Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The NFL's Suite Stars



By Joe Parello

Since we have an entire extra week to discuss what looks to be an exciting Super Bowl, let's do what the NFL does and honor the best football players on the planet this week. But, there will be no SuiteSports Pro Bowl(though, if there was, it would be a 7-on-7 flag game). Instead, I will be honoring only the total cream of the NFL crop, not a team for each conference. Also, for this incredibly subjective All-star team, I have considered playoff performances, and added two "Wild Card" positions to each side of the ball.

Sound like fun? Of course it does.

Offense

QB
1. Tom Brady, New England
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
3. Eli Manning, New York Giants
It would be hard to argue against a host of quarterbacks this season, but these are the three I settled on. Brady gets the start over Rodgers since he did more with less offensively this year, and he was able to get the Patriots back to the Super Bowl. Rodgers was fantastic all season, and would have joined Brady, Manning and Stafford in the 5,000 yard club had he not missed a few fourth quarters due to Packers blowout. Finally, Manning sneaks in at third string over Drew Brees because of his fantastic play down the stretch, as well as in the playoffs.
RB
1. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville
2. Ray Rice, Baltimore
3. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia
Jones-Drew led the league in rushing, and is always a lethal receiver. Simply put, he is the most complete back in football. It's unfortunate he is on such a bland offense, otherwise Jone-Drew could have had an even scarier year. Rice finished second in rushing, and is also a complete player. The only thing holding back the Ravens back seemed to be Baltimore's play calling, where offensive coordinator Cam Cameron seemed to forget Rice was on the team at times. McCoy gets the final spot over Michael Turner, who had the least impressive 1,340 yard rushing season ever, and Arian Foster. Foster had a great year as well, but did it behind a better line and on a team committed to running the ball. McCoy also took the title of most exciting running back in the NFL from Chris Johnson this season.
WR
1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit
2. Victor Cruz, New York Giants
3. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
4. Steve Smith, Carolina
5. Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh
The first thing you will notice is that Wes Welker is not on this list. Nothing against the diminutive wideout, but he just was not the matchup problem any of these guys were, and Brady fed him the rock inside while defenses were worried about the Patriot tight ends(more on that later). Johnson is THE big play receiver in football right now, and even two defenders isn't enough to stop this guy going down the field. Cruz had a breakout year, and helped Eli Manning and the offense pull through some hard times at mid-season. Fitzgerald was the lone bright spot in Arizona, and Smith showed us that he is still explosive, assuming he has a quarterback that can get him the ball. Wallace was simply a vertical threat last year, but he took his game to a new level this season as a route runner and a run after the catch receiver. An injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the emergence of Antonio Brown on the other side slowed his production a bit, but the speedster had a bright future.
TE
1. Rob Gronkowski, New England
2. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
3. Aaron Hernandez, New England
Yes, this is how good the New England tight end corps is. Gronkowski was an absolute monster this year, grabbing 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, an unprecedented tight end stat line. Graham was nearly as impressive in New Orleans, also surpassing 1,300 yards receiving. The final spot goes to Hernandez over impressive years from Jason Witten and Tony Gonzales because he put up comparable numbers with far fewer targets per game and missed some time.
OT
1. Joe Thomas, Cleveland
2. Joe Staley, San Francisco
3. Jake Long, Miami
It is really weird to me that Cleveland and Miami have the two most complete tackles in the NFL, but it is true. As for the one that played on a good team, Staley, he came into this year as a long, athletic pass protector. He left the year as a brutal run blocker that could protect well enough on play-action passes. He is just one of many 49ers players that either broke out, or were rejuvenated due to the arrival of new coach Jim Harbaugh.
OG
1. Ben Grubbs, Baltimore
2. Jahri Evans, New Orleans
3. Logan Mankins, New England
With these three guards you get each end of the spectrum, and one in the middle. Grubbs is a bulldozer in the running game, and Evans is a nimble pass blocker that is athletic enough to pull around on draws and screen passes. In the middle is Mankins, who can do it all, just not at as high of a level as the first two.
C
1. Nick Mangold, New York Jets
2. Ryan Kalil, Carolina
Mangold is still the game's best center, despite the Jets' struggles on offense this year. Kalil is the opposite, a young up-and-comer that was the versatile anchor of a suddenly exciting offense in Carolina.
O Wild Card
1. Cam Newton, Carolina
2. Tim Tebow, Denver
Ok, I know Arian Foster, Wes Welker and perhaps even Jason Witten are more deserving. That being said, these were the two most interesting and polarizing players in the league, and they each have unique skill sets that would allow me to use them all over the field. Can you imagine if my team rolled out a lineup of Rodgers in the shotgun, Johnson and Wallace out wide, Gronkowski a tight end, Newton in the slot and Tebow at H-back? How would you defend that. There is so much speed and power on the field, along with three guys that can throw. I want to see that formation.

Defense

DE
1.Jared Allen, Minnesota
2. Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
3. Chris Long, St. Louis
While the Vikings struggled as a whole, Allen made sure their opponents knew they were in a fight each week. The bull-rusher led the league in sacks, and is as physical an end as there is in football today. Pierre-Paul and Long get the nod over Jason Babin because they are both better against the run, and each is a double-digit sack performer. Also, Long is immovable at the point of attack and did an amazing job of fighting double-teams all year on a beaten up defense.
DT
1. Justin Smith, San Francisco
2. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati
3. Vince Wilfork, New England
Smith has been overlooked for the majority of his career, but he was absolutely beastly this year. He led the league's best run defense at tackle, but also led all DT's in sacks with 7.5. Atkins helped turn the Bengals defense back into what it was in 2009, and was also a pass rush threat on the inside. Wilfork is the league's ideal 3-4 nose tackle, but was even dominant playing out of position as a "3" technique in New England's new 4-3. He didn't complain about it either. Note how a truly great defensive lineman handles that situation, Albert Haynesworth.
OLB
1. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore
2. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
3. Tamba Hali, Kansas City
It is certainly a new era when all of the best outside linebackers in the league are known for being pass rushers. But, thanks to Lawrence Taylor, Dick LeBeau and rule changes that have geared the game towards passing, this is where we are. Ware is a pure pass rusher, and was lethal off the edge again this year. But, Suggs and Hali were complete players, staying firm against the run and making plays in pass coverage.
ILB
1. Patrick Willis, San Francisco
2. London Fletcher, Washington
3. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City
Willis missed some time this year, but you would be hard pressed to find anybody around the league that thinks there is a better inside linebacker. Fletcher is another guy that has been overlooked recently, but the savvy veteran is an absolute tackling machine that is still making plays on a salty Redskins defense that was hung out to dry by its offense all too often. Johnson, along with Hali, shows that there is hope for defense in KC. Both were great this year against the run and pass, and the return of Eric Berry to the Chiefs' secondary should make an already good defense really fun to watch next year.
CB
1. Darelle Revis, New York Jets
2. Jonathan Joseph, Houston
3. Champ Bailey, Denver
While teams actually challenged him this season, Revis proved he is still the best cover corner in the NFL today. Joseph came to Houston from Cincinnati hoping to help repair a historically bad pass defense. No one could have anticipated that he, and new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, would help make the Texans one of the league's best defensive units, even without All-Pro Mario Williams. Bailey gets the final spot over Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor. Until the playoffs Taylor had the inside track to the team, but after he was absolutely abused by Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Bailey played well against both Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, the veteran earned the nod.
S
1. Ed Reed, Baltimore
2. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh
3. Eric Weddle, San Diego
Reed and Polamalu are still the class of the league, for entirely different reasons. Reed is the ultimate free safety, roaming the field looking to make plays against ill-advised throws. Polamalu is the ultimate strong safety, playing up in the box against the run, playing man coverage on tight ends and slot receivers, rushing the passer, and only occasionally dropping back deep. Weddle gets the final spot for being the one bright spot on a disappointing Chargers defense. Weddle led all safeties in tackles, and also grabbed seven interceptions.
D. Wild Card
1. Haloti Ngata, Baltimore
2. James Harrison, Pittsburgh
These two would each add a bunch of toughness, but really get in because they are two of the top-five or six defensive players in the league. Ngata gets in here because he doesn't fit into one spot on the defensive line. He can play the nose, DT in a 4-3, and DE in a 3-4. His versatility actually hurt him in terms of fitting into one spot up top, but Ngata is the most complete defensive lineman in football today. Harrison, on the other hand, missed multiple games due to injury, and one game due to a league imposed suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. Despite that, Harrison still finished with nine sacks, and single-handedly brought the Steelers defense back from the brink in the middle of the year. Less production due to missed time, but he is still the most complete outside linebacker in the league.
Special Teams

K
David Akers, San Francisco
P
Andy Lee, San Francisco
KR
1. Patrick Peterson, Arizona
2. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
Akers broke a 49ers record for points scored in a season held by Jerry Rice. That's right David Akers is now better than Jerry Rice. Just kidding, of course, but Akers nailed 44 field goals this year, mostly due to the 49ers' struggles in the red zone. Lee rounds out the league's best special teams unit by leading the league in punting. That San Fran duo beat out fellow Bay Area bombers Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski from Oakland. Patrick Peterson led all returners with four touchdowns, and Brown was the most complete returner in the league, bringing back kickoff and punts with equal efficiency.

Coaches

Offensive Coordinator
Sean Payton, New Orleans
Defensive Coordinator
Wade Phillips, Houston
Head Coach
Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco
First of all, I know Sean Payton is a head coach. That said, he still called the majority of the plays for the league's top offense. That gets him in for me. Phillips helped the Texans go from 30th in total defense to second, and dead last in pass defense to third, all in one year. Not a bad hire, I would say. Finally, Harbaugh took an underachieving 49ers team led by a bust quarterback, and got them to within a special teams fumble of the Super Bowl.

1 comment :

ad3291e0-49b3-11e1-8c8c-000f20980440 said...

Do you know the name of the Ravens player who dissed Tim Tebow by saying they didnot need God's help to win? You should send him the song "Jesus Drop Kick Me Through The Goalpost of Life"