2011 NFL: The All-NFC North Team

Nick McAndrewsCorrespondent IIIMay 17, 2011

2011 NFL: The All-NFC North Team

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers runs the ball ahead of Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Green Bay Packers did the "Black and Blue" Division proud with their win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. 

    As a proud Vikings fan, I will be the first to admit my bitterness to the Packers, Bears and Lions, but it would be simply ignorant to not recognize that this division as a whole possesses some of the most talented players in the NFL

    This article aims to represent the best players at each position within the division. 

    Please feel free to leave comments and opinions. 

Quarterback

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers throws a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won 31-25. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Im
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Aaron Rodgers: I won't go so far as saying that Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL, but he is certainly in the top five. The Super Bowl XLV MVP is without a doubt the best in the NFC North. 

    Rodgers is the heart and soul of the Packers and will likely continue to sit atop his throne with the talented group of young Packers around him. 

Running Backs

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Half Back: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is hands down the best back in the NFL. He combines instinct with pure athletic ability and explosiveness. Even when injured, Peterson puts up numbers that other backs could only dream of. Peterson is a perfect representative for the division at this position. 

    Full Back: John Kuhn is really utilized well by the Packers. He can lead block, pass protect and run the ball better than any FB in the division. By no means does he top the NFL, but he is the best at his position in the NFC North.

Receivers

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers talks to quarterback Aaron Rodgers #13 against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Greg Jennings is, in my mind, more deserving of the Super Bowl XLV MVP. The guy couldn't drop a ball. Jennings is a Packer that I really enjoy watching. He is the best in the NFC North because not only could he put his team on his back, I think he could put the whole division on his back if he really had to. 

    Calvin Johnson Jr. is probably one of the best, if not the best, member of the Detroit Lions. His number haven't always been league topping, but he certainly has the talent to get there if he can get some consistency at QB. Johnson is second only to Greg Jennings in the division. 

    Percy Harvin isn't the best wideout in the division, he isn't even the best on the Vikings, but he is the best slot receiver in all of the NFC North, and I would say he is in the top five in the NFL for slot receivers. If he could keep those migraines away and stay on the field, he has the talent to be a pro-bowler. These three guys make up the best receivers in the division. 

Tight Ends

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    CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 14: Greg Olsen #82 of the Chicago Bears celebrates a touchdown catch with teammate Matt Forte #22 against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on November 14, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Chicago Bear Greg Olsen is the top TE in the division, but only because he has stayed healthier than Packer Jermichael Finley. Olsen is great in the open field as well as blocking in the run game. 

    Jermichael Finley has the potential to be the best of the division, but because of injury, loses the starting spot to Olsen. The Packers' future is bright with a guy like Finley around—he most definitely has the potential to be one of the league's greats some day. 

Offensive Line

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    NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 09:  Steve Hutchinson #76 of the Minnesota Vikings at Louisiana Superdome on September 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Left Tackle: Chad Clifton is not only the best left tackle in the NFC North, the Green Bay Packer has long been one of the most underrated offensive lineman in the NFL. When you look at the two guys he has protected over the years, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre have always stayed pretty healthy—especially the old man. 

    Left Guard: Minnesota Viking Steve Hutchinson is one of the best in the league. The 33-year-old, six-time All Pro is one of the leagues most truly gifted veterans. He tops the NFC North at his position.

    Center: Packer Scott Wells isn't even close to being one of the top centers in the NFL. Unfortunately, the NFC North is not very deep at center. The Vikings used to have one of the best centers in the game in Matt Birk, but his replacement John Sullivan has been less than impressive. Wells is, unfortunately, the best in the division. 

    Right Guard: Green Bay Packer Josh Sitton is one of the upcoming stars at guard in the NFL. Sitton is one of the best guards in the NFL, but at the same time, he is no Steve Hutchinson because he has only been in the league since 2008. He is, however, one of the best in the division.

    Right Tackle: Bryant McKinnie plays left tackle for the Vikings, he is a six time pro-bowler and is exceedingly talented. His motivation seemed to have lacked in 2010 as he allowed Brett Favre to get sacked so many times, but I still think he is one of the top in the division. 

     

    Bears and Lions fans might feel left out, but I just have such a hard time picking one of your offensive linemen because they can't protect Stafford and Cutler long enough to give their respective offenses an edge. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong, but the guys I listed are simply the best in the NFC North.

Defensive Ends

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears reacts while taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Julius Peppers is definitely a candidate for best in the NFL, let alone the NFC North. His career saw a major upswing when he joined the Bears in 2010. He will, no doubt, be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame some day. Peppers is one of the best at his position. 

    Jared Allen definitely owns the other end spot. He is absolutely relentless and can get to the QB like it's nobody's business. If the Minnesota Viking achieves his 2011 goal of 17.5 sacks, he will be in the Hall of Fame someday as well. These guys are two of the best in the entire NFL. The NFC North has traditionally had very strong defensive lines and these two do the division proud. 

Defensive Tackles

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    MIAMI - DECEMBER 26:  Lineman Ndamukong Sue #90 celebrates a sack against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Kevin Williams is a six-time pro bowl defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. He makes up one-half of the dreaded "Williams Wall." Kevin has consistently been one of the top run-stoppers in the NFL, but his defensive partner Pat Williams, however, has slowed with age. Kevin Williams is still one of the top DT's in the NFC North.

    Ndamukong Suh is definitely the other top DT in the division. The Detroit Lion netted Defensive Rookie of the Year and played in his first pro bowl in the same year. The addition of Nick Fairley makes the Lions defensive line that much more scary. For now, though, Fairley remains unproved and thus does not surpass Kevin Williams.

Linebackers

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers stands on the sideline against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Outside Linebackers: Chicago Bears OLB Lance Briggs and Green Bay Packers OLB Clay Matthews are some of the best in the NFL. Briggs is a six-time pro bowler since 2005. Matthews is one of the rising stars in the league and had one of the highest sack totals in the NFL for 2010 at 13.5. Briggs has shown his consitency year-to-year, and Matthews will probably continue to dominate opposing QBs for years to come. As much as I hate this guy as a Vikings fan, Matthews is simply the best linebacker in the NFL. He had to represent the division.

    Middle/Inside Linebackers: Chicago Bears MLB Brian Urlacher and Minnesota Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson are the best at their position. Urlacher is one of the best defensive players in Chicago Bears history and is the heart and soul of their always-strong defense. Henderson was selected to his first pro bowl in 2010, and that was coming off a fractured tibia that earned him the 2009 Ed Block Courage Award. Henderson is surprisingly good in pass coverage, netting two incerceptions in 2010. I realize that both players listed are MLBs, and neither plays in a 3-4 scheme, but I felt the need to list two and these two happen to be the best in the division.

Cornerbacks

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Tramon Williams #38 and Charles Woodson #21 of the Green Bay Packers warm up before taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Get
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Green Bay Packers star Charles Woodson is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Darelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha as one of the best in the game. That's not to say he shouldn't be. Woodson is one of the best corners in NFC North history. The Packers have been absolutely loaded at this position for the last 10 years, but Woodson is absolutely the best. 

    Minnesota Viking Antoine Winfield is the other great corner in the division. Maybe he isn't the greatest coverage corner, but he is arguably one of the best tackling corners in the NFL. The three time pro bowler is second only in the division to Charles Woodson and has been the only bright spot in the Vikings horrid defensive secondary since the departure of Darren Sharper. 

    Tramon Williams get the nickel corner role. The Green Bay Packer is a rising star and shows enormous potential. He came up big for the Pack in the 2010 playoffs. The fact that he went undrafted and played that well as a rookie speaks volumes to his value. The possibility that the Packers could bring in Nnamdi Asomugha to match up with Woodson and Williams is absolutely horrifying to the rest of the division. 

Safeties

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Nick Collins #36 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with teammate Clay Matthews #52 after Collins returned an interception for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Free Safety: Packer Nick Collins definitely has one of the safety spots locked down. I wouldn't go so far as to say that he is a top safety in the NFL, as he barely breaks the top 10. The NFC North is depressingly shallow at the safety position, however. Collins definitely tops the division. He saved the Packers with an interception late in Super Bowl XLV. 

    Strong Safety: Danieal Manning is the only other logical selection at safety, simply because he is the only other safety in the division to have earned an All-Pro selection. Manning hasn't been amazing since 2008, but solid nonetheless. If Darren Sharper still played for the Vikings or Packers, he would be the pick, but like I said, the division is depressingly shallow at safety. 

Special Teams

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Kick returner Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears returns a punt in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jona
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Kicker: Ryan Longwell has been one of the most consistent kickers in the division. The fact that he has played for both the Vikings and the Packers shows his value in the NFC North. Longwell is great from long distance and rarely misses. 

    Kick/Punt Returner: Devin Hester is one of the best return men in NFL History. He ranks in the top three in NFL history for punt return yards, punt returns for touchdowns, most non-offensive touchdowns and many others. Hester doesn't have much value outside of special teams, but kickers all over the league fear this guy. He is the best in the division at least, if not the best in the game today. 

Conclusion

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 04:  A general view of the Carolina Panthers practice facility outside Bank of America Stadium as the NFL lockout looms on March 4, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Thanks for the read guys, please feel free to leave comments and opinions if they differ from my picks.