Last week we debuted our list of each AFC team’s building blocks on offense and defense. This week, we bring you the NFC.
NFC Building Blocks
Offense: WR Miles Austin- Terrell Owens is gone. Roy Williams is under-performing. Miles Austin is becoming Dallas’ only go-to wide receiver. It’s no coincidence that Dallas has gotten hot now that Austin is putting up big numbers.
Defense: CB Mike Jenkins- Dallas has a ton of talent on defense, but not much of that talent is particularly young. Jenkins looks like a future Pro Bowler with his aggressive, ball-hawking style of play.
New York Giants
Offense: WR Mario Manningham- The loss of Plaxico Burress has been cushioned by the great play of Manningham. We knew when he was at Michigan that Manningham had talent, but now he is putting that talent together, and shining.
Defense: DE Justin Tuck- Osi Umenyiora is the better known player, but at 28 years old he is nearing his peak, while Tuck is just getting started. We love both, but Tuck is the one player on that defense we would build around.
Offense: RB LeShon McCoy- It’s hard to not pick DeSean Jackson, or Jeremy Maclin, or Jason Peters (the Eagles have sick talent). McCoy is a breath of fresh air in Philadelphia, and one of the most exciting and complete young backs in the game. That being said, with this talent, we fully expect a Super Bowl win from Philly in the near future.
Defense: DE Trent Cole- No question, one of the top ends in the game today. You don’t hear his name enough, but Cole is on our short list of the best of the best.
Offense: TE Chris Cooley- None would be a more accurate answer (Cooley is 27 and therefore not very young). Washington has little talent on offense, but Cooley is a star. With a stable offensive coordinator and quarterback, he could really put up impressive numbers.
Defense: DE/OLB Brian Orakpo- One of the most impressive rookies in the league all season. Orakpo has made a flawless transition to outside linebacker from defensive end. We would love to see him in a 3-4 defense (Hello, Bill Cowher).
Offense: QB Jay Cutler- Like it or not, he’s their building block. A talented young passer in Denver, Cutler has regressed in Chicago (maybe it is the complete lack of talent around him?). Given a better surrounding cast, Cutler would return to his Denver days.
Defense: DT Tommie Harris- At only 26 years old he has long been recognized as a top defensive tackle. With Chicago looking to re-energize their defense, Harris is the player to build around (and not Brian Urlacher).
Offense: WR Calvin Johnson- Some might say Matthew Stafford, Kevin Smith or Gosder Cherilus, but we’re not stupid. Calvin Johnson is a freak, and he needs the ball more. Please, Stafford, get the ball to Johnson.
Defense: LB Ernie Sims- There was some temptation to go with Louis Delmas here, but Sims is too talented to over-look. The only obstacle for Sims will be staying healthy.
Green Bay Packers
Offense: QB Aaron Rodgers- Already the face of the franchise, Green Bay is obviously building around Rodgers, and rightfully so. Given a better offensive line, Rodgers is a Super Bowl caliber passer.
Defense: LB Clay Matthews- It’s hard to watch a Packers game and not walk away impressed with Matthews. He is a perfect fit for their 3-4 scheme, and should put up big numbers in future seasons.
Offense: RB Adrian Peterson- Seriously, who else would it be? Peterson has an argument for the best player in the game. Watch him while you can.
Defense: DE Jared Allen- It’s hard to believe that Allen is only 27, which is terrible news for NFC North quarterbacks. Allen is among the top 3 ends in the game today.
Offense: QB Matt Ryan- Ryan is enjoying a bit of a sophomore slump, but he is still the most promising young quarterback in the NFL today. The mantle is being passed from Peyton Manning and Tom Brady down to Ryan.
Defense: DT Peria Jerry- His rookie season was cut short by injury, but what we did see of Jerry was pretty impressive. It helps that he will be playing for one of the pre-iminent defensive line coaches of this decade in Mike Smith.
Offense: RB DeAngelo Williams- This is a given. Williams has finally stayed healthy and is a dominating runner. Teamed with Jonathan Stewart, Carolina has a backfield that is unbeatable.
Defense: LB Jon Beason- Beason came in to the league as a star, and nothing is changing that. He has been a leader of the Panthers defense since his first day, and he will continue to be as long as he’s in town.
New Orleans Saints
Offense: OG Jahri Evans- The first, and probably the only, offensive guard on our list. Evans is that good, though- and the Saints have little talent under 28 years old.
Defense: DT Sedrick Ellis- Ellis is one of few bright young stars for the Saints defense. If he can match his college production, Ellis will become one of the better tackles playing today.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offense: QB Josh Freeman- Like it or not, he’s their franchise quarterback for now. Tampa Bay needs to do all they can to put talent around Freeman, and to give him a stable environment to learn and grow.
Defense: DT Roy Miller- A 3rd round pick in the 2009 Draft, Miller has our vote for the best rookie DT this season. His ability to penetrate the pocket, speed and strength are a lethal combination.
Offense: WR Larry Fitzgerald- Another “duh” type pick. Many scouts consider Fitzgerald the best wide receiver in the NFL. Arizona will build their team around this very talented wide out.
Defense: LB Karlos Dansby- At 28, Dansby is among the older members of our list, but he’s also one of the most important to his team. Dansby’s versatile style of play allows Arizona to morph in to many defensive looks without changing personnel. His talent is invaluable.
St. Louis Rams
Offense: OT Jason Smith- Steven Jackson is a phenomenal running back, but at 26 years old he may not last much longer- there are also reports that he wants out of town. Smith is the Rams future left tackle, a position he could lock down for 12-15 years.
Defense: LB James Laurinaitis- A tackling machine, Laurinaitis has stepped in and became a leader of this young defense. The Rams have drafted better than most notice as of late, and could be on the verge of fielding a very good defense.
San Francisco 49ers
Offense: WR Michael Crabtree- There are other players to like (Vernon Davis, Joe Staley), but Crabtree is the new face of 49ers offensive football. Once they have a serviceable quarterback, Crabtree will start making regular trips to the Pro Bowl.
Defense: LB Patrick Willis- The easist pick for any team’s defensive building block. Willis, in year three, is already the best middle linebacker in football. Advice to the 49ers: sign him to a LONG term deal. Now.
Offense: RT Sean Locklear- There’s not much here, at all. Seattle needs a lot on offense, but for the sake of adding someone to every team, Locklear makes the cut. He is widely regarded as one of the better right tackles in the NFC.
Defense: LB Aaron Curry- We really like Lofa Tatupu, but he’s not the game changer that Curry is and can be. Quiet off the field, Curry is becoming a beast on it.