NFC North: The Top Four Players at Each Position

Tanner ThomsSenior Analyst IMay 20, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 28: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks for a receiver against the Detroit Lions on December 28, 2008 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 31-21. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)


1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers was a surprise last year. Not many people thought he would succeed in his first season taking over for the legendary, Brett Favre. He has tremendous receivers, and this will lead to his stats getting even better next season.

2. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

As you should all know by now, Jay Cutler was traded to the Chicago Bears from the Denver Broncos, the team that drafted him. This trade worked out well for both sides. The Bears finally have a stable quarterback at the helm, and should see great success from Cutler in the future.

3. Sage Rosenfels/Tarvaris Jackson, Minnesota Vikings

Even though they don't know who the starter will be come week one, I feel that the Vikings starting quarterback will have a significant amount of success. Minnesota has several offensive weapons like Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, and Visanthe Shiancoe to throw to.

4. Daunte Culpepper, Detroit Lions

Daunte Culpepper will likely start most of the games next season. The Lions don't have a great offense. Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson will get their receptions, but who else will?

Running Back

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Of course Adrian is the best running back in the NFC North, he's the best running back in the NFL today. He had over 1,700 yards, and his numbers should only go up next season.

2. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

In his rookie season, Forte was not expected to be a great player, but he turned out to be the best offensive player that the Bears have had in quite some time. His carries might go down next year, though, if Jay Cutler gets more throws.

3. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions

Hear me out, because most of you think that Ryan Grant is probably a much better running back than Kevin Smith. The Lions will likely run the ball much more next season. On the other hand, Green Bay is a pass-first team.

4. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers

Grant will get his 1,000 yards, but he might see a decrease in his number of carries next season. Ryan had over 1,200 yards last year, along with four touchdowns. He should see around the same numbers next season.


1. Jason McKie, Chicago Bears

McKie is without a doubt the best fullback in the NFC North. He had 11 carries for 26 yards, and two touchdowns.

2. John Kuhn, Green Bay Packers

John Kuhn was one of the more surprising players on the Packers offense last year. He had 3 total touchdowns, rushing and receiving.

3. Jerome Felton, Detroit Lions

He isn't known quite yet, but Jerome Felton is a 22 year-old from the University of Furman. Jerome had 9 receptions for 53 yards in '08.

4. Naufahu Tahi, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are not known for using their fullbacks to run the ball. They mainly use them to block for the running backs. That is why Tahi isn't much of a factor.

Wide Receiver

1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

Calvin Johnson has become one of the best receivers in the game today. To some, he might be even the best, but I think it's a little too early to tell. Seeing as he's the best receiver on the Lions, he will get a lot of balls thrown his way.

2. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers

Greg Jennings is one of the more consistent receivers in the game today. Aaron Rodgers is a top 10 quarterback this season, and will look to throw the majority of his passes to Jennings.

3. Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings

Bernard Berrian had nearly 1,000 yards receiving last year. I, believe, that with a stable quarterback, Berrian will finally get over 1,000 yards. Look for his numbers to increase in 2009.

4. Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers

Donald Driver is getting up there in age, but he still has a lot of game left in him. He is now the No. 2 option behind Greg Jennings which will ultimately make Donald's numbers decrease.

Tight End

1. Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings

Slowly, but surely, Visanthe Shiancoe has become one of the better tight ends in the entire league. He had nearly 600 yards receiving last year, along with seven touchdowns.

2. Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears

Greg Olsen is a very close second to Shiancoe. He had 54 receptions, 574 yards, and 5 touchdowns. He will likely be the No. 1 target for the Bears next season.

3. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions

Brandon Pettigrew was the second of the Lions two first-round-picks in 2009. He is known for being a blocking tight end, but he will definitely be a big target next season.

4. Donald Lee, Green Bay Packers

Compared to the 2007 season, Donald Lee's numbers were not near as good. He had five touchdowns, but only 303 yards receiving.

Left Tackle

1. Bryant McKinnie, Minnesota Vikings

Bryant has fallen upon some legal troubles, but he is still without a doubt, the best left tackle in the NFC North today. He sometimes doesn't play as hard as he should, though.

2. Chad Clifton, Green Bay Packers

Chad Clifton gets the nod over Orlando Pace, strictly because Pace didn't have that great of a season last year. Clifton will turn 33 years-old very soon.

3. Orlando Pace, Chicago Bears

The Bears signed Orlando after he was cut by the Rams a couple months back. He was the No. 1 overall pick back in 1997. Chicago signed him mainly for depth purposes.

4. Jeff Backus, Detroit Lions

I don't know much about Jeff Backus, but he must not be that great, because the Lions really wanted a left tackle in this past draft.

Left Guard

1. Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings signed Hutchinson after his contract ran up with the Seahawks in 2006. Since then, he has been proclaimed as the best guard in the game today.

2. Daryn Colledge, Green Bay Packers

Daryn Colledge is a three-year-player from Boise State University. He became one of the better players on the Packers offensive line last season.

3. Josh Beekman, Chicago Bears

I haven't heard of him before, but he apparently is the No. 1 left guard on the Bears depth chart currently.

4. Damion Cook, Detroit Lions

I heard Damion Cook's name a few times last year during Vikings games, but paid utterly no intention to how good he is. Cook is a 30-year-old from Bethune-Cookman University.


1. Olin Kreutz, Chicago Bears

Olin has been one of the more consistent center's in the league today. He's 32 years old, but Kreutz still has some gas left in the tank.

2. Dominic Raiola, Detroit Lions

Raiola basically wins this spot by default. John Sullivan hasn't proven anything, and Scott Wells, well, I had never heard of him. Raiola is a decent center, though.

3. Scott Wells, Green Bay Packers

Scott Wells is a five-year veteran from the University of Tennessee. He has started in the last 59 career games at center for the Packers.

4. John Sullivan, Minnesota Vikings

Sullivan is a sophomore player from Notre Dame. He was a rookie last year who learned a lot behind future hall-of-famer, Matt Birk. Expect to see a lot of success from John next season.

Right Guard

1. Anthony Herrera, Minnesota Vikings

Anthony Herrera is one of the more under-rated and under-appreciated guards in the league today. He has started all 16 games for the past two years with Minnesota.

2. Jason Spitz, Green Bay Packers

Jason Spitz has started in 44 career games with the Green Bay Packers. He's only been in the league for three years, but has become one of the better guards in the NFC.

3. Roberto Garza, Chicago Bears

Garza has started in 48 straight games for the Bears. Before signing with Chicago, he started with the Atlanta Falcons for four straight years.

4. Stephen Peterman, Detroit Lions

Stephen Peterman started and appeared in 14 games last season. The Lions are known for having a pitiful offensive line, which means that Peterman must not be that great of a player.

Right Tackle

1. Kevin Shaffer, Chicago Bears

Shaffer was signed by the Bears after being released by the Cleveland Browns a couple of months ago. He started in 15 games last season for Cleveland.

2. Gosder Cherilus, Detroit Lions

The Lions drafted Cherilus in the first round of the 2008 draft. He started in 13 games, but appeared in all 16 last season. He should continue to impress next season.

3. Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings

Loadholt was the Vikings second-round-pick in this year's draft. He has great size at 6"8, 330 pounds. He should be a force on Minnesota's offensive line next season.

4. Tony Moll, Green Bay Packers

There isn't much to say about this guy, except for the fact that he started in five games for the Packers last season. He likely won't start if Green Bay decides to re-sign Mark Tauscher.

Left End

1. Adewale Ogunlye, Chicago Bears

Last season with the Bears, Adewale recorded five sacks along with 62 tackles. These numbers are actually very disappointing for Ogunlye. He should be back to form next season.

2. Ray Edwards, Minnesota Vikings

In his three seasons with the Vikings, Edwards has 13 career sacks, and 94 tackles. Last year, Ray wracked up five sacks, as well as 54 tackles.

3. Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions

In his rookie season, Cliff Avril wasn't expected to be that good of a player, but he surprised us all. He recorded 5 sacks and 23 tackles, as well as four forced fumbles!

4. Mike Montgomery, Green Bay Packers

In his fourth season in the NFL, Mike Montgomery had a career high 59 tackles in 2008. He also wracked up 2.5 sacks, and forced one single fumble.

Right End

1. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings

Jared Allen was traded from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2008 off-season. Minnesota gave up multiple picks for Allen, and he didn't disappoint. In '08, Jared had 14.5 sacks.

2. Alex Brown, Chicago Bears

For how good he normally is, Alex Brown didn't have that good of a season. He only recorded six sacks, 44 tackles, and one forced fumble. Look for these numbers to go back up next season.

3. Dewayne White, Detroit Lions

In his sixth season from Louisville, Dewayne White was arguably the best defensive lineman on the Lions roster. White had 38 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles.

4. Cullen Jenkins, Green Bay Packers

Cullen Jenkins missed 12 games last year, but started in the four games that he was healthy. He record 2.5 sacks in those games.

Defensive Tackle

1. Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings

In his sixth season, Kevin Williams started in all 16 games, and recorded 8.5 sacks, 60 tackles, and one forced fumble. He might miss some games next year, though, due to the steroid scandal.

2. Tommie Harris, Chicago Bears

Tommie Harris is a great football player. In his fifth season, Harris started in 13 games, appeared in 14, and recorded 5 sacks with 37 tackles.

3. B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers

He hasn't proven anything, but B.J. Raji is going to be a major factor for the Packers in 2009. He has the ability to both rush the quarterback and be a run-stuffer.

4. Pat Williams, Minnesota Vikings

He will turn 37 in October, but Pat Williams is still one of the better defensive tackles in the league today. Pat even made the Pro Bowl after only recording 44 tackles.

Weak-Side Linebacker

1. Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears

In his sixth season in the NFL, Lance Briggs wracked up 110 tackles, 3 interceptions, and one forced fumble. He will look to continue his dominance with the Bears next season.

2. Ernie Sims, Detroit Lions

Ernie Sims has already become one of the better linebackers in the league in only three seasons in the pros. The Lions drafted him in the first-round of the 2006 draft.

3. Nick Barnett, Green Bay Packers

Nick Barnett only started and played in nine games, but went down with an injury in week 11 of the 2008 season. He managed to record 49 tackles in those nine contests.

4. Ben Leber, Minnesota Vikings

In my opinion, Ben Leber is one of the more under-rated linebackers in the entire league. The stats might not always be there, but he still gives it his all on each and every play.

Middle Linebacker

1. E.J. Henderson, Minnesota Vikings

Despite missing most of the 2008 season, I still believe that E.J. Henderson is the best middle linebacker in the NFC North. He should be back, and better than ever next season.

2. A.J. Hawk, Green Bay Packers

Despite the fact that he is a Packer, I have always had some respect for A.J. Hawk. From what I've seen, he is one of the toughest linebackers to play the game today.

3. Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears

There is no telling how much longer Brian Urlacher will be able to play at a high level, but he is still a good middle linebacker that gives it his all in every game. He recorded 93 tackles in 2008.

4. Jordon Dizon, Detroit Lions

Dizon was a rookie last season, and he wasn't expected to do much for the Lions. He ended up playing in 12 games, but didn't start in any of them.

Strongside Linebacker

1. Chad Greenway, Minnesota Vikings

Chad Greenway has become without a doubt the best strong-side linebacker in the NFC North. He wracked up 115 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles last season.

2. Aaron Kampman, Green Bay Packers

It's no guarantee that he'd play this position at linebacker, but it's a real possibility. Kampman will be making the switch to outside linebacker since the Packers switched from the 4-3 to the 3-4.

3. Julian Peterson, Detroit Lions

The Lions traded defensive tackle, Cory Redding, to the Seahawks for linebacker, Julian Peterson. Peterson totaled 86 tackles, five sacks, and forced four fumbles in 2008.

4. Nick Roach, Chicago Bears

As a second-year player, Nick Roach beat out Hunter Hillenmeyer for the starting strong-side linebacker spot. He started in nine games and recorded 37 total tackles.


1. Antoine Winfield, Minnesota Vikings

Antoine Winfield is getting up there in age, but he still managed to make the Pro Bowl this past season. He is in the last year of his contract, so he will look to be on his best game of his career.

2. Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers

Charles Woodson is almost 33 years old, but he still is one of the better cornerbacks in the league today. He recorded seven interceptions last year, one off of his record in a single season.

3. Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears

Charles Tillman, in his sixth season, had a career high 93 tackles, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions. His best years are yet to come in Chicago.

4. Cedric Griffin, Minnesota Vikings

This may be my homerism coming into effect, but I truly believe that Cedric Griffin will have the best season of his short-lived career. He impressed Vikings fans with 91 tackles in '08.

Free Safety

1. Nick Collins, Green Bay Packers

Nick Collins was arguably the best free safety in the NFC last year. He had a career-high seven interceptions, as well as 72 tackles.

2. Madieu Williams, Minnesota Vikings

Madieu Williams missed a huge chunk of the Minnesota Vikings season last year, but he will be 100 percent healthy in 2009. I, expect, Madieu to have a much better season.

3. Josh Bullocks, Chicago Bears

Josh Bullocks played for the New Orleans Saints last year, but when his contract expired the Bears signed him right away. He should be a good impact player for Chicago in 2009.

4. Gerald Alexander, Detroit Lions

In 2008, Gerald Alexander was a backup and didn't get that great of stats, but he will likely be the starter in '09.

Strong Safety

1. Atari Bigby, Green Bay Packers

Despite missing over half of the season, Atari Bigby is the best strong safety in the NFC North. He will be back fully healthy next year, and will look to go back to his normal form.

2. Daniel Bullocks, Detroit Lions

Daniel Bullocks isn't that great of a safety, but he's the best on their squad. He will get his tackles, but is nowhere near a Pro-Bowl caliber player.

3. Kevin Payne, Chicago Bears

Not many people knew who Kevin Payne was before last year, but now they know exactly who he is. In his second season, Payne had 88 tackles, one sack, and four interceptions!

4. Tyrell Johnson, Minnesota Vikings

Tyrell Johnson will be taking over for Darren Sharper in the 2009 season. Last year, Tyrell started in seven games for Madieu Williams when he went down with an injury. Johnson should be a good replacement for Sharper next season.


1. Jason Hanson, Detroit Lions

In his 17th NFL season, Jason Hanson was one of the more accurate kickers in the league. He nailed 21 of 22 field goals in 2008.

2. Ryan Longwell, Minnesota Vikings

Ryan Longwell is known for being a very clutch kicker, and he was. He nailed the winning field goal against the Giants in week 17, to put the Vikings in the playoffs.

3. Robbie Gould, Chicago Bears

In my opinion, Robbie Gould is one of the more under-rated kickers in the league, but he does have a cool pirate name. He nailed 26 of 29 field goals in 2008.

4. Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers

Mason Crosby is a good kicker even though he is the fourth best in the NFC North. He connected on 27 of 34 field goals last season.


1. Chris Kluwe, Minnesota Vikings

Chris Kluwe in only his fourth season, has become one of the best punter's in the game today, believe it or not. He averaged 47.6 yards per punt in '08.

2. Nick Harris, Detroit Lions

Nick Harris was on the field quite a bit, because the Lions often had to punt the ball. He had 90 punts, and averaged 43.9 yards per punt.

3. Brad Maynard, Chicago Bears

In his 12th season from Ball State, Brad Maynard averaged 41.2 yards per punt. He also had 5 touchbacks, and 40 kicks within the 20 yard line

4. Durant Brooks, Green Bay Packers

As a rookie, Durant Brooks started right away. He averaged slightly under 40 yards per punt, though.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.