NFL Predictions: Aaron Rodgers and the 2016 All-NFL Team
It's not terribly easy to predict what will happen in the NFL in 2011, so trying to predict the best players at each NFL position in 2016 isn't exactly the best science.
However, for the sake of argument, let's try and give an all-star team for 2016 and see who makes the grade.
There are some obvious predictions, sure, but some players may surprise you.
Now, here is the All-NFL 2016 team.
QB: Aaron Rodgers
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
By this time, Aaron Rodgers will be a 32 or 33 (his birthday falls midseason on December 2) year-old quarterback.
With a Super Bowl already under his belt, look for Rodgers—along with one of the most talented rosters in the game around him—to continue to keep the NFL under his thumb.
Rodgers is a dominant starter now, and he only figures to get better in time as Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb develop into big-time receivers in Green Bay.
This is not to say that Andrew Luck won't be an elite quarterback in the NFL by this time, but Rodgers will be better.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck
RB: Johnathan Gray
No, it's not Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson that is the top back for the 2016—it's Texas RB prospect Johnathan Gray.
The shelf life for NFL running backs is way too short to give anyone this distinction for six years down the road, and with nothing terribly attractive coming out of college in the immediate future, Gray is the guy.
Gray has tremendous ballcarrier vision and may be one of the only backs left who can run the ball over 30 times a game—by 2016, the NFL will be mostly a two-back league, and Gray could be one of the last feature backs left.
Gray has committed to be a Texas Longhorn, and by 2016, could be the best back in the NFL.
Honorable Mention: Trent Richardson
WR: Calvin Johnson
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Talk about Alshon Jeffery, Justin Blackmon, AJ Green, Julio Jones, and anyone else coming up through the draft, and no one is comparable to Calvin Johnson.
At 25 years old, Johnson isn't slowing down anytime soon, and by 2016, he'll only be 31.
Andre Johnson will be 31 years old next year, and he's the top receiver in the NFL right now, so it's certainly feasible that a 31-year-old receiver could be the best.
Johnson has the size, athleticism, and receiver qualities to be the NFL's best at his position for a long time.
Honorable Mention: Alshon Jeffery
TE: Jermaine Gresham
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The tight end position is one of the toughest to predict for the future, as there are a good number of players who can garner this title, but none that really stand out.
One one hand, there are players like Brandon Pettigrew who are the complete tight ends, and are able to block.
Then, there are players like Aaron Hernandez who figure to be glorified receivers with their hands in the dirt.
Jermaine Gresham is a safe pick here, and is hard to argue against (considering Tom Brady makes his tight ends look a lot better). Even Vernon Davis and Zach Miller will be old by this time.
Honorable Mention: Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez
OT: Jake Long
Doug Benc/Getty Images
This pick comes down to a matter of opinion, and Jake Long's youth gives him the slightest edge over Joe Thomas, while his lack of an injury history puts him above Ryan Clady
Matt Kalil looks like a top prospect, and may well get to the level of Long, but the Dolphin tackle is just too dominant to bet against.
Long earns this distinction with his fantastic play over the last few years, and look for the tackle to continue his high level of performance for the next five years.
Maybe the Dolphins should have picked Matt Ryan in 2008, but Long certainly wasn't a bad pick.
Honorable Mention: Joe Thomas/Ryan Clady (tie)
OG: Mike Iupati
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Mike Iupati went relatively unnoticed, as many offensive linemen unfortunately do, for his fantastic work in the trenches last year.
Iupati kept lanes open for Frank Gore, increasing Gore's productivity, and the young guard justified his high draft slot with big play for such a young guy.
The sophomore guard will only continue to improve, and will be in the middle of his prime come 2016.
Look for Iupati to continue developing well, and be a bright spot on the 49er line for a long time.
Honorable Mention: Josh Sitton
C: Maurkice Pouncey
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Maurkice Pouncey was the glue that held the Steelers offensive line together for much of the season in 2010.
Without him, the Steelers may not have started hot or kept Ben Roethlisberger in one piece.
For a rookie, his work was outstanding, and barring something unforseen, he will be the top center in the game come 2016.
Pouncey is a true top player at his position, and his passion for his craft inspires his placement on this list.
Honorable Mention: Alex Mack
DT: Ndamukong Suh
J. Meric/Getty Images
There is no doubt that Ndamukong Suh will be the NFL's best defensive tackle come 2016.
He is already within the top five, and look for Suh to only get better as the years go on and he becomes a learned veteran in the league.
Other defensive tackles will be good, but no one can mend the disruptive nature of Suh with the Nebraska product's finesse.
Suh is head and shoulders ahead of any other defensive tackle on the up-and-up, and is a no-brainer here.
Honorable Mention: Jerel Worthy
DE: Marcell Dareus
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
When making this list, I decided to combine 5-technique guys with 4-3 defensive ends; Marcell Dareus ended up being the guy.
Dareus has a chance to be a special player for the Bills, and playing next to a Pro Bowler in Kyle Williams, he will develop into a top player at his position.
By 2016, Dareus will have learned the tricks of the trade, and will be the best defensive end, 4-3 or 3-4.
Look for the Alabama product to come on strong next year, and keep performing at a high level for a long time.
Honorable Mention: Mario Williams (couldn't put him on the list, figured he'd be an OLB by this time)
Rush LB: Clay Matthews
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
I may have eliminated distinction between 3-4 and 4-3 ends, but there has to be a difference between 4-3 OLB's and rush linebackers in a 3-4.
Clay Matthews is the guy here, as he is young and ready to dominate the NFL for a long time at his position.
Matthews has the benefit of playing in Dom Capers' creative defense, and will rack up the sacks for the forseeable future.
Look for Matthews to be the face of the Packers defense and continue to terrorize passers across the NFL.
Honorable Mention: LaMarr Woodley
OLB: Von Miller
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
There was a reason that I distinguished outside linebackers, and separated them into two groups—Von Miller has to make this list.
Miller is an extremely athletic, versatile linebacker who can make plays against both the pass and the run at the NFL level.
He will have the opportunity to play in John Fox's 4-3 base front in Denver, and he should have success against the AFC West and other competition around the league.
Miller is not going to overpower anyone with brute force, but he has a very specific skill set that will make him a top player at the position.
Honorable Mention: Akeem Ayers
MLB: Patrick Willis
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Patrick Willis is ready to carry the torch from Ray Lewis as the game's best middle linebacker for the next decade.
Lewis and Willis are similar in many ways, but the 49er linebacker may have an edge in athleticism.
Look for Willis to dominate the game and be the best player at his position for a very, very long time, similar to Lewis' reign over the position.
The 49ers are lucky to have such a special player playing middle linebacker for them, and he will be a mainstay in the middle of that defense for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Vontaze Burflict
CB: Patrick Peterson
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Patrick Peterson has been heralded as the best cornerback prospect since Charles Woodson came out in the late 1990's.
Peterson has explosive capabilities and can change a game with one play, making him a top candidate to be the best player at his position come 2016.
The LSU product is a true ballhawk, but he doesn't lose anything in coverage skills for all of his gambling.
Peterson has size, speed, and is the next big thing at the cornerback position.
Honorable Mention: Dre' Kirkpatrick
S: Eric Berry
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Scott Pioli is renowned for drafting positional value over need, and he still drafted Eric Berry to the Chiefs, showing how highly he and the organization feel about this young man.
Berry is a shining star in Kansas City, and his undeniable influence helped propel the Chiefs to a divisional title.
The Tennessee product hits hard and has soft hands, melding two of the most important qualities of an NFL safety.
The former Volunteer is entrenched on the Chiefs, and in 2016, will be the best safety in the game.
Honorable Mention: Rahim Moore