Jay Cutler, Joe Thomas, and DeMarcus Ware: The NFL's Keeper Draft
Imagine that you are the GM of a newly established NFL franchise are allowed to draft any three players from the other 32 teams to join your roster. Factoring in skill level, age, durability, and any other characteristics of importance, which players would you select?
For me, I know I would definitely, absolutely need a quarterback. There are a lot of young studs at quarterback right now, so it's tough to pick. I would want my guy to be young an tough with a strong and accurate throwing arm. He would need to have excellent leadership and all the potential in the world. It should be a guy talented enough that I could build my entire roster around him. With that in mind, there are a few guys that come to mind instantly. There are experienced, playoff-tested guys like Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Eli Manning. There are young up-and-coming guys like Matt Ryan, JaMarcus Russell, Jay Cutler, Jason Campbell, and Aaron Rodgers. And there are those who have long been part of the elite in the NFL, ala Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
As recently as last season, I would have picked Brady for my team. He was in the midst of one of the greatest seasons ever and had proven himself in the Super Bowl time after time again. But after that injury he suffered earlier this season, I'm not taking my chances on him. And I'm not going to eliminate Manning simply because of his current slump, but I want my QB to be younger than 32.
I really like a handful of those guys in particular – Rivers, Rodgers, Cutler, Ryan, and Roethlisberger, but none more than Jay Cutler. The best of the '06 draft class, better than Matt Leinart of Vince Young, Cutler is already one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. He can make all the clutch throws and he knows how to win. He got his Broncos off to a 3-0 start this season, and their current two-out-of-three game skid can more be attributed to the sloppy defense than Cutler's play. With Cutler, I feel I have a quarterback who can lead my team for the next ten years or so. Finishing a close second would be rookie Matt Ryan of the Falcons, a guy who has won four of his first six starts in the NFL.
Next I would want another offensive player to complement Cutler. I initially thought of a running back – either Adrian Peterson or Darren McFadden, or a big-game wide receiver like Calvin Johnson. But the way football is these days, there is no position more important on the offensive side of the ball (other than QB) than the offensive tackle. Since Cutler is a right-handed quarterback, I would want a big, fierce rock at left tackle. Who else but Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns? He already made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, playing so well that he actually got some votes for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. With his enormous 6-foot-6, 313-pound frame, Cutler would have a lot more time to react with the ball.
And my final pick would have to be a defensive player. Several guys interest me – Patrick Willis, Mario Williams, DeMarcus Ware, and Justin Tuck. I love the idea of a good pass rusher off the edge and no one gets to the quarterback better than DeMarcus Ware. He has at least one sack in every game in 2008, and is on pace to break the single-season NFL record. There hasn't been a linebacker who got to the quarterback as quickly as Ware does since Lawrence Taylor. Patrick Willis, the ballhawk of the 'Niners, finishes a close second.
With this team, I would expect a couple of Super Bowl rings and playoff appearances every year. And just for the record, if I could pick any coach from history for my team, I would choose Vince Lombardi, because he knew how to get the most out of his players, and who can argue with five NFL championships?
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