Each NFL Team's "Big Three" on Offense and Defense

J FCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2011

Each NFL Team's "Big Three" on Offense and Defense

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    The term "Big Three" is a simple one.

    In sports, it refers to a trio of superstar players who all play for the same team. Whether you love them or hate them, you've certainly heard of them if you've followed sports at all this past year because of LeBron's decision to join the Miami Heat.

    Many people don't believe Chris Bosh should be counted in the equation,—most notably the recently retired Shaquille O'Neal—but there are still two of the NBA's top five players displaying their talents in South Beach.

    Such situations simply don't happen in the NFL because of the effective salary cap and the fact that 22 players are needed to field a team. However, I do believe that each team has three players on both sides of the ball who are a step above the rest in terms of skill and value to the team.

    Let's say each franchise was only allowed to keep three players on offense and defense, who would they choose?

    I'll leave some spots up for suggestions, but of course you can debate my selections.

    Sources: Rotoworld, ProFootballReference

Detroit Lions

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    OFFENSE

    1. Calvin Johnson, WR

    Megatron made his first Pro Bowl appearance last year after spending several seasons as the Lions' only threat. Now that Detroit is pushing out of the ashes of their 0-16 season, the 6'5'' receiver will have even better opportunities to reassert his status as one of the league's top wideouts.

    2. Matthew Stafford, QB

    The third-year quarterback has only played in 13 NFL games thus far in his career, but in three games in 2010, Stafford put up six touchdowns to only one pick. Once he's given a chance, he'll be able to prove his worth as a No. 1 pick, especially with a loaded arsenal including Jahvid Best, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew.

    3. Jahvid Best, RB

    Best suffered through turf toe for much of his rookie season, but he still racked up more than 1,000 total yards and six total touchdowns. He's a threat both as a runner and a pass-catcher out of the backfield, and now he won't have to share carries with Mikel LeShoure.

    DEFENSE

    1. Ndamukong Suh, DT

    With 10 sacks in his rookie season and the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year to show for it, Suh has proven he will be a force on the Lions' defensive line for years to come.

    Now he has a pass-rushing partner in recently-drafted Nick Fairley.

    2. Cliff Avril, DE

    The restricted free agent has 19 sacks his first three seasons in the league, and once the season is over, he'll be looking to lock up a long-term extension with the Lions.

    3. Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE

    The nine-year vet just joined the Lions in 2010, but he has already become one of the main leaders in turning the team around. Vanden Bosch had four sacks in 11 games last season, but he's as valuable in the locker room as he is on the field.

Chicago Bears

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    OFFENSE

    1. Matt Forte, RB

    Forte barely eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark last season, but he also recorded 547 yards through the air. He's a decent back who should have a more productive 2011 campaign with more carries as the cornerstone of the Bears' offense.

    2. Johnny Knox, WR

    While he may not be the Bears' top choice as a No. 1 wideout, Johnny Knox is a viable deep threat and just missed becoming the first Chicago receiver since 2002 to reach the 1,000-yard mark.

    3. Jay Cutler, QB

    It seems like ages now that the Bears have searched for a top-notch quarterback, yet Jay Cutler still hasn't matured since his arrival from Denver. He throws way too many interceptions that he doesn't make up for, and after he infamously left the NFC Championship game, Caleb Hanie almost performed better than him.

    With all of this said, Cutler is still the Bears' third-best offensive player, and he can turn it around.

    DEFENSE

    1. Julius Peppers, DE

    In his first season with the Bears, Peppers was expected to drastically improve the defensive line and pass-rush. He did just that, as he consistently put pressure on the quarterback, racking up eight sacks and two interceptions.

    2. Brian Urlacher, LB

    Urlacher now holds the franchise's all-time record for tackles after 11 seasons in Chicago, including seven Pro Bowl years. Despite his advancing age and nagging injuries, the veteran continues to make an impact on the field and leads one of the best defenses in the league.

    3. Lance Briggs, LB

    As the younger version of Urlacher, Lance Briggs may be just as important to the Bears' defense. He dealt with injuries for most of 2010, and there was no doubt his presence was missed when he wasn't on the field.

Minnesota Vikings

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    OFFENSE

    1. Adrian Peterson, RB

    Peterson is, perhaps, the best back in the NFL and has easily surpassed 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons since entering the league. He had a career-low in fumbles in 2010, and his success is crucial to Minnesota's offense.

    It may even be safe to say he now is their offense.

    2. Percy Harvin, WR

    The versatile Percy Harvin has developed into one of the league's top slot receivers, and with his speed, he is always a threat to break away from the defense for a score.

    Although he has yet to play a full season because of recurring migraines, he claims they have come under control, and if that's true, his first 1,000-yard season should be on the way.

    Harvin's importance increases in Sidney Rice's absence.

    3. Toby Gerhart, RB

    Gerhart excelled filling in for Peterson at times throughout his rookie season and was even able to step in for several series to give the Vikes' top offensive weapon a breather.

    Gerhart's more than just a valuable backup. He provides a fresh change of pace and can help keep defenses on their toes even if the passing game struggles.

    DEFENSE

    1. Jared Allen, DE

    Allen is one of the league's best pass-rushers and has recorded 40 sacks in three seasons with the Vikings, along with two Pro Bowl selections.

    2. Antoine Winfield, CB

    Winfield may have been the Vikes' top player on defense in 2010, as he contributed in more ways than just pass coverage, which isn't his best skill. He is effective in blitz packages

    3. Chad Greenway, LB

    The Vikings proved Greenway's value after the team's leading tackler for three years running was given the franchise tag following the 2010 season.

Green Bay Packers

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    OFFENSE

    1. Aaron Rodgers, QB

    The Super Bowl MVP is the undeniable leader of the Pack, and is one of the best at his position thanks to his poise in the pocket and his ability to fit the ball into tight windows. Everyone benefits from Rodgers' presence on the field except for the opposing defenses he seems to pick apart with ease.

    2. Greg Jennings, WR

    After rattling off three consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 yards, Jennings was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2010. He's the top receiving threat on a pass-happy team, as well as one of best wideouts in the league.

    3. Jermichael Finley, TE

    The 24-year-old tight end has yet to play a full season, but when he does, there's little doubt he will finally break out and release his potential. The only thing that can prevent his size and athleticism from translating into a top pass-catching end is injury.

    DEFENSE

    1. Clay Matthews, LB

    Matthews has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons and narrowly missed being selected for the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2010. He is a relentless pass-rusher, and his prime playmaking ability will keep the Pack's defense dangerous whenever he steps on the field.

    2. B.J. Raji, NT

    As long as Dom Capers is in Titletown, the Packers will need a dominant nose tackle to hold up the 3-4 front.

    In his sophomore season, Raji proved he is the man for the job. His 337-lbs frame can draw blockers to allow openings for his teammates to make plays, and he also recorded 6.5 sacks of his own in 2010.

    Also, don't forget about his interception in the NFC Championship game and the subsequent dance moves.

    3. Charles Woodson, CB

    The versatile veteran cornerback is crucial to Capers' scheme and also made his third consecutive Pro Bowl in 2010. Although he's now 34 years old, Woodson is only a year removed from Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was sorely missed in the Pack's secondary during the second half of the Super Bowl, but his collar bone is all ready to go for a repeat.

Atlanta Falcons

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    OFFENSE

    1. Michael Turner, RB

    While he may no longer be in the prime of his career, Michael Turner is still a capable back, and he makes the rest of the multi-threat offense flow even if he isn't overloaded with carries.

    2. Roddy White, WR

    Without Roddy White in the Falcons' lineup, Matt Ryan may not have made the Pro Bowl last season. White is one of the league's best at his position and has easily surpassed the 1,000-yard mark four years running.

    He's also had 10 or more TDs in the last two seasons.

    3. Matt Ryan, QB

    Ryan has yet to throw for more than 4,000 or 30 TDs, and he hasn't led his team to a playoff win, but the young QB is on the rise with a strong supporting cast. Ryan knows how to win, especially at the Georgia Dome, and is coming off a career-best season.

    DEFENSE

    1. John Abraham, DE

    Abraham is an unstoppable pass-rusher even when injured. It was evident in his 13 sacks in 15 games last season, as the Falcons' defense counted on him to make plays.

    2. Brent Grimes, CB

    Atlanta's top cornerback has picked off 11 passes the past two seasons and has established himself as as an elite cover corner.

    3. Curtis Lofton, LB

    Lofton has averaged 115 tackles throughout his three-year career with the Falcons and is now one of best middle linebackers in the league.

New Orleans Saints

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    OFFENSE

    1. Drew Brees, QB

    Brees has easily surpassed 4,000 yards passing and 30 TDs his last three seasons in New Orleans, and he's also brought a long-awaited Lombardi Trophy to the downtrodden city.

    Beyond his impressive numbers, Brees is a respected leader, and the offense goes as he goes.

    2. Marques Colston. WR

    As Brees' right-hand man, Colston has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards the last two seasons. He's one of the best in the league when he's healthy, but knee injuries have hampered him his entire career.

    3. Mark Ingram, RB

    While he has yet to suit up for an NFL game, the workhorse back will waste no time in stealing the starting job in New Orleans. Ingram's all-around skills will give the offense a boost and revive the running game.

    DEFENSE

    1. Jonathan Vilma, LB

    Vilma is the most important defensive player in New Orleans, and barring any trades, he'll be looking for his fourth-consecutive season with more than 100 tackles as the team's MLB. He even added a career-high four sacks in 2010.

    2. Jabari Greer, CB

    Greer is certainly significant in the Saints' secondary, and he is one of the league's most underrated cover corners. He only has four picks in two seasons with the Saints, but he's returned two of them for scores.

    3. Sedrick Ellis, DT

    Ellis is finally living up to the expectations of a Top-10 pick with six sacks in his third season. He has developed into a valuable piece alongside Will Smith on the defensive line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    OFFENSE

    1. Josh Freeman, QB

    The second-year signal-caller was extremely efficient in 2010 and looks to be the Bucs' franchise QB after a shaky rookie season.

    Freeman has stepped up as a team leader, and he'll likely take his play to another level with more experience.

    2. Mike Williams, WR

    Williams put up 11 TDs as a rookie and nearly missed 1,000 yards receiving. He's yet another crucial piece in Tampa Bay's young offense.

    3. LeGarrette Blount, RB

    As a rookie, Blount barely rushed for 1,000 yards and scored six touchdowns, but he was virtually nonexistent in the passing game. While he may not be the speediest or most agile back, Blount can break tackles and find the holes in the defense.

    DEFENSE

    1. Ronde Barber, CB

    The fact that he is still the team's top corner after 14 seasons says a lot about Barber's value to the Buccaneers' defense. He's still playing at a high level, and his experience and leadership certainly have an impact in the secondary.

    2. Aqib Talib, CB

    Talib avoided a suspension following felony assault charges, and his presence will be greatly welcomed in the Bucs' secondary. He has averaged five interceptions per season after three in Tampa Bay.

    3. Geno Hayes. LB

    With Barrett Ruud gone, the rising Geno Hayes will have a golden opportunity to become the team's top tackler if he can avoid trouble with injuries and the law. Hayes had four sacks and 82 tackles in 2010, along with an interception returned for a touchdown.

Carolina Panthers

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    OFFENSE

    1. Steve Smith, WR

    How long Steve Smith stays in Carolina remains to be seen, but the double-team magnet is still a top target. He's the Panthers' primary offensive weapon in the passing game, even though his numbers have dropped due to a weak supporting cast.

    2. Jonathan Stewart, RB

    The speedy Stewart put up impressive numbers as a member of Carolina's double-headed monster, and even though DeAngelo Williams returned to the team, Stewart is still important to the offense.

    3. DeAngelo Williams, RB

    Williams decided to re-sign with the Panthers, and the offense will certainly need him if they plan to start an unproven Cam Newton at quarterback.

    Recently-Added Possibility: Greg Olsen, TE

    Olsen's receiving talent has been underutilized since Mike Martz took over as OC in Chicago, but his value as a blocker is unquestionable, and he benefits the offense even if his stats don't show it. Olsen's presence puts pressure on the defense and can create matchup problems for some teams.

    DEFENSE

    1.  Jon Beason, LB

    Beason is a beast among the Panthers' front seven and has recorded more than 120 tackles in each of his four seasons in Carolina.

    2. Charles Johnson, DE

    After his mentor Julius Peppers took off to Chicago, Johnson became a pass-rushing force and collected 11.5 sacks in 2010. Johnson was recently re-signed to a very profitable deal.

    3. James Anderson, LB

    Anderson was a monster at stopping the run last season, as he broke out for 130 tackles, two forced fumbles and a pick.

    His prize? A new five-year deal.

Dallas Cowboys

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    OFFENSE

    1. Jason Witten, TE

    With more than 1,000 yards the last two seasons and nine touchdowns in 2010, Witten is undeniably one of the best tight ends in the league.

    He's valuable to the Cowboys' offense in more ways than one, and with Romo's return, Witten's production should increase.

    2. Tony Romo, QB

    Romo had an exceptional 2009 season with nearly 4,500 yards passing, 29 TDs and only nine INTs. His 2010 campaign, however, was cut short by a broken collarbone, and he'll be looking for a big year this season.

    Romo has an offense loaded with weapons he has the ability to make good use of.

    3. Miles Austin, WR

    If anyone missed Tony Romo, it was Miles Austin.

    Austin still surpassed 1,000 yards receiving again in 2010, but he hauled in a significantly lower number of balls. Austin is a speedy No. 1 wideout with deep-threat capabilities, and he may have more room to maneuver as Dez Bryant improves.

    DEFENSE

    1. DeMarcus Ware, LB

    Ware is one of the league's top pass-rushers, and he's had more total sacks than any other player in the last five seasons.

    2. Jay Ratliff, DE

    The Cowboys acknowledge that Ratliff is a great player, but a bit too small for a nose tackle. After three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, he'll likely move to defensive end in his seventh season with the team.

    3. Terence Newman, CB

    Newman may be overpaid in 2011, but he'll be sticking around in Dallas for what should be his ninth solid season with the team. In 2010, Newman posted career-highs in tackles and interceptions.

Washington Redskins

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    OFFENSE

    1. Chris Cooley, TE

    Cooley tied his career-high in receiving yards last season on an offense that struggled mightily through the air. He is approaching the Redskins' record for catches by a tight end, and he's the best player on a weak receiving corps.

    2. Santana Moss, WR

    Moss, who recently re-signed with the Redskins, provides another top target for whoever starts at quarterback in D.C. The 32-year-old veteran surpassed 1,000 yards receiving last year after missing the mark in 2009.

    3. Ryan Torain, RB

    The Skins are short at the running back position, and as of now, Torain looks to be the opening day starter as the team transitions into a possible committee rushing attack.

    Torain has been good when healthy, picking up 742 yards in 10 games last year, but he is one of the most injury-prone backs in the league.

    DEFENSE

    1. London Fletcher, LB

    The Redskins' leading tackler was also seventh in the league last season, which was Fletcher's 13th in the league. He is a leader on defense and also forced three fumbles in 2010.

    2. LaRon Landry, S

    In nine games last season, LaRon Landry laid out 85 ball-carriers, forced a fumble and picked off a pass. He was on pace for a career-year until injuries knocked him off track.

    3. Brian Orakpo, LB

    Orakpo wasted no time in becoming one of the NFL's best pass-rushers, as he collected 8.5 sacks in his rookie season. With more experience, greater things can be expected from him.

New York Giants

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    OFFENSE

    1. Brandon Jacobs, RB

    Jacobs averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored nine times last season sharing the backfield with Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants will continue to look his way in short-yardage situations and especially on the goal line.

    Jacobs is crucial to the offense and may get more carries in 2011.

    2. Hakeem Nicks, WR

    Nicks has yet to play a full NFL season because of injuries, but when he's on the field, he's one of the most dynamic wideouts in the game. He scored 11 TDs in only 13 games in 2010.

    3. Eli Manning, QB

    The lesser Manning is often inaccurate with his passes and ends up throwing too many picks. However, when he cuts down on the turnovers, he keeps the Giants' offense rolling.

    DEFENSE

    1. Justin Tuck, DE

    Tuck can play both the defensive end and linebacker positions in New York's scheme. He's been a consistent pass-rusher with 39.5 sacks in his last four seasons.

    2. Osi Umenyiora, DE

    Osi isn't happy with his contract situation and wants out if he can't get a new deal, but if he settles down and stay with the Giants, they'll certainly be glad to have him back. The dominant defensive end racked up 11.5 sack last season and an incredible 10 forced fumbles.

    3. Terrell Thomas, CB

    Thomas led the team in tackles and picks in 2010. His consistent contributions will be coveted even more this season now that rookie corner Prince Amukamara is out with a broken foot.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    OFFENSE

    1. Michael Vick, QB

    Vick took over as the Eagles' top threat in 2010 and nearly won the NFL MVP Award in the process. He's an electrifying playmaker, primarily with his legs, and he knows how to carry an offense.

    2. DeSean Jackson, WR

    He may not be No. 1 receiver material with his fear for the middle of the field and his susceptibility to being shut down, but Jackson's a speedy playmaker and one of the Eagles' most explosive weapons.

    3. LeSean McCoy, RB

    McCoy looks to be Philly's feature back after rushing for 5.2 yards per carry in 2010 and surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.

    DEFENSE

    1. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB

    The league's best corner was also the most highly sought-after free agent this offseason. Asomugha will join a plethora of Philly's pickups and lead a much-improved defense.

    2. Asante Samuel, CB

    After Asomugha's arrival, Asante Samuel suddenly hit the trade market and the rumors ran rabid.

    However, if Samuel remains with the Eagles, he'll continue to be an impact player after four consecutive Pro Bowls.

    3. Trent Cole, DE

    With 44 sacks in the last four seasons, Trent Cole is one of the more underrated pass-rushers in the NFL.

Seattle Seahawks

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    OFFENSE

    1. Sidney Rice, WR

    Rice, along with Tavaris Jackson, was sent to Seattle from Minnesota and will immediately become the Seahawks' top target, primarily as a deep-ball threat.

    2. Marshawn Lynch, RB

    Lynch joined the Seahawks part way through the 2010 season and got the 12th Man roaring with his incredible postseason run against the Saints. He'll need to put together a few more big-time scampers to keep the offense rolling.

    3. Russell Okung, OT

    Despite dealing with injuries in his rookie season, Okung greatly strengthened the Seahawks' offensive line when he was on the field.

    Recently Added Possibility: Tarvaris Jackson, QB

    The Seahawks needed a quarterback, and Jackson turned out to be the man. Maybe he can somehow put together a solid season.

    DEFENSE

    1. Earl Thomas, S

    Thomas had five picks and a forced fumble in his rookie season. He provides an instant boost in the secondary, as the rest of the defense also looks to get younger.

    2. David Hawthorne, LB

    Hawthorne led the team in tackles last season in the absence of Lofa Tatupu, and he has now secured his spot as the veteran's replacement.

    3. Chris Clemons, DE

    After playing for three different teams in five years, Clemons came to Seattle and had a career-best 11 sacks and 49 tackles.

Arizona Cardinals

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    OFFENSE

    1. Larry Fitzgerald, WR

    One of the best wideouts in the league suffered from a poor quarterback situation in 2010, but after Kevin Kolb was signed, Fitzgerald will stay as a star in Arizona.

    2. Kevin Kolb, QB

    Since the move from Philly, Kolb has taken over the Cardinals' offense and has already connected with Fitzgerald for 41 yards.

    3. Open for suggestions.

    DEFENSE

    1. Darnell Dockett, DE

    The long-time Cardinal has been a consistent pass-rusher throughout the last three seasons, all of which he was selected to the Pro Bowl.

    2. Patrick Peterson, CB

    The rookie will need to make an instant impact as the team's No. 1 corner after the departure of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Peterson has the ability to do just that.

    3. Adrian Wilson, S

    The Cardinals have a shaky defense, and Adrian Wilson is just as unstable. He had a rough 2010 season due to injury and will likely miss time this season because of a torn bicep, but he is needed desperately on the field.

St. Louis Rams

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    OFFENSE

    1. Steven Jackson, RB

    Jackson has had six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Rams, and he's clearly the team's go-to guy with more than 300 carries in the last two years.

    2. Sam Bradford, QB

    Bradford had a solid rookie campaign and nearly took St. Louis to the playoffs. The more he asserts himself as the leader of the offense, the further he will take it.

    3. Open for suggestions.


    DEFENSE

    1. James Laurinaitis, LB

    Laurinaitis' leadership is crucial to the defense and so is his ability to rack up more than 100 tackles year after year.

    2. Chris Long, DE

    Long exploded for 8.5 sacks in 2010, but that doesn't count all the other times he pressured the quarterback. His presence is indispensable on the Rams' defensive line.

    3. James Hall, DE

    The veteran pass-rusher had his best season as a Ram last year with 10.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. If he can stay healthy, St. Louis' defense would love to have him on the field.

San Francisco 49ers

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    OFFENSE

    1. Frank Gore, RB

    However injury-prone he may be, Gore is the most important player on the Niners' offense, and he's a game-changing bell cow whenever he suits up.

    2. Vernon Davis, TE

    Davis is one of the top tight ends in the league and San Fran's leading receiver. He'll be even more productive with new coach Jim Harbaugh cultivating his size and skill.

    3. Braylon Edwards, WR

    The 49ers pulled their best wideout off the free-agent market this offseason and will continue to crave his contributions as long as Michael Crabtree is sidelined.

    DEFENSE

    1. Patrick Willis, LB

    Willis had a drop-off in tackles last season, but he still racked up more than 100 for the fourth consecutive year.

    2. Justin Smith, DE

    Smith was haled by local writers as one of San Fran's top defensive players in 2010, as he totaled a career-high nine sacks.

    3. Shawntae Spencer, CB

    Spencer is having issues with both injuries and his contract after a solid campaign at corner last year.

New England Patriots

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    OFFENSE

    1. Tom Brady, QB

    The reigning NFL MVP is also, quite clearly, the most valuable Patriot because of his leadership, consistency and Hall of Fame ability at the league's most important position.

    2. Wes Welker, WR

    Welker is the definition of an elite slot receiver and has often caught more than 100 balls since arriving in New England.

    3. Logan Mankins, G

    Recently re-signed to a six-year deal, Mankins is one of the most prized pass-protectors in the game and has three Pro Bowl appearances under his belt.

    DEFENSE

    1. Vince Wilfork, NT

    The 325-lbs nose tackle is the undisputed anchor of the Pats' 3-4 scheme.

    2. Jerod Mayo, LB

    Mayo is well on his way to becoming the best linebacker in the league after leading all defensive players with 175 tackles in 2010.

    3. Devin McCourty, CB

    McCourty narrowly missed winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award after picking off seven passes in his debut season.

Miami Dolphins

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    OFFENSE

    1. Brandon Marshall, WR

    Marshall surpassed 1,000 yards receiving his first season in South Beach, and he'll likely see even more targets in 2011.

    2. Reggie Bush, RB

    Bush appears to have taken the starting role after moving from New Orleans, and the Dolphins' offense will depend on his production.

    3. Davone Bess, WR

    Bess had a career-year in 2010 and is very valuable for the Fins in the slot.

    DEFENSE

    1. Karlos Dansby, LB

    Dansby's debut with the Dolphins was cut short by injuries, but he still managed 95 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles.

    2. Cameron Wake, DE

    Wake exploded onto the scene of elite pass-rushers in 2010 with 14 sacks, and Miami would love to see him play even better.

    3. Yeremiah Bell, SS

    Tony Sporano has even acknowledged Bell's value at the safety position after three-straight seasons with 100-plus tackles.

Buffalo Bills

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    OFFENSE

    1. Steve Johnson, WR

    Johnson had a breakout year in 2010 regarding several key drops. The Bills will be wise to find ways to get him open.

    2. Fred Jackson, RB

    It doesn't matter if he's first or second on the depth chart, Jackson has shown he is the best back in Buffalo.

    3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB

    Fitzpatrick's success is the key to the Bills' offense, and his line is the key to his success.

    DEFENSE

    1. Marcell Dareus, DE

    The rookie will bring a boost in the pass-rushing department, and his preseason performances have been outstanding thus far.

    2. Nick Barnett, LB

    The Bills made a smart pickup in Barnett, and he will provide leadership and experience on defense.

    3. Jairus Byrd, CB

    Byrd took a step back after an outstanding rookie campaign, but hopes are he can return to form and ignite the spark the secondary needs to get going.

New York Jets

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    OFFENSE

    1. Santonio Holmes, WR

    The Jets' biggest move this offseason was re-signing their top wide receiver to be Mark Sanchez's favorite target.

    2. Shonn Greene, RB

    Greene will have a career-high in 2011 as he becomes the team's bell cow.

    3. Nick Mangold, C

    Mangold is one of the league's best centers and probably Greene's best friend.

    DEFENSE

    1. Darrelle Revis, CB

    Everyone has heard of Revis Island and how many No. 1 receivers have been stranded there.

    2. David Harris, LB

    Harris is a pro at bringing down the ball-carrier and has around 100 tackles in each of his four seasons.

    3. Antonio Cromartie, CB

    The Jets' second-most important re-signing makes a terrifying tandem with Revis at the cornerback position.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    OFFENSE

    1. Ben Roethlisberger, QB

    Big Ben is a mobile playmaker who knows how to win games.

    2. Rashard Mendenhall, RB

    Mendenhall had a career-year in both carries and yards last season. He's the focal point of Pitt's run-based offensive attack.

    3. Mike Wallace, WR

    Apparently Wallace has set a goal of 2,000 yards receiving for this season. The Steelers would be overjoyed if he can reach 1,500.

    DEFENSE

    1. Troy Polamalu, S

    Polamalu's playmaking presence can change games whenever he steps into the Steelers' secondary.

    2. James Harrison, LB

    Harrison is the most dominant force on a lethal linebacker corps.

    3. LaMarr Woodley, LB

    Woodley is the best pass-rusher in Pittsburgh with 35 sacks the last three seasons.

Cleveland Browns

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    OFFENSE

    1. Peyton Hillis, RB

    Hillis broke out in 2010 with more than 1,000 yards in his third season and somehow stole the cover of Madden NFL.

    2. Ben Watson, TE

    Unfortunately, Watson is one of the biggest playmakers on the Browns' receiving corps after a career-year last season.

    3. Open for suggestions.


    DEFENSE

    1. Joe Haden, CB

    Haden may be on his way to the Pro Bowl in 2011 after a rookie campaign in which he grabbed six picks.

    2. T.J. Ward, S

    While he may have his flaws, Ward is a tackling machine and will probably lead the team in the stat department this season.

    3. Open for suggestions.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    OFFENSE

    1. Cedric Benson, RB

    Benson is the best player on the Bengals' young offense after resurrecting his career with two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

    2. A.J. Green, WR

    The first-year receiver is Cincy's top pass-catcher and may make a case for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    3. Open for suggestions.


    DEFENSE

    1. Leon Hall, CB

    Often underrated and now even more valuable since Johnathan Joseph jumped ship, Hall is the Bengals' best defender.

    2. Domata Peko, DT

     Peko is a dominant run-defender and a leader both on and off the field.

    3. Open for suggestions.

Baltimore Ravens

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    OFFENSE

    1. Ray Rice, RB

    The Ravens may have picked up Ricky Williams, but Ray Rice will continue to be their biggest offensive threat with his combination of rushing and pass-catching skills.

    2. Anquan Boldin, WR

    Boldin's production dropped a bit in 2010, but he should improve in his second year with Joe Flacco, especially after the addition of Lee Evans.

    3. Joe Flacco, QB

    Flacco has been good at quarterback, but Baltimore needs him to be great to take the team to the next level.

    DEFENSE

    1. Ray Lewis, LB

    Lewis has been one of the best linebackers in the league for a long time. His leadership and relentless play are of tremendous worth to the top defense.

    Lewis says he'll retire if the Ravens win it all, and it will be largely up to him to make it happen.

    2. Ed Reed, S

    Reed is also getting up there in years and has struggled with injury of late, but in 10 games last season, he snatched eight interceptions.

    3. Haloti Ngata, DT

    Ngata is the Ravens' franchise player after recording a career-high 5.5 sacks last season as one of the league's elite nose tackles.

Tennessee Titans

25 of 32

    OFFENSE

    1. Chris Johnson

    Whenever his holdout ends, Johnson will begin to work his way back into the offense as the Titans' best overall player.

    2. Michael Roos, OT

    Roos rules Tennessee's top offensive line as one of the best tackles in the NFL.

    3. Open for suggestions.


    DEFENSE

    1. Cortland Finnegan

    Cortland Finnegan has been a concrete corner in Tennessee for five seasons. His pick production may never be what it once was, but he'll also likely play closer to the line of scrimmage.

    2. Michael Griffn, S

    Griffin sneaked into the Pro Bowl as his production dropped off toward the end of the 2010 season, but he still managed 108 tackles and four picks.

    3. Open for suggestions.

Jacksonville Jaguars

26 of 32

    OFFENSE

    1. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB

    MJD has been one of the best backs in the NFL the last two seasons, and although he is coming off knee surgery, the Jaguars hope he can continue that trend.

    2. Marcedes Lewis, TE

    Lewis broke out in 2010 with 700 yards and 10 TDs on his way to a long-term contract that will keep him in Jacksonville for at least five years.

    3. Open for suggestions.


    DEFENSE

    1. Paul Posluszny, LB 

    After being one of the Bills' best defensive players for a few seasons, Posluszny will take over at MLB in Jacksonville as one of the team's prime playmakers.

    2. Rashean Mathis, CB

    The former Pro Bowler had an off-year in 2010, but he's having a great training camp, and the Jags need Mathis to return to form.

    3. Clint Session, LB

    Clint Session, another pickup at linebacker who should improve Jacksonville's defense this season, led the Colts in tackles two years ago and will make an impact on his new team.

Indianapolis Colts

27 of 32

    OFFENSE

    1. Peyton Manning, QB

    The Colts' fate in 2011 literally rests on the neck of their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.

    2. Dallas Clark, TE

    It was a huge blow for Indy when Dallas Clark was sent to the IR in 2010. His elite pass-catching ability from the tight end position is critical to the Colts' offense.

    3. Reggie Wayne, WR

    After seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Wayne may no longer be a deep threat, but he's Manning's favorite possession receiver.

    DEFENSE

    1. Dwight Freeney, DE

    Freeney pulled in 10 sacks last season as he continued to be the Colts' most dominant defensive player and one of the NFL's premier pass-rushers.

    2. Antoine Bethea, S

    Following a new deal, the two-time Pro Bowler and the Colts' leading tackler is set to solidify the secondary in Indianapolis for the next four years.

    3. Open for suggestions.

Houston Texans

28 of 32

    OFFENSE

    1. Andre Johnson, WR

    Andre Johnson is widely considered to be the best receiver in the league. He's got the size, skill and smarts to terrorize opposing defenses all game long.

    2. Arian Foster, RB

    The NFL's leading rusher from a season ago is questionable for Week 1, but he'll be a game-changer for the Texans whenever he gets back to full speed.

    3. Matt Schaub, QB

    Injury-prone and at times inconsistent, Schaub has shown the potential to be an elite QB, but has never taken the next step.

    DEFENSE

    1. Mario Williams, LB

    Word on the street is that one of the NFL's top-notch pass-rushers is trimming down for this season, meaning the sack machine could turn into a factory.

    2. Johnathan Joseph, CB

    Joseph was the second-best corner on the market this offseason with shut-down potential and strong ball skills.

    3. Open for suggestions.

San Diego Chargers

29 of 32

    OFFENSE

    1. Philip Rivers, QB

    Often mistakenly left out of the elite quarterback conversation, Rivers has piled up more than 4,000 yards and 28 TDs in each of his last three seasons.

    2. Antonio Gates, TE

    The 6'4'' pass-catching tight end picked up more than 700 yards and 10 TDs in only 10 games last season, and looks to be the most productive at his position in 2011.

    3. Vincent Jackson, WR

    Jackson could break out this season in San Diego's offense. He has played great all preseason as he looks to bounce back from missing 11 games in 2010.

    DEFENSE

    1. Shaun Phillips, LB

    With 11 sacks, seven deflected passes and a touchdown, Phillips was the Bolts' best playmaker last season.

    2. Eric Weddle, S

    Eric Weddle leads an improved Chargers secondary as a strong run-stopper and decent pass-defender.

    3. Open for suggestions.

Kansas City Chiefs

30 of 32

    OFFENSE

    1. Jamaal Charles, RB

    Charles is quickly becoming one of the league's better backs in a run-happy offense. He's averaged around six yards per carry while picking up more than 1,000 yards the last two seasons.

    2. Dwayne Bowe, WR

    Bowe had a big year in 2010 with 15 TDs and will compete with Charles to be the Chiefs' top offensive player this season.

    3. Open for suggestions.


    DEFENSE

    1. Tamba Hali, LB

    Hali was the most dominant pass-rusher in the AFC last season with 14.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

    2. Eric Berry, S

    Berry racked up 92 tackles and a pick in his debut season, and will contribute even more energy to the defense now that he has been relieved of special teams duties.

    3. Derrick Johnson, LB

    Johnson led the team in tackles in 2010 with 121, earning him a contract extension that keeps him in Kansas City for another five years.

Oakland Raiders

31 of 32

    OFFENSE

    1. Darren McFadden, RB

    McFadden finally broke through with a 1,000-yard season in 2010 and is the most, and possibly only, valuable player on the Raiders' offense

    2. Kevin Boss, TE

    Boss is a solid receiver from the tight end position and may become Jason Campbell's favorite target.

    3. Open for suggestions.


    DEFENSE

    1. Kamerion Wimbley, LB

    Wimbley was the leading pass-rusher on a Raiders team that compiled 47 sacks in 2010.

    2. Matt Shaughnessy, DE

    The most improved defensive player on the Raiders recorded seven sacks last season and solidified his starting spot.

    3. Richard Seymour, DE

    The veteran is still playing at a Pro Bowl level and will probably retire in Oakland.

Denver Broncos

32 of 32

    OFFENSE

    1. Brandon Lloyd, WR

    Lloyd waited until turning 29 to have his breakout season, but now he's probably the best playmaker on the Broncos.

    2. Kyle Orton, QB

    Somehow Tim Tebow didn't make the cut...

    Just kidding, Orton was going to be the leader of this offense from Day 1, and he can do the job if the running game can't get anything going.

    3. Open for suggestions.


    DEFENSE

    1. D.J. Williams, LB

    Williams is already out for at least three games in 2011. My guess is Denver will miss its leading tackler and sack artist.

    2. Elvis Dumervil, DE

    If it's any condolence, Dumervil—who recorded 17 sacks in 2009 before missing all of last season—will be returning to be the team's top pass-rusher.

    3. Open for suggestions.

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