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5 Players Most Helped by Peyton Manning over Their Careers

Justin UseltonContributor IDecember 25, 2016

5 Players Most Helped by Peyton Manning over Their Careers

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    Legendary players make others around them better. It is the true hallmark of greatness.

    Without Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen is just another forward. Come to think of it, Horace Grant would've been pretty mediocre also.

    Without Joe Montana, does a no-name receiver from Mississippi Valley State become the greatest receiver of all time, Jerry Rice? Of course not.

    It's hard to imagine Mark Duper and Mark Clayton being of much notability without the cannon arm of Dan Marino.

    However, perhaps no player has helped the notoriety and careers of as many players as the great Peyton Manning

    The list is long of players who went from good to great, or mediocre to good, under Manning's watch. It isn't difficult to pick five players who have benefited from No. 18's greatness, but it is difficult to pick the five who most profited from being in The Sheriff's huddle.

    Here are five players who benefited the most from Peyton Manning's illustrious career in Indianapolis

Marvin Harrison

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    Without Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison still would've been very good. But, he wouldn't have been the Marvin Harrison.

    Harrison's career was productive in 1996 and 1997, before Manning's arrival. However, the statistics clearly show that as Manning matured, Harrison became dominant. 

    Averaging just 53 yards per game his first two seasons, still solid for a young receiver, Harrison would have eclipsed 1,000 yards in Manning's rookie season if not for missing four games due to injury.

    In 1999, Harrison had his first of eight 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown seasons. During that stretch, Harrison had four consecutive 100-catch seasons and set the NFL single-season record for receptions.

    Harrison ended his career with 128 touchdowns, and nearly 15,000 yards receiving. I can't imagine he would have done that with Ryan Leaf.

Edgerrin James

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    A great running back is a quarterback's best friend, but the opposite is also true.

    Edgerrin James would have been a fantastic running back in any case, but Manning's golden arm loosened up defenses for the former University of Miami star for seven seasons, during which James had five 1,000-yard seasons.

    James ran for nearly 3,300 yards in his first two seasons, which coincided with Manning's rise to stardom in 1999 and 2000.

    While James had two 1,000-yard seasons in Arizona, his yards-per-carry average dropped by nearly 25 percent from his time with Indianapolis. 

Tom Brady

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    Who is Joe Frazier without Muhammad Ali? Who is Magic Johnson without Larry Bird? Arnold Palmer without Jack Nicklaus?

    Every great athlete needs a rival. Tom Brady is what he is partially because of the greatness of his rivalry with Peyton Manning.

    It seems like countless times we've watched Brady and Manning duel in the snow and on the turf. They've battled for championships and MVPs. They've fought for the title of the greatest quarterback of a generation.

    Truly, the relationship between the two, steeped in competitive fire, has greatly added to Brady's legendary lore.

    Tom Brady isn't Tom Brady without making Peyton Manning get past him for Manning's first Super Bowl title. It was like David overcoming Goliath, and Michael Jordan finally beating the Pistons. 

    Jordan needed Isaiah Thomas. Brady needed Manning.

    Thirty years from now, we'll all be telling our grandchildren about the battles we witnessed between the two, and how each star made the other shine even brighter. 

Jeff Saturday

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    No matter how good a center is, he's never noticed without having a great quarterback with whom he works.

    Jeff Saturday's relationship with Peyton Manning has been much like that of Mike Webster and Terry Bradshaw. Saturday is a no-brainer Hall of Famer, but no center ever gets there without protecting a legend.

    Saturday would have been a great player, no matter with whom he played, but no offensive lineman gets enough notoriety to see the Hall of Fame without being a part of a great offense. Saturday and Manning have been simpatico for so long that it's difficult to see one without the other. 

    Saturday has been the primary constant in the Colts offense other than Manning. He's been a familiar face in times of hardship, and a long-trusted friend in crunch time. 

    Keep in mind, every great Manning moment started first with Saturday's hands on the football. 

Dallas Clark

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    Dallas Clark is a great tight end, but he only fits into an offense like that of the Colts', and that offense only works with No. 18 directing the charge.

    We've seen Clark disappear, partially due to injury, in Peyton Manning's absence. Manning always succeeded in putting the Colts offense in the right situation and the right play, and he always knew when to find Clark in key situations. 

    Clark has been Manning's safety blanket for a long time, so the two have much to thank each other for. Yet, tight ends never become great without a great quarterback. 

    Dallas Clark is no different. 

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