NFL

NFL AM: NFC’s Most Indispensable Non-QB’s

on

We all know that football is the ultimate team sport and outside of the quarterback position, one player shouldn’t be able to make or break a team’s season.  With that said we’re going to look at the most indispensable non-quarterback’s on each team.  We began in the AFC and now we’re moving to the National Football Conference.

New York Giants: Odell Beckham, Jr- It’s difficult to make a legitimate case for anyone outside of wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.  He is perhaps the most explosive wide receiver in the NFL and is a matchup nightmare.  Beckham’s presence alone causes mismatches for everyone lining up opposite him and it gives Eli Manning a target to throw to that’s open, even when he’s covered.

Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox- Unlike Beckham, Cox doesn’t play a glamour position and he’s often overlooked in the pantheon of the league’s best players.  That doesn’t mean he isn’t one of them.  Cox not only sucks up blockers, but he is a game disruptor from a position where there are very little stats derived.

Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant- There can be a very good case made for either left tackle Tyron Smith or center Travis Frederick, but due to the lack of receiving options Dez gets the nod.  Bryant is another one of these big bodied, jump out of the gym receivers who is “always open” even when he’s covered.  He’s the type of receiver that will keep defensive coordinators up at night and makes life much easier for everyone else on the offense.

Washington Redskins: Jordan Reed- Reed may not yet be a household name, but he’s about to have a breakout 2016 season.  He is a major mismatch over the middle of the field and he’s one of the rare tight ends that can create opportunities for the guys on the outside.  He’s one of Kirk Cousins most trusted receivers and he’s the Redskins most dependable weapon.

Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson- This may seem like the obvious choice, but it was closer than you think.  Safety Harrison Smith is among the very best in football and defensive end Everson Griffin is one of the most underrated defensive players in the game.  Still, Peterson is the heart and soul of the Vikings and he is the best running back of this generation, giving credence to why he was dubbed, “Purple Jesus.”

Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson- We saw what happened last season when Nelson went down with a torn ACL.  Although the Packers still made the playoffs and won a game in the tournament, they were never the same offense, even with the best quarterback in the world.  Nelson is a true No. 1 receiver who makes everyone on the offense better.

Chicago Bears: Kyle Long- There aren’t many guards mentioned in this piece, but Kyle Long is certainly deserving.  He has cemented his status as one of the best in the league at his position and he’s a major reason why the Bears offense was functional last season.  With Hronnis Grasu already down for the season, if the Bears were to lose Long it would be devastating.

Detroit Lions: Ziggy Ansah- This was another tough call as wide receiver Golden Tate is a worthy candidate, but pass rusher is the second most important position on the field next to quarterback, and Ansah is an ascending talent.  He was one of the best pass rushers in football last season and will likely pick up where he left off in 2016.

Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly- Although the Panthers went undefeated last season in the few games they played without Luke Kuechly, make no mistake that he’s the heart and soul of their defense.  He’s not only the best middle linebacker in football, but he’s rising up the all-time ranks as well.  Kuechly has a flare for the big play, and he makes all of the small plays as well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy- McCoy has always been overshadowed, even going back to the draft when he was the second defensive tackle selected behind Ndamukong Suh.  With that said, he’s been consistently great ever since he arrived in the Bay and he has routinely sucked up blocks and made plays in the middle of the Bucs defense.

Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones- This is one of the rare instances where the receiver makes the quarterback significantly better.  No offense to Matt Ryan, but his job is made much easier when he has a physical freak to throw to like Jones who runs precise routes, can high point the football with anyone, isn’t afraid to go over the middle and can take a slant to the house from anywhere on the field.

New Orleans Saints: Cam Jordan- Another “anonymous” player on the list, Jordan has been a very good pro since he arrived in New Orleans following the 2011 NFL Draft.  The son of a former NFL player has reached double-digit sacks twice in his five year career despite playing on some pretty medicore teams.

Seattle Seahawks: Michael Bennett- Although the ‘Hawks have great players all over their defense, nobody is as versatile or as disruptive as Michael Bennett.  He can line up inside or on the edge and he’s been an impact player since his arrival in the Emerald City.

Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson- All apologies to the greatest Cardinal of the all, Larry Fitzgerald, but there isn’t anyone more valuable to the Arizona franchise than Peterson.  He’s one of the very few “shutdown corners” who can take away half of the football field and allows the team to employ some exotic blitz packages.

Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Donald- Perhaps now that the Rams have moved to Los Angeles, Donald will get noticed as a truly special talent.  Undersized and disruptive, Donald is a pass rushing force on the inside and is probably the very best pass rusher of any NFL defensive tackle.

San Francisco 49ers: Navarro Bowman- The 49ers may have the worst roster in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean that Navarro Bowman isn’t a stud.  He was largely overshadowed when he played with Patrick Willis, but Bowman still remains as one of the best linebackers in football and will be productive no matter who is around him.

 


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.