foster certainly seems like that even though he scares me a little just because he a young RB for the Texans.

    Maurice Jones-Drew has really underwhelmed everybody for the past two seasons.  Last season he managed to score 7 TDs, two of which were receiving TDs.  Defenses certainly had a chance to key in on him considering how anemic the Jaguars passing offense was.  However, Jones-Drew still managed to be on pace for a career high in yardage total before going down with an injury in week 15.  He has only been the starting RB for two years but it seems like he will be able to handle the lion's share of the carries.  Jones-Drew only came away with 34 receptions this year, but he has definite ability in catching the ball out of the backfield.  He is a tough guy to bring down and he punishes defenders.  Jones-Drew will be a great RB for years to come as long he manages to stay off the injured list.

    Adrian Peterson may have solved his greatest problem this past season.  He only fumbled one time while still managing to keep up that running style that keeps defensive coordinators up at night.  He really only had a mediocre year though.  Its a good sign that 12 TDs is a quiet year, plus Peterson is only 25 years old and I think the best is yet to come.

    Chris Johnson did not manage to get to 2000 yards again this year but he still had a decent year.  He is one of the fastest players in the entire league and he can handle the full amount of carries.  Johnson can carry an offense on his back if has to even if he can't get them into the playoffs on his own.  Like Peterson, Johnson is 25 years old but he only has three years of NFL experience.  Johnson should keep getting better but he needs to figure out what went wrong last year.  He was held to a small yardage total in too many games last year.  It'll be interesting to see what happens next year.

    Lastly, we have Jamaal Charles.  At times, he looked more electrifying than Chris Johnson despite only averaging 14 attempts per game.  His 6.4 YPC was the best in the league for players with similar playing time.  Charles is a wonderful change of pace back but nobody really knows if he can handle a full workload.  Since he still managed to be the 2nd leading rusher in the NFL, I would like to find out.

    Final Choice: Adrian Peterson

    Change of Pace RB: Jamaal Charles (Seems unfair to put Chris Johnson in this spot)

Wide Receivers

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    The current NFL has a plethora of young, talented WRs.  Out of all of them, there were really 10-12 that caught my eye after excluding players like Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson because of their age.   With so many young WRs with great potential, it will be difficult to justify taking anyone over the age of 27.

    The oldest prospect on this list, Larry Fitzgerald, showed the NFL what he could truly do when Kurt Warner was at the helm for the Arizona Cardinals.  Everyone likes to say that Warner made Fitz look good but I think it went both ways.  Many plays involve Warner throwing the ball up and putting his trust in Fitz and his hunger for the ball.  The current QB situation in Arizona would have destroyed the stats of almost any other WR.  Fitz still manage to break the 1000 yard mark and haul in 90 receptions.  His game is not built on speed so he could foreseeably have a long career like Jerry Rice.  Rice's attention to detail is what kept him in the game so long and I think Fitzgerald has the drive to play in the NFL until he is at least 36.

    The more I think about Brandon Marshall, the more I dislike him.  To be fair, he has been relatively quiet lately despite playing for a Dolphins offense that really couldn't seem to find itself.  His stats as a Bronco, with Jay Cutler, are undeniable.  Over 100 receptions for three years straight is not an easy task and his work in Miami is similar to what Fitzgerald had to do in Arizona (except the Cards QB situation was much worse).  I do not have the same confidence in Marshall to succeed as I do in Fitz.

    At 25 years old, Megatron has not actually lived up to the lofty expectations that everyone had for him when he got drafted.  Johnson and Stafford have played quite well together when they actually get the chance but the Lions' O-Line has allowed Stafford to be beat up every game.  He still managed to score 12 TDs and have a mediocre year in terms of yards and receptions.  Calvin is a monstrous wideout with a rare combination of size and speed.  With a tough guy like Aaron Rodgers at the helm of this team, Megatron would have the time of his life.

    Desean Jackson, 24, only had 47 receptions in 14 games this year but he always seemed to make the most of them.  Every pass to Jackson has the potential to be a game breaker because of Jackson's speed and agility.  The Eagles offense really took off this year with Vick at QB because defenses had to respect his running ability as well as the home run capability of Maclin and Jackson.  Desean is one of the best players with the ball in his hands but he still needs to work on his route running.  In the next few years, Jackson will either become one of the best WRs in the NFL or he'll just be a better version of Devin Hester.  With the way he has already progressed, I can see the former possibility as the more likely option.

    Holy Hakeem Nicks!  This guy is only 23 years old but he still managed to get into the end-zone 11 times despite defenses really keying in on him near the end of the season.  Nicks is part of an extremely talented WR corps with the NY Giants although they all seemed to take turns being injured last year.  Nicks proved that he could still get the job done when he was not the product of opposing defenses double covering Steve Smith.

    Really? Kenny Britt is only 22 years old? Wow, does anyone else remember when he single-handedly destroyed the Eagles defense?  Britt's numbers do not truly reflect his skill or potential.  Due to injury, he missed nearly half the season (including games where he got injured or played injured).  The half that he did play, Britt was one of the few bright spots on the Tennessee Titans.  Out of all of the players on this list, I believe Britt may have the most untapped potential.

    1st Wideout: Larry Fitzgerald

    2nd Wideout: Calvin Johnson

    3rd Wideout: Desean Jackson

    High Risk Option: Kenny Britt

Tight Ends

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    Vernon Davis- He'll be 27 when (if) his 2011 campaign starts, which gives him a good combination of youth and experience. He's got great speed, and ever sincd Mike Singletary famously straightened himout, he's been one of the most dangerous tight ends in the league. His numbers might not jump off the age, but keep in mind he's been dealing with Alex Smith, Troy Smith, and Shaun Hill.

    Jermichael Finley- An emerging star before his injury this season, Jermichael Finley was a critical part of the Green Bay offense. His abscence in the later half of the year and the Packers' Super Bowl run led many to believe that the Packers might not be up to the task. He's got a great set of hands, and can always be counted on to make a big play.  He is a high risk option but he is still young and hopefully injuries will not be a yearly thing.

Offensive Tackles

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    There were actually a decent amount of young offensive tackles but three names really jumped off the list.  Joe Thomas, Jake Long, and Ryan Clady are arguably the best three players at this position.  Among the three, I believe that Joe Thomas is the better player and will be around for at ten more years if not more.  His dedication to the game is obvious and his technique is flawless.  When choosing between these three players it really comes down to which player you want to pair with Thomas.

    The decision between Jake Long and Ryan Clady is difficult because both players are great and will continue to be great.  Personally, I am taking Ryan Clady because of his athleticism and since he is a year younger than Long.  Jake Long is very good at what he does but he is not nearly as athletic as Clady.  Long is a bit more effective in the run-blocking game but that is something that Clady will get better at over time.  In the long run, either of these players would make great additions to this team but because of Joe Thomas, I may only choose one of them.

    Final Choice: Joe Thomas & Ryan Clady

Guards

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    Honestly, my knowledge of guards is pretty minimal and they do not get focused on like offensive tackles do.  But there have been a few names that I notice when watching games and highlights.  Among them are: Mike Iupati, Ben Grubbs, and Jahri Evans.

    Iupati, who plays for the 49ers, makes the team based on his potential and his young age.  He seems to play beyond his years and that makes him a bit more valuable than Ben Grubbs even though Grubbs is playing better at this point in their careers.

    Jahri Evans is the best guard in the league, there is some debate as to the next tier of players but I feel that Evans has earned a tier of his own.  Taking Evans and Iupati will allow this team to be set at the guard position for the next ten years or so depending on how long Evans can play.

Centers

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    Maurkice Pouncey is easily the best prospect available.  As a rookie, he was selected to the Pro Bowl after starting all 16 games this year.  He even received a few votes for Offensive Rookie of the Year despite playing at a position that does not typically receive votes.  He is only 21 years old but he is already an impact player at his position.  Consistency is something that is tough to come by, but Pouncey has already managed to claim that attribute in his first year in the league.

Defensive Tackles

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    DTs as well as DEs like Haloti Ngata will be included at this position to account for the differences between the 3-4 and the 4-3.  As far as choosing these two players went, it was quite easy.

    Ngata dominated at the DE position in a 3-4 defense so much that the spotlight was on him despite the lack of noticeable stats.  Ngata has great agility considering his enormous stature.  He is 27 years old but there are no signs of him slowing down.

    Ndamakong Suh earned All-Pro recognition this year after having a dominant rookie system that included 10 sacks.  Suh was also named the NFL's Rookie of the Year.  This was a no-brainer and it does not need much explaining.

Defensive Ends

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    When the Houston Texans made Mario Williams the top pick in the 2006 draft, Texans fanned booed the pick.  Everyone thought Reggie Bush was the real gem of the draft but a few seasons later, Williams is one of the best DEs in the NFL and Bush is a very good punt returner.  I'd say the Texans made the correct choice.  While he did miss the last three games of the season, Super Mario showed even more improvement throughout the 2010-2011 season.  Williams has the ability to rush the quarterback while also protecting against the run.  His speed and agility is still his bread and butter but he has developed some power moves to change things up a bit.  Mario Williams is the kind of player that needs to be planned for every play, kind of like what people thought Reggie Bush would be.

    Next year will be Calais Campbell's fourth year in the NFL and in that time he turned to into a much more refined product.  He was one of a few bright spots on the Arizona Cardinals as he was able to record six sacks and 60 tackles.  Campbell was able to use his surprising speed to break through offensive lines.  If he continues to progress like this, Campbell could become a premiere DE in the NFL.

    Carlos Dunlap was able to record over nine sicks in only 12 games in his rookie season.  He is a few weeks away from turning 22 years old which makes him one of the younger prospects.  Dunlap was pretty much forced into playing time because of injuries on the Bengals defensive line but he delivered.  He is still extremely raw and there have been plenty of players to have a season like he did and then fade into nothingness.

    Final Choice: Williams & Campbell

    High Risk: Dunlap instead of Campbell

Middle Linebackers

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    The three MLBs that I was able to narrow it down to are: Patrick Willis, Jerod Mayo, and Jon Beason.  

    Patrick Willis has started 48 consecutive games since being drafted in 2007 by the San Francisco 49ers.  This past year, Willis has made the transition from a tackling machine to a complete linebacker now that he has shown the ability to play in coverage instead of just defending against the run.  With his game perfected, Willis has become arguably the best MLB in the league.  His specialty is still in breaking through blockers to take down the ball carrier on inside and outside runs.  Willis has shown the kind of intensity and drive that will allow him to play for many more seasons.  Because of this, Patrick Willis has locked up the first MLB spot for this team.

    Jon Beason started all 16 games for the Panthers this past year and fans should be thankful because their season would have been even worse without him.  A leader on and off the field, Beason did what he could to keep the Panthers in the game.  Unfortunately, he could not account for there offensive woes and the amount of time the defense was on the field certainly took a toll on Beason and the rest of the defense.  He remains one of the league's best MLBs and should continue to be in that top tier of players.

    Jerod Mayo led the NFL this year in tackles with 175.  He is 24 years old and showed his true potential with this year's performance.  His speed is above average for his position and it allows him to cover TEs that would create matchup problems otherwise.  After three seasons in the NFL, Mayo has already become a great MLB and he is still a few years away from the prime of his career.  Mayo will give Patrick Willis a run for his money once he had a bit more time to learn.

Outside Linebackers

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    Clay Matthews had an amazing year with the Super Bowl Champions.  Opposing offense coordinators had to plan for him and even then he still managed to impact the game.  Similarly to Brian Orakpo, their ability to rush the QB from the outside changed games.  Speaking of the player the Bills should have drafted instead of Aaron Maybin, Orakpo also gets the nod due to his solid play despite being a part of the anemic Redskins defense.

    Brian Cushing was considered as an option, but his steroid suspension has sullied his rookie campaign.

Cornerbacks

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    If the picture didn't give it away, the starting spot goes to Darelle Revis.  Revis Island will be around for a long time and that's all that needs to be said about him.

    The second starting CB position came down to Joe Haden and Devin McCourty.  While Haden is two years younger than McCourty, I feel like McCourty did more for his team than Haden did even though their stats are similar.  This conumdrom is similar to the problem faced in a few other positional battles.  Joe Haden is a bit of a higher risk than McCourty based on their play this year.  While both players can be expected to progress to become top CBs in the league, I would put my money on McCourty over Haden at this point in time.

Free Safety

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    Having watched every Bills game this year, I know that Jairus Byrd played much better than his stats indicate, specifically his INTs.  His rookie season was excellent, picking off nine passes in about 12 games (officially, he played in 14).  This past season, Byrd was only able to pick off one pass and it was in the season's final game.  He rarely gave up a completion since QBs threw away from the Bills only consistent DB.  Plus, most teams realized that they didn't have to throw it all because the Bills run defense was awful enough to lose games.  Byrd is a high risk option but after next year's season he won't seem like it.

Strong Safety

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    Eric Berry had a solid rookie year but he still has a ways to go before Chiefs fans will feel that he has earned his draft spot.  He is certainly on the right track though.  Four INTs and a Pro-Bowl selection are a great start and someone with Berry's talent will undoubtably improve to the point of becoming one of the best SS in the league.

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