NFL Power Rankings: Aaron Rodgers and the NFC North's Best Offensive Playmakers
The NFC North is stockpiled with offensive weapons. Each team in the division has Pro Bowl-caliber players on the offensive side of the ball.
This list looks at the most explosive playmakers in the division (defense is not included). The list also includes players who have an impact on special teams as well.
The list takes into account players' past performance and playmaking potential.
10. Jay Cutler, QB (Chicago Bears)
No matter what one's opinion is of Cutler as a player and teammate, the guy is a pretty good quarterback. He has prototypical size and a huge cannon for a right arm.
But Cutler also has flaws. His numbers are fairly pedestrian, and he does make a good number of mistakes and takes plenty of risks. But sometimes, those risks turn into big plays.
Cutler has thrown more than 20 touchdowns in every year he has played as a starter. His cannon arm lets him make throws most quarterbacks do not even attempt, and he can hit receivers very deep downfield for big plays.
Coming into his second year under coordinator Mike Martz, Cutler could have a big 2011 season throwing the football for Chicago.
9. Matt Forte, RB (Chicago Bears)
The Bears running back experienced a resurgence in 2010. Following a lackluster 2009, Forte regained the burst and explosiveness he showcased as a rookie, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per catch in 2010. Both numbers are evidence of Forte's ability to pick up large chunks of yards on any given play.
While not having excellent speed, Forte is shifty and versatile, running between the tackles effectively and doubling as a threat in the passing game.
If the Bears' offensive line problems can be solved, Forte will become a true force on offense, racking up an impressive amount of all-purpose yards.
8. Jahvid Best, RB (Detroit Lions)
Jahvid Best may have only one season under his belt, but he flashed some serious playmaking ability as a rookie. He possesses lightning speed (4.35 40-yard dash) and can make defenders miss in the open field. In his first NFL season, Best proved to be a threat as both a runner and a receiver, racking up 58 receptions.
In just his second NFL regular-season game, Best recorded 78 rushing yards, 154 receiving yards and three total touchdowns. Those are the numbers of a premier playmaker.
Best played through injuries for most of his rookie season. If he remains healthy, Best could break out in 2011.
7. Greg Jennings, WR (Green Bay Packers)
The Packers are stocked with explosive offensive players. One of their weapons is receiver Greg Jennings.
Jennings is not very big (5'11", 198 lbs) and does not possess blazing speed—regardless, he just makes plays.
In five NFL seasons, Jennings has scored 40 touchdowns and has gone over 1,100 yards receiving in each of the last three seasons. He is one of QB Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets and is often on the receiving end of deep balls. Jennings' lifetime average of 16.2 yards per catch is a testament to how often he gets down the field.
With Rodgers commanding the offense, Jennings is sure to make plenty of big plays for the Packers in 2011. I expect another 1,000-yard-plus season and eight to nine touchdowns.
6. Jermichael Finley, TE (Green Bay Packers)
Entering his third NFL season, Jermichael Finley is already one of the most feared tight ends in the NFL.
Finley uses his freakish athleticism to get open at will. He is too fast and too quick for most linebackers, and at 6'5" and 242 lbs, is much too big for safeties. Finley is the rare tight end who can really stretch the middle of the field.
His time in Green Bay started off rocky. Finley displayed immaturity and often clashed with coaches as to his role in the offense. Fortunately for the Packers, though, Finley has seemingly grown up and is now focused on becoming an elite player.
The only thing that has held Finley back in his short career is injuries. In the five games he did play in 2010, QB Aaron Rodgers looked his way early and often. If Finley remains healthy, I feel he will firmly establish himself as one of the NFL's premier tight ends and playmakers.
5. Percy Harvin, WR (Minnesota Vikings)
The explosive Percy Harvin has been making plays ever since he stepped foot in Minnesota three years ago. The former Florida Gator boasts excellent speed and quickness, and is extremely agile.
Harvin plays a versatile role in the Vikings' offense, which creates plenty of playmaking opportunities. The Vikings use Harvin on sweeps, swing passes and an assortment of screen passes. He is also one of the best kick returners in the NFL, with three kick return touchdowns in his first two seasons.
Considering the Vikings' subpar quarterback play the last two years, Harvin has done well as a receiver. With Donovan McNabb at the helm this year, Harvin is primed to break out in a big way.
4. Devin Hester, WR (Chicago Bears)
Hester is quite possibly the fastest player in the NFL. Not only does he run a fast 40-yard dash, but he does not seem to lose any speed when the pads go on.
Hester may not be a great receiver, but he is the most dangerous kick and punt returner the league has ever seen. Using his blinding speed and quickness, Hester has broken numerous special teams records. For his career, Hester has 10 punt returns for touchdowns, which gives him a share of the record, and he will likely shatter this record before his career is over.
Although the NFL's kickoff rules have changed, Hester remains a dangerous threat returning punts and also catching the ball as a receiver. He narrowly edges out Harvin for this spot.
3. Adrian Peterson, RB (Minnesota Vikings)
Adrian Peterson is by far the best running back in the NFC North and one of the best in the NFL.
Although not possessing elite speed, Peterson likely has the best feet of any running back. He also runs with great power, running through defenders and breaking tackles. Peterson is very dangerous in the open field as well.
AP has ran for 52 touchdowns in only four years. The Vikings' coaching staff claims he will be more involved as a receiver this year—that's bad news for the rest of the division.
2. Calvin Johnson, WR (Detroit Lions)
Calvin Johnson was not nicknamed "Megatron" on accident. He is named after the biggest and baddest Transformer for a reason—Johnson is one of the most impressive physical specimens in the NFL.
Johnson is the owner of a large collection of highlight-reel catches. His combination of speed, height and leaping ability makes him nearly unstoppable. He is also a red zone monster who does not lose many jump balls.
Johnson caught 12 touchdowns in 2010. The scary thing is, at age 25, he is just now hitting his prime. With a healthy Matthew Stafford back at quarterback for the Lions, Megatron could very well have his best season yet in 2011.
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB (Green Bay Packers)
The Super Bowl MVP is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He torched opposing defenses last year, throwing for 28 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards.
Rodgers possesses a strong arm and throws the ball with pinpoint accuracy. His superior intelligence allows him to know where everyone on the field is and where to go with the ball. Rodgers can throw the deep ball as well as anyone and frequently hooks up with receivers for big gains.
With a full arsenal of weapons in Green Bay, look for Rodgers to continue putting up gaudy statistics as the top playmaker in the NFC North division.